Ever since I was a young child, I’ve had a very rich fantasy life. Back then, I was easily able to imagine that I was Scarlett O’Hara merely by wearing a makeshift hoop skirt. It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by appliances, cars and buses, and every other facet of modern life. As long as I was wearing my costume, I was back at the plantation, going to balls and swooning in the heat. And, I fully believed that everyone else was right there with me.
As a teenager, although I gave up the external costumes, I often lived out fantasies in my own alternate universe, practicing for what could be. At that point, I was aware enough that the fantasies were mine alone but the fact remained that an unlived triumph or relationship was still as satisfying to me as the real thing.
By the time I was an adult I had lived many lives and was prepared, through sheer diligence of mental practice for a multitude of situations. But, I finally realized that my fantasies were sometimes getting in the way of reality, often causing me to miss or bypass exploring opportunities and relationships that life was offering me.
Recently, I was confronted by an old boyfriend who popped up in my life. I had been looking for him for over nine years and, by a fluke of fate, unexpectedly tracked him down. After talking with him for some time, and finding that he had also been looking for me and wondering all these years, I easily switched back into fantasy mode, imagining the possibility of a life together rich with babies, joy, and laughter.
As I laughingly told this to a friend, I realized that the difference between my current fantasy world and that of the past is that I’m now wise enough to know that it’s a fantasy and to enjoy it for what it is without letting it interfere with the evolution of my real life. And, that if I’m interested enough, I’ll have to take steps to explore its potential in reality, open to the possibilities that might be there or the closure to an old story that is carrying the tentacles of my past.
Thinking about my son, who at the age of three is starting to have a rich life of imaginary play, I’m struck by how important it is to foster his imagination, nurturing the environment that he lives in so that he can grow accustomed to living in various fantasies, trying on and discarding various roles that he is interested in so that he can see potential in different situations and practice his abilities in a low risk environment. Equally true, is the importance of teaching him to know the difference between fantasy and reality so that he is able to take comfort in the safety of his mind while easily grasping and walking through the inviting doors of a rich and varied life.