Lying To Ourselves…. by Nancy Brophy

I applied for a job fairly recently and didn’t get it. The terrible thing is, if they’d offered me the position I would have had to refuse because the pay scale was lower than I needed. And I knew this almost immediately. Yet still, my feelings were hurt, not because they didn’t choose me, but because of my destructive fantasy life, where I am everything to everybody.

And I can actually maintain this façade for limited amounts of time before the true me eventually surfaces and the facts come crashing home that whatever inane activity I’ve blindly devoted my energies to, is wrong. In fact so wrong that I can not continue with this one more minute unless I choose to be the next person on the tower with the Uzi.

So why am I fooled every time? Why do I want something to work so badly I waste my effort fitting into a round hole when everyone (but me) can see how nicely square I am.

Like the sword of Damocles, I swing from believing I could actually work for someone else. Can’t you see me at a big corporation, wearing a lab coat and speaking knowledgably about fractals and other mathematical phenomena that in truth lost me at eighth grade algebra? Then I swing to the opposite side where I don’t play well with others, unless they are doing what I say. Hence, we have years and years of self-employment.

I like dipping my big toe into the water. As a younger woman I wanted to live everywhere – New York, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Chicago. The list goes on and on. I don’t know how old I was when I discovered it is not the location that makes the home, but the people. And it doesn’t really matter where you live, people are pretty much the same everywhere.

In the story The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the young prince has one rose, which he protects, feeds and shelters. One day he travels to distant planets and when he reaches Earth he sees multitudes of roses and feels foolish because he lavished so much love on his solitary rose. He is overcome by sadness until he realizes that he doesn’t love his rose for its uniqueness or its beauty. He loves the rose because he has protected it and nurtured it. Because the rose belongs to him.

I like to think this is how love grows in each of us.

I’ve had jobs I’ve loved (see plan A – I’m in charge) and jobs I’ve hated (plan B – I know I can make this work). When I was between jobs a few years ago I worked briefly in a retail setting. So, not me. The job was only for a month while a woman recovered from an accident, but the end of week three I was busting to get out of there.

And real frankly, since people mirror your opinion of them, I’m sure the woman in the accident was welcomed back with vast relief and some dancing in the street.

I write this to say all of us live lives of deception. We fool no one but ourselves and we do it daily. We base our decisions on fears, which do keep us from jumping into the abyss but also keep us from reaching our potential. What kind of writer would you be, if you didn’t let outside influences hold you back?

Most of us still need the day job, because whether we are writing or not, the mortgage has to be paid. For some people the day job is the same as it has been, but for those pendulum swingers like me, it would be so much handier if someone would just deposit money in my bank account without requiring me to show up at work. Is that job available? And no, you are not ahead of me in line.

But if you sat down and listed the things you fear the most. Would you find out some are not real? Maybe even foolish holdovers from childhood? Steven Colbert regularly mentions his fear of bears. The man lives in New York City. Bears aren’t a serious threat.

Conquer those fears and you will be among the few who live, rather than just observe, life. Everything will change including your writing.

I long to be one of those people, I just need to find the courage, the time and that day job that doesn’t require my presence.

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Posted on March 29, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I loved your comments at the beginning of wanting to be all things to all people… even when you don’t like the person, or the task, or the job. My ‘need to please’ keeps me in that place, but I am fighting to pull out. It is definitely the major cause for my fear of trying… I might be successful, but I might not. Argh!

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  2. Gina Fluharty

    We’re friends, so I can be honest: I had a fear of failure that I allowed to hold me back for YEARS! While I don’t want to fail, I want to tell stories that people want to read, so my fear is no longer holding me back from my keyboard.

    Love the blog. Love getting to know you, getting to know all about you. :o)

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  3. I think we have to live a fantasy life and believe we are the center of the universe from time to time in order to move forward and take chances. Believe me, if I didn’t have such a big head and know that I’m supposed to be a NYT bestseller, I would have given up this writing game a long time ago. Why would anyone slog on year after year and make little to no money? The same thing happened in my academic career. I always believed I knew what was right and so they better let me do it. That craziness got me ahead many, many times.

    For me, the reason I’ve made jumps in my career is not because I don’t have doubts–I do, all the time. However, my craziness and belief in my awesomeness of a fantasy life lasts longer. By the time I dive in the deep end and I’m drowning (really? you mean swimming was a requirement of being in the pool?), I am in a life or death situation and have to find a way to survive. 🙂

    I’m fortunate in that I’ve had a good career in a day job and do care about what I do. However, as much as I care about that, I would give it up to write all the time. Yup, it’s definitely the mortgage thing that has kept me from jumping into that pool like I have others in my day job career. But only a few more years and I can afford to retire. Then watch out. I’ll be doing high dives with three summersaults and a half twist into that pool.

    I’m sure the belly flops will be something to see. Did I tell you I’m an AWESOME belly flopper?

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  4. I would like to say that I don’t lie to myself but that’s a lie….

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  5. Me too. To all of the above. I’m afraid I am only suited to being a writer. Only recently have I’ve put all my effort into making that happen. I’m finally slogging through hours of actually sitting at my desk working with words and crafting scenes. I wonder…

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  6. Insightfully funny, as always, Nancy. Like many writers, I too struggle with finding gainful employment that’ll hold my interest.

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  7. Thanks, we are in the same place.

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  8. What a great post Nancy. I love your honesty. Sometimes I wonder if it’s easier for fiction writers to kid ourselves. We live for years in our wonderful little fantasy worlds where we get to control everything, and then we look around us and realize the rest of the world won’t bend to our will. I have a day job that I’m not particularly suited too, but daydreaming on paper hasn’t paid off yet, so I’m stuck. Sigh.

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