My ideal self is someone who could hop on a plane tomorrow after choosing the destination on a spinning globe with one hand over my eyes. Someone who could welcome change instead of dancing forever with the devil she knew because of that comfortable and familiar rut. As a kid I concocted a fearless version of myself: a game-for-anything gal who is level-headed and capable in every possible way - someone who knows how to apply a tourniquet and is prepared in the event of a cobra attack.
But then I was scared all the time, in my own home, in my own room, in my own bed, and that starts to wear a person down. That can make a person desperate and afraid, and this is a bad mix: lemon and milk, oil and water, plaid and polka dots.
From the time I was six and bearing witness to a marriage that made the couple in Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? seem like the swooning romantics Robert and Elizabeth Barret Browning, I was determined to leave home. Cobbled together from television reruns and prime-time viewing, six-year-old me had worked out an alternate life that she hoped was possible, visualising multiple getaways from Etobicoke.
Escape # 1) By cruise ship. I set sail as a miniature cruise director on the Love Boat, setting a course for adventure, where love wouldn’t hurt anymore. This one was a bit shaky as I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters and since I couldn’t swim. Life on the boat might cause too much stress. I was looking to get away from everything that made me anxious.
Escape #2) By General Lee. I imagined being picked up by cousins Bo & Luke Duke, racing over the limit down our quiet street (near a school zone) with their trademark horn blast, announcing their arrival to take me with them to the house they shared with Uncle Jessie and Daisy Duke (who dressed like a putana but I was sure would braid my hair and be the big sister I always wanted). I would do my best to create mischief for the ongoing weekly antics in Hazzard County. This fantasy required speeding away past the school yard filled with my fellow grade 5 students while I waved goodbye.
Escape #3) By an unidentified flying object. In this version, my hero Rod Serling would step out from behind the floor length curtain in our living room and comment in his trademark soothing voice: "A child, trapped in a bungalow in the suburbs of Toronto, soon will be making an unexpected journey to be reunited with her true family, in the Twilight Zone."
In the end it was much simpler, a ticket for an Air Canada flight chasing the sun over the Rockies. During my escapade I learned what everyone learns, that old chestnut: You can run but you can't hide. Your troubles will follow, shadow you everywhere you go. This strikes me as the core reason for a meditation practice—sit still and breathe—in the quiet there’s no choice but to face the music, witness the dance of your existence. One day it might be a tango, the next a waltz. It's difficult to stop when you’re used to running, hard to plunk down on the floor without fussing and fidgeting; it’s scary to be true to yourself and yell out "Present!" when the universe takes attendance.
As my father likes to say, "Nothing good evers comes easy."
Sure. What did he ever do but endure poverty or survive a potential massacre during World War II and a painful marriage?
He laughs when I tease him this way. He also says, “Don’t be make your life hard. Take the day like she’s come.”
Solid advice I try to follow. Some days I even dance. Let's be serious, when you learn you're a dead star, it's time to boogie and open up, everything's waiting for you.