I’m back home from DC and the World Fantasy Convention, and I have that slightly hazy post-con mind with which many of you are probably familiar. I got to spend time with so many amazing people, and yet I felt like I didn’t have close to as much time as I wanted: another familiar feeling. But I did have many wonderful conversations, and I’m going to piece together a few for you.
I was talking about this blog, the way I do, and I always do a terrible job explaining what it’s about. But one thing I said sticks out to me now through the blur. I tell personal stories on my blog, I said, in order to illustrate insights I have had that I think might be helpful to other people. I don’t know that I’d ever put it into such simple words before, but yes, this is one of the reasons I keep blogging.
And because it is one of the reasons, I’m going to tell you a story that I told a friend this weekend.
My mom was in remission from cancer my senior year of high school, and she came to see me perform as the Narrator in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I remember that she had an interesting reaction to that performance. She was proud of me and happy for me, but she was also … wistful. I don’t remember if we talked about it or not, and what we said if we did, but I do remember what I thought about it at the time.
I had been one hundred percent alive on that stage during that performance. From the opening bars when I descended from the ceiling of the stage in what amounted to a mechanical box through to the finale, I’d felt energy pouring through me, along with that feeling that I was doing exactly what I was meant to be doing. And I had the impression that watching me being so fully and utterly alive and ME was a bittersweet experience for my mom because she had never had the opportunity to do that.
She was diagnosed with another cancer later that year, and as she was dying, I watched her venture outside her comfort zone a little bit. She flew with my dad to Hawaii once or twice and had a beautiful time, whereas before she’d never felt comfortable with travel. She spoke at the memorial for one of her support group members, even though she’d never liked speaking in public. And in these small actions, I could see the shape of who she might have been or become shimmering in front of me like a phantom.
And then she died.
And watching this, here is what I decided. When I die, whenever that should be, I don’t want to see that phantom of myself. I don’t want to see the most awesome version of Amy who I was too afraid to be. That is why I work so hard–and make no mistake, it is hard and sometimes punishing work–to learn about myself and to push myself and to figure out who I can be. It’s not about being perfect or easy or comfortable, and it’s not about straining upwards towards an unreachable ideal. Rather, it’s about trying to be the best possible version of myself, whatever that might entail in this moment.
Or in other words, it’s about being one hundred percent committed to this business of being alive. I don’t want to feel wistful because I’ve never had that.
Instead, I want to revel in it.