Monday, February 25, 2008

OSCAR AND I: A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP


Since leaving "the business" and becoming a SAHM, I've had less interest in the award ceremonies, even skipping them at times. But last night, at a party, I was once again sucked in by the glamour, the celebrity, and the thrill of seeing people I knew walking the red carpet and sitting in the audience. Not to mention the adorable Jon Stewart who, if I wasn't crushing over him enough already, now I'm high-school-head-over-heels in love. Could he have been any funnier? Any nicer (bringing out the songwriter from ONCE to have her moment)? Any cuter?

But once the award show began, a familiar pang rose up within me. As I watched these artists, from all walks of life, whose passion and calling ultimately delivered them to this hallowed platform, I felt a powerful affinity toward them. Their outpouring of emotion, their tears, their vulnerabilities laid bare for everyone to judge see. Watching Diablo Cody accept her award, a one time unknown except to those who visited the lairs of strippers and bloggers, I felt there might be hope for me. Her raw, honest emotion unveiled itself from behind the mask of colorful body art, stark, asymmetrical hair, and a bold, leopard print dress, and I wanted to be her; to feel that jumble of intense emotions. To feel the love. As a child, I was deemed "the sensitive one" and coming from a family of medical professionals, the mind of an artist was not familiar, or always welcome, terrain. I don't say this to lay blame, my success or lack thereof is my responsibility alone. I say this to illuminate my connection to last night's winners.

Watching the Oscars awakened the dreamer within me. I wondered, "Could these accolades be my destiny as well?" With that kind of inspiration, I should have gone home and written the next best screenplay, or an award-winning short story, or even a publishable essay. But with desire comes pain. To want something is to set yourself up for possible failure and with the awakening of my dreamer came the resurrection of my demons.

I learned early on how to deaden hopeful feelings so to quiet the critical voices. To hamper further emotional hardship, I flew under the radar in social situations, academics, everything. I was a good student but if I'd worked harder, I could have been a better student. Putting myself out there, taking the risk, meant subjecting myself to too much attention. What if I failed, then where would I be? I rationalized that if I worked just hard enough to get a good grade, but not as hard as I could have, then there was always the possibility that I was smarter than I, and everyone else, thought I was. I could only go up from there. Taking risks, as I saw it then, would only lead to failure and negative attention. It never even crossed my mind (which I find astounding and sad from my current vantage point) that I might actually succeed.

So, for years, I remained a sizable fish in a small pond. Like in the story of The Three Bears, I was not too big, not too small - I was just right as to not beckon any shining lights. I'm not saying I was happy with this invisible position. I'd privately seethe when others, less deserving than me (in my mind), won accolades or were noticed for their achievements. No, I was not content but I was safe. It was a slow death to my confidence of my own design, but like with depression, I didn't see any other way out. I couldn't fathom myself deserving or capable of success. It wasn't in my cards.

I have moved forward since then with the help of experience and a lot of therapy. I am now, at least, a writer who is willing to share her words with others rather than squirrel them away for the winter. But watching the Oscars last night it became clear to me that while wanting success and thinking it possible seems like an improvement, it makes not having it more painful. I am no longer satisfied with being safe. I no longer want to fly under the radar. But I'm not yet sure I can handle the failures that come with the territory nor am I certain that I can live up to the dream.

5 Comments:

InTheFastLane said...

The difference between goals and dreams is that you are actively working towards your goals. But that does entail risk. I hope you find what you are looking for.

McSwain said...

We may be sort of kindred spirits on this point at least. I didn't leave to be a SAHM, but to be a teacher because I'm single and HAVE to work. I just couldn't work the insane hours anymore and still be a mom. But whenever I see a friends' name roll in the credits or watch them get nominated for a reward, I feel a pain I can't quite describe. Sure I'm happy for them, but I second guess my choices. And sometimes, I really, really want to go back.

Sigh.

McSwain said...

I meant award, but I guess rewards are awards as well, or awards are rewards as well, or... something like that.

Dawn said...

You put that so beautifully. In reading this post, I realized that you described exactly how I've been living my life. And my personal reaction to watching the Oscars was much like yours.

Still fearful in my own right, I've been working to see my husband's dreams come true. In my mind, I tell myself that he's the one with the real talent and that no one will ever take me seriously. If I tell people I'm working on a short-story or a novel they'll roll their eyes or laugh.

But why would we assume such things? Everyone has dreams and aren't we selling, not only ourselves, but the Creative Source (call it G-d, Intention, whatever) short if we ignore or refute those creative dreams within ourselves?

You're a powerful writer and I'm sure your screenplay work has to be excellent based on the peek I get into your style.

Keep believing in yourself and whatever your dreams are, keep working toward them.

Manic Mommy said...

Fear of success. I know it well.

If two planes collide while flying under the radar, does anyone see them? Heh.

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