Not what I expected.
I'm so disappointed.
I knew it was too good to be true.
Archer sits on a bench in the square and looks up at what
he surmises is her apartment and imagines what's going on inside.
"It's more real to me here than if I went up," he finally realizes.
A friend sent me a NY Times article today. Elaine Sciolino writes about Edith Wharton. (click on the pic or the link to get there) The article is about autumn in Europe, and Paris, and romance, and the power of imagination. And it got me thinking. It got me thinking about all the thousands of warnings I have received during my lifetime, from very frightened and often well-intentioned people, all trying to get me to imagine less. Hope for less. Avoid the cruelty of disappointment and disillusionment. Stop being so happy, because I was just setting myself up.

Today, while I was thinking about that man sitting on a bench beneath the windows of the apartments, and his powerful imagination, and his knowledge that reality doesn't measure up ... while I was thinking about how bad that's supposed to be - that we can be disappointed and disillusioned and wrong about our projected outcomes ... I got to thinking ... Why? Why is it bad to get a reality that uses a different script from the one we expected? Why is that bad?

I have a plaque here in my messy office. On it is a quotation from Proust. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." I believe that. I think the antidote to devastating disappointment is not to be found either in fixing up the narrative so it matches my first draft, nor in writing less and less imaginative life drafts in a vain attempt to avoid the surprises. The antidote is in having new eyes with which to see, new ears with which to hear, and a wider and wider prospect from which to take it all in. Revising a draft doesn't mean you wrote the first one "wrong;" it means you're still writing. Sometimes it hurts like hell - but sometimes, if you'll use the
  • new generation orthographic & grammatical checker
  • 10 dictionnaries
  • 10 linguistics guides,
then you'll be able to revise your draft and make a narrative that's really good. Really, actually, truly good. The antidote is revision - not a cessation of writing.

After nearly fifty years on this planet, lots of stuff in my life has been a surprise to me. I am not unscathed. I have wept over my shattered elbow, my life-saving hysterectomy, and a spine torqued in a car accident ... and I have wept over my own sin and failure and weakness and helplessness ... and I have wept over my kids. I've got the scars, in my body and my heart. But it would not - I declare this unequivocally - it would not have been better not to live. It would not have been better not to dream.


K. L. said...

You may not remember me, but I met you at the French chic group many years ago. I stop by to read you once a week or so, and always enjoy your posts, but this one is especially lovely. (With the added bonus of that lyrical article about Wharton's Paris!) I have, I think, travelled a long way over the past several years (on the pathways you taught me about) and have also arrived at Proust's idea. I used to think "if only I could wake up in a new world"; "if only I could change things"--BUT--it is myself who must change. A new way of thinking. New eyes! Kit

Stephanie said...

Kit! Wow! how ARE you??? It's a great compliment that you'd stop by here like this, and I'm very glad you do.