Monday, April 19, 2010

"I Didn't Make it to Broadway"

Life has a way of reminding you of where you have been before it taunts you with notions of where you might consider heading. At least that's how my lunch felt on Friday.

For four hours, Lisa Pleggenkuhle Grummer and I shared as much as we could about where life has taken us since we both attended North High School. The moment came courtesy of Lisa's invitation for lunch in her beautiful home near one of Iowa's oldest state parks. She had recently read Involuntary Joy and had a desire to learn more – not really about anything specific – just more.

Even though we now live within miles of one another, the last time that we were under the same roof, Lisa was a sophomore and I was a senior in high school. That was 28 years ago - a quantity of time so unbelievable to me, that I used a calculator just to be certain. Plus, I drug out my senior photo and yearbook just to see what I might have looked like in her memories for so many years.

Since 1982 our lives have filled with moments equally unbelievable to both of us. For her, the moments include a heart surgery in her late 30s and a miscarriage in her early 40s. For me, well ... if you read my blog, you know. And, yes, I realize I only listed traumatically negative things. But I think it is fair to note that negative life experiences demand a greater degree of personal reconciliation. We must redefine life based on things that never came to be while embracing the things that actually did.

Note these clips from our vlog:
Lisa: "I knew (Joy) as ... energetic ...who I felt was going to be on Broadway..."
Joy: "I didn't make it to Broadway."
Lisa: "But I'm not disappointed...."
Joy: "Sometimes I have to remind myself, I'm not disappointed, either."

I bring up the Broadway thing again near the end of our vlog, after we both share details about our respective miscarriages, specifically the way we handled the "why" question. I guess I wanted to circle back, because I wanted to share how giving up my dreams of Broadway wasn't as simple as never having claimed them in the first place.

I was always good about letting others paint my Broadway dream for me; and for reasons only fully known by them, they shared those ideas - those dreams - with me. Always flattered and intrigued, I merely flirted with the notion as a young woman, while taking baby steps in its direction. But I never chased that dream at full stride, and I am not fully sure why. Fear? Lack of deep passion? Insecurity? Maybe a combination of it all. I really don't know.

Do I think I really could have performed on Broadway? There was a time I would have answered "yes." In fact, I could answer that way now. But I regard the idea as folly – a chasing after a wind that never really blew my way.

A more pragmatic me declares: "Let's be real." Pursuing a Broadway dream likely would have meant not attending Wartburg College (I had turned down a musical theatre scholarship to another college and ignored the need to pursue dance and voice lessons.); not meeting Mark (Before meeting him, I continued to take on roles quite regularly. After meeting him, only one, and that was three years after our second child.); and not having children as early in life as I did – if at all (self-explanatory, yes?). See also the epilogue of Involuntary Joy.

In case you need to read these words, I'll type them for you: I have no regrets. Never have, and hopefully, never will. That doesn't mean I haven't grieved for dreams not fully realized, however.

Dreams are no small matter. I believe the greatest lesson I've learned in life thus far is that you grieve dreams whether you have them or not. And so, I need to learn how to dream. To claim one as my own, and then nurture it into reality. I've watched my husband do it. I continue to help my oldest son do it all the time, and now I'm watching my youngest son give himself permission to do it. I am surrounded by dreamers. So what is my problem?

The closest I've come to seeing a dream fully realized is getting Involuntary Joy into print. But I sense more connected to that dream, and I need to give myself permission to pick it up again. I sure as heck don't want whatever is perking to take 28 years - not even the seven years I took writing the book.

Hmmm ... I wonder what my dream will be. What is yours?


KaKi said...

I am actually struggling with watching my older son dream. He has BIG dreams. I am scared. Will he make it? Will his heart be broken? How will he handle if and when the time comes to let the dream go? I no longer dream for myself, either. Where did that part of us go?

Joy said...

I think part of parenthood is making sure your children feel safe to dream and then supporting them as far as you can. As for parents continuing to dream: I think we need to remember how. I'll help you, and you help me! Whadda ya, say?