FANTASIES DISRUPTED

By Joyce Alla

It's happening more and more. Reality keeps interrupting my fantasies.

It's like that pre-recorded message from the Emergency Broadcast System that interrupts TV shows, but this show is in my mind; "WE INTERRUPT THIS FANTASY TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU ARE A 35-YEAR OLD WOMAN WITH A HUSBAND AND TWO CHILDREN, AND THIS COULD NEVER, EVER HAPPEN TO YOU!" For example, I'll never be a rock star. This is the fantasy I usually have in the car. I'll drop the kids off at pre-school, take their "Raffi" tape out, and pop-in my own selection.

"Ahhh, my own music!"

I sing my heart-out to Paula Cole, Alanis Morissette, Madonna, Annie Lenox, or better yet, Cheryl Crow. "Jump in let's go...lay back, enjoy the show..." The music transforms me into a leather-clad, midriff bare, sexy, slouchy, cool-chick. On stage, I pour my heart into the microphone. Oh yeah, and I'm really thin, too. In the audience are old friends, and some old enemies, cheering, and dancing wildly. I see college roommates, x-bosses and co-workers, my old boyfriend, Nick, and the dance teacher he left me for. They're next to Mr. Bugle, the singing teacher who kicked me out of choir. They're all there, and I think, "Ha! I showed you!"

My voice sounds great. Everybody gets high, everybody gets low. These are the days when anything goes..." I turn around to smile at the guys in the band--they're so talented. I savor this moment, but I know it's coming...that high-pitched beeping that precedes the recorded announcement.

"WE INTERRUPT THIS FANTASY," it says, "BECAUSE IT'S TOO LATE IN YOUR LIFE TO BECOME A LEAD SINGER IN A ROCK BAND. FACE IT," the announcement intones, "IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN."

"Oh yeah," I say to myself, remembering that I just dropped the kids off and need to buy Wisk at the grocery store. Back in scruffy jeans and a sweatshirt, I try to hum, at least to the end of the song, "Everyday is a winding road..."

I really don't have a problem with aging. I've greeted each of my 35 birthdays with enthusiasm. I'm happy to be healthy and alive. I don't worry about wrinkles, and I've always colored my hair, so I don't care about gray. But leaving my youthful dreams behind is tough. If fact, I'm getting a little obsessed. My son told me he wants me to be a ballerina.

"Maybe I'll be one for Halloween," I told him.
"No," he said, "I want you to be a real one!"

"Well, why aren't I a dancer now?" I ask myself. I took dance for fifteen years of my life. Why did I stop? (I can't use that old "boyfriend was sleeping with the dance teacher" excuse forever...) Now, I realize that there are many adventures that will just have to stay in my dreams.

I'll never
1. live in New York City,
2. date a guy who drives a jeep and plays the guitar,
3. go skydiving,
4. hitch-hike across Ireland -- just to name a few.

And even if I do any of these things, it won't be the same as in my dreams, because I won't be doing them young.

I could say that I'm better-off. After all, I've done a lot so far. I've traveled a fair bit (never enough) and had a complete successful career before I became a mom. I must emphatically proclaim that I am happy with the choices I've made in my life, choices that have led me to a wonderful husband, and incredible kids. No, I wouldn't change a thing, even if I could...

But the question is, how do I let go of my fantasies? Should I modify them to fit my responsible position in life? I guess I can still travel, although maybe not hitchhike, when the kids get older. We could move to New York City after we retire, but it wouldn't be the same. Skydiving and the Jeep-guy are out of the question. Then there's always Karioke... Pathetic!

Maybe I just need new fantasies. I've been toying with "Great American Novel" fantasies--a wise author at her cluttered desk. Myself on-stage, in a nice suit, receiving an award. That would be a good one, although not exactly rock-star material. Or, there's always the danger of becoming one of those weird parents who never achieved their personal dreams, so they try to re-live their lives through their children. My daughter will become a rock star! Or the dancer! Maybe my son will drive a jeep and play guitar! How strange would that be?

Maybe some fantasies are meant to stay exactly that...fantasies. Or, as Webster's puts it "the free play of creative imagination." (Rather poetic for a dictionary, don't you think?)

I read somewhere that very depressed people have a "too realistic" view of themselves. Perhaps their lives are so based on the mundane tasks -- driving kids around, buying Wisk--that they lose hope. Maybe the opposite is true. Maybe people who imagine themselves in grandiose terms -- a rock star or Pulitzer Prize winner -- can better survive daily drudgeries. Maybe an active fantasy life actually makes me a better and happier person. After all, standing in line at the grocery store isn't quite so bad when you've just given a concert in your car. I've decided I like my old fantasies. I've become attached to them. I know they're just silly dreams, but don't they still, in some way, make me who I am? Aren't they as much a part of me as my real successes and failures? Letting go of my old fantasies would be like blanking out parts of my life, even though they are just parts of my imaginary life.

I think I'll keep the old fantasies, and maybe make room for some new ones, too. Like a video collection, I'll add new fantasies, but still watch the old ones. There's nothing like a good classic for a really long drive. Through thick lashes, I peer soulfully out to the audience. They are entranced. Disposable lighters flicker around the stadium. "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad..."

Then, when I hear that high-pitched beep, the start of the "WE INTERRUPT" message, I just tell the guys in the band, "Hey! Turn it up!"





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