Miranda: The torch of inspiration
The summer Olympics? Yeah, I’m watching. It’s always a thrill to see the world’s top athletes doing what they do best (and, at least for the swimmers, breaking world records right and left). Whenever I witness someone at the top of his or her game, it makes me regret that I’m such a slug in comparison want to reach higher. (And who among the readers of this blog isn’t waving a few extra flags for Dara Torres?)
Whether the greatness is a gold medal for synchronized diving or a Nobel Prize for literature, I’m in awe. I went to see Doris Lessing reading at the Boston Public Library in 1997 (on tour to promote the second part of her autobiography, Walking in the Shade) and the place was a mob scene. Rabb, a huge lecture hall, was packed to overflowing and satellite seating areas with closed-circuit monitors were set up to accommodate some of the extra audience. Being in the presence (albeit, distance presence, although she did sign her book for me) of a true great was a thrilling experience. Obviously, Doris Lessing is beloved by many, and the fondness of her audience was palpable that night. While I have no illusion that I will ever approach anything that Lessing has created, it was hard not to be a little starstruck — to want to earn some of that success and popularity, to dream about going to bed at night knowing you are truly “great” at what matters to you. That maybe somehow the external evidence of success makes you believe “yes, I have accomplished something.”
When I watch the athletes in Beijing, I gobble up the “human interest” stories that detail the competitors’ “regular” life. What must it be like to work at your craft for 6 to 8 hours a day? What must it be like to win a gold medal; proof that you are the best in the world at what you have spent a lifetime pursuing?
Yet my life couldn’t be more opposite. Instead of creating a cocoon in which to concentrate all my effort toward a singular purpose, I have given birth to five children, ensuring that I spend a great many hours taking care of other people and their interests rather than my own. However, as Christa observed in a comment yesterday, that isn’t a reason to succumb to “can’t.” But it does add a few extra challenges. At some point, even if it’s decades away, I want to experience what it’s like to be fully immersed in my craft for an extended period of time. To at least live like a “great,” even if I’m just trying it on. Hopefully, at that point, I’ll be able to manage my child-free time better, and not be so adrift without the structure that motherhood brings.
Until then, I’ll keep cobbling my work together in bits and pieces, creating something around the edges. While I’m at it, I’ll keep my eye on the “greats,” hoping to pick up a few lessons on self-discipline, perserverance, and courage to use along the way. (Seriously, I wonder if I’m too old for a second career in beach volleyball…)