Fantasy vs. reality

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.

Self-efficacy

After I split up with my husband and found myself to be a single mom solely responsible for a boy that had just turned one, I couldn’t help but reflect on where I had gone wrong. I constantly thought about how I could have made the mistake of marrying someone who couldn’t go the distance and take the final, irrevocable step into adulthood. While there were indications along the way that my husband was more of a dreamer than a finisher, it never occurred to me that he would be incapable of stepping into the role of father, caregiver, and provider.

Hiking around a desolate lake on Vancouver Island months later, as I ascended and descended the rugged terrain that was quietly in bloom with the promise of spring, I silently reflected on my new lover and his potential. And, in that moment, it occurred to me that while some people have many obvious talents, skills, and aptitudes, it is the rare person who has a strong sense of self-efficacy.

When I ran this thought by my cousin, she asked me what I meant by this. In trying to disentangle the jumble of my thoughts, I explained that, for me, it meant not only the ability to dream in Technicolor but the ability to believe that you can and, if you choose to engage, that you will effect the outcome you dream.

As I warmed up to my explanation, I asked her why it is that there are people like Jim Carey, who believe so strongly in the future that they want for themselves, that they are able to write a check to themselves for $20 million dollars, knowing, with certainty, that they will one day be able to cash it. Or, on a smaller scale, the infinite number of people who set a life vision or goal for themselves, and systematically go about accomplishing it, regardless of the setbacks that they encounter along the way.

I believe that what makes these people different is their ability to envision a future world that they, themselves, want to live in and place the full power of their intention behind their unique set of energies, creativity, and human potential to make it happen.

Although I myself came from a uniquely bizarre family constellation, often exposed to and forced to deal with uncomfortable and inappropriate situations from a young age onwards, the one thing that I never doubted was my ability to accomplish something that I resolutely set my mind to. My parents were always firmly in my corner, believing in me and my power to create whatever I could envision. As a parent, I believe that if I can pass this sense of control over one’s destiny on to my son, I will leave him an important and long-lasting legacy, enabling him to embrace the beauty of the present while tapping into his talents, develop himself, and create the Technicolor world in which he wants to live.