Monday, August 13, 2007

C'est Moi!

Louis XIV is credited with saying “L’etat, C’est Moi!”, though I can’t prove it, being preoccupied at the time with standing in a 300-year-long line waiting my turn to be born. But I’ve not only shared but greatly expanded on Louis’ sentiment. Like small children, I am firmly convinced I am not merely “the state” but that the universe revolves around me. What keeps me from being totally insufferable (I hope), is that the zenith of my ego has always been offset by a nadir of self loathing.

Despite unconditional love from my parents and family, I grew up with the absolute certainty that I was a complete failure as a human being and (thanks to church and Sunday school) “an abomination in the eyes of God”—don’t ‘cha just love religion?—and the fact that I have always demanded a form of perfection from myself that nobody could possibly come even close to attaining.

When it came to anything involving physical skill, grace, or coordination, I failed miserably. All I had to do was look around at everyone else, who seemed to move through life effortlessly and with the grace I so longed for and never had. As a result, if I could not do something well, I would not do it at all. I never quite grasped the concept of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If I tried it and it didn’t work, put one more mark in the “self loathing” column.

And so, because I was never able to be what I expected myself to be in the physical world in which we all live, I turned inward to books and to fantasy, where physicality was never a factor. To protect myself from the toxic effects of an astoundingly poor self image, I set about carefully constructing wondrous fantasies of the finest blocks of polished ego to save myself from utter destruction. If I could not fit into the real world, I’d build worlds of my own.

Yet to this day I am bemused by the degree to which I seek the approval of others. Again, like a small child, whenever I do something of which I am proud, I insist on running around to anyone who will listen, hoping they will think I truly am as wonderful as I would like to think myself as being—or at least not as bad.

Being able to escape into my own fantasy world through my writing has, I honestly feel, been my greatest personal accomplishment. And on those occasions that other people seem to enjoy the worlds I have created, and actually feel as comfortable in them as I do, I find the validation I have been seeking all my life.

To get a letter or email from a reader kind enough to tell me that they enjoy my books and/or the workings of my mind never fails to produce a sensation of mild euphoria and reassurance that perhaps I am not quite as alone as I sometimes think I am. It’s a nice feeling.

The universe may not in fact revolve around me, but like all my fantasies (and some of my assumptions) it is a harmless delusion from which even the realist in me can derive a degree of bemusement. I’ll take whatever small pleasures I can find. I would hope you might do the same.

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