The Almost Guest
I dream I’m the guest on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. A tall twenty-something with a headset & desperate eyes rushes me to a messy backstage then commotion & denial. Sorry, you’ve been bumped, from a different twenty-something – this one holding a clipboard & a cell phone. She doesn’t let me see her eyes. I shrink into a shadow. Witness an entourage & a famous actor saunter into old set dec & thick dirty ropes. A chair appears out of nowhere so the male star can wait in comfort. He sits with his crotch wide open like a thirsty mouth. I grip a cold light stand so I don’t fall down. No one sees me. I barely see myself just a shivering twig in the reflection of a full-length mirror on wheels, a zig zag crack in the centre cutting my face like a scar. An uproar of laughter makes dust leap in the air around me. I watch it dazzle in the beam of a spotlight.
ONE MONTH FROM TODAY!
My virtual book launch is officially one month from today! I can’t believe that after 2.5 years (!), ‘thimbles’ is so close to delivery! I’m meeting with the team this week to finalize details for zoom links and other exciting marketing fun! Stay tuned!
I know why I had the dream I wrote about in today’s poem. This happens. It happens…a lot. More than I like to admit but I’m admitting it because…well, maybe if I share it, it’ll stop having so much power in my mind and body. I have these dreams about being famous. These vivid movies play in my mind where I tour the world, being interviewed by late-night show hosts and important journalists. I read on fancy stages to sold-out crowds and the sound of clapping and cheering sticks to me like perfume you can’t buy in any store. I have red or gold or white circle award stickers on my book covers. I get a book deal to write a book about writing. There’s money in the bank. My agent is funny and wise, and my publisher is kind and supportive. I’ve finally created a writing schedule that is mindful and productive, mostly because I’ve hired a chef who preps, cooks and cleans up meals for me and my family. I still live in the same house, drive the same car, wear the same clothes…but that underlying desperation for peer validation has shrunk to the size of a thumbtack. Still pokey, but way smaller. Manageable.
I make the cover of Poets & Writers magazine with a full feature spread inside. I finally get hired to teach at my alma mater. I get an office with a window. I start a poetry festival and a small press. I finally don’t let the Demon Woman in my head tell me I’m fat because I’m too busy feeling great, important, empowered and happy. As I write this, I contemplate how so much gets attached to one dream. How that one dream can roll and fatten into every part of my life.
But at its core, I think, this dream to be ‘famous’ is rooted in a hole of lack. There’s a big part of me that believes I’m not ‘enough’. I don’t deserve to be published, much less win an award or grace the cover of a magazine. I feel vain, silly, egotistical and shy. I feel guilty. I know it’s vital to dream. To dream impossible dreams because that’s the only way they can live and breathe…and happen. I argue with myself about having parts of this dream at all. I rage at myself for making an ‘honourable mention’ carry less meaning than a third-place win, and I cringe at myself when I read about another writer and see her ‘she’s been published in…she’s the winner of…’ and my immediate, physical reaction is ‘she’s so lucky…why am I not published there…winning those awards’…It’s a hot mess that makes my bones feel like wax. I can’t stand up and cheer for said ‘other writers’ when my bones are folding me inward.
Then there’s the colour of my skin, my privilege and my identity that has never felt quite part of me…as weird as that sounds or looks…feeling that I belong is always a mountain range to face. Many times, I remain roaming in the forest at the foot of the climb. All of these…emotions and movies getting riled up because my book is crowning. My comparison beast is punching me in the heart and gut. I get weak. I get lost. I get sad. I feel ‘shoulds’ stapling to my skin, so many I can’t see myself at all some days.
So this is where the Fallon dream originates. I’m not saying not to dream, oh heavens no! I’m not saying that my desires don’t matter or I’m not grateful for everything and everyone in my life. Double heavens no! What I’m saying is that part of my process as a writer includes navigating the gory details of self-worth. Today feels like an operating room and I’m the surgeon and the patient. Can I insert a dose of self-love into my arm? Can I find my soul and give it a little more life support? Can I trust my skills as a Surgeon of the Self and give myself permission to have the ideas I have? The doubts? The passion? The joy?
Do I really want to be ‘famous’? I don’t know. I feel like that term…that construct seems to fit the level of validation that hole of lack inside me wants. Perhaps what I really desire are the opportunities that are born with certain kinds of recognition…perhaps it’s a specific part of the ‘system’ I want to be involved in…ooo. I feel like I’m drowning and I’m the water I’m choking on. The surgeon and the patient. The water and the drowning…
This is today.
“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.”Maya Angelou