Tuesday, May 3, 2011


 I’ve been absolutely obsessed with the Royal Wedding.

Not obsessed enough to get up at 1:00 a.m. Pacific Coast Time.  But, still. Pretty obsessed for someone my age living in my circumstances.

It occupied an inordinate amount of my attention over the weekend.

I flipped channels back and forth at every opportunity. I even found myself googling things like “Kate Middleton Style” and “Worst Hats of the Royal Wedding.” (Man. The latter one deserves a whole blog post of its own.)

At several points during the obsessive frenzy, I questioned myself.  (And my sanity.)

Why in the world do you care???

First of all, the concept of monarchy in the 21st century is ludicrous. The expense of the whole thing was ridiculous.

yada yada yada.

I realized that my interest was piqued simply because I felt in need of some serious fantasy.

The beautiful commoner marries the prince and lives a life of blissful forever-after.

The stuff of all our Disney fantasies from early childhood.

Fittingly, the first piece of music played at the royal wedding was actually Fantasia in G (Pièce d’orgue à 5) by Johann Sebastian Bach.

early 14c., "illusory appearance," from O.Fr. fantasie , from L. phantasia, from Gk. phantasia "appearance, image, perception, imagination," from phantazesthai "picture to oneself," from phantos  "visible," from phainesthai "appear," in late Gk. "to imagine, have visions," related to phaos, phos "light," phainein  "to show, to bring to light" (see phantasm). Sense of "whimsical notion, illusion" is pre-1400, followed by that of "imagination," which is first attested 1530s. Sense of "day-dream based on desires" is from 1926, as is fantasize.

Reality is hard to bear sometimes.

Fantasy provides an escape.

From infancy, I have self-comforted with fantasy. I was a hyperactive child that had a very hard time falling asleep. Just as my grandson cons us now, I’d con my parents in every possible way. (“I need some more water,” “My stomach hurts,” “Tickle my back.”) Finally, after threats were made, I’d have to resort to telling myself a story to pass the time until sleep finally snuck up on me. Better than sucking my thumb, I guess.

Some of those stories were pretty darn good, if I say so myself. Should have written them down.

To this day, I use fantasy as an escape mechanism.

It’s nothing perverse. I’m not talking about sexual fantasies or anything like that.

Just fairly harmless Walter Mitty-type stuff.

Dreaming during the day.

Sometimes, if I’m exhausted, stressed-out, or overly worried, I’ll take a little mini-vacay. I make a head sandwich (lying on one’s side with a pillow both under and on top of one’s head), and float away for a few minutes.

I rent a flat in Paris for the summer and walk around the Left Bank, conversing with natives in fluent French. I buy myself a beach house and redecorate it. I make up a whole scenario where I’ve written a best-seller and it’s picked up for a movie. I start a modest-yet-flattering swimsuit company…

Stuff like that.

It’s not as insane as it may sound. When I was a participant in Mayo-Rochester’s Chronic Pain Clinic, they discussed the use of visual imagery as a tool in stress reduction, which in turn leads to pain reduction.

I spent a lot of time in a hammock on the beach of a deserted island while I was at Mayo. Listening to ocean waves. Breathing slowly and deeply.

It helped.

Maybe we could all use a short little vacation from life every once and a while.

Anyone know what I mean?


Where I am now is not where I fantasized I would be at this stage of life.

This was supposed to be the part where the husband is close to retirement and we’re developing new hobbies together. Where we’re signing up for Smithsonian tours of Egypt and mission trips at church. Taking ballroom dancing and reconnecting with old friends who are also recent empty-nesters. Maybe down-sizing and buying a condo at the beach. Playing bridge. Or something.

I’d imagined that this would be the part where I’m having what my husband refers to as “lunchie-poo’s” and shopping expeditions with my girlfriends. Signing up for classes at the University. Going to see the latest movies as soon as they’re released.

My current reality could not be much further removed from those idealized fantasies of Senior Living.

I’m not going to wanh-wanh about it again.

But I’ve noticed something lately.

The fantasies aren’t really working anymore, anyway.

They have let me down.


At some points in life, fantasies have the possibility of fulfillment.

For instance, it is within the realm of the possible that a little girl’s fantasy of becoming a movie star could be realized one day. A little boy might actually grow up to be an astronaut or a rockstar.

A young mother’s daydreams for her children’s futures could come to pass. They might all grow up to be brilliant and beautiful and balanced. And talented and successful and fulfilled. All happily married, with a house on a hill with a picket fence. Brimming with blithe, beautiful, well-behaved children…

Unlikely. But possible.

However there eventually comes a point… an age…  when you realize that some long-held fantasies will (most likely) never become realities on planet earth.

And that can leave a void.

Unless it is filled by something better.

I’ve been thinking about that old “bitter or better” thing. I see people my age (and younger) becoming incredibly bitter about the hand they’ve been dealt. (Or have dealt themselves.) Things like financial crisis, divorce, chronic illness, loss of relationships, loss of loved ones… can all make a person bitter in a hurry. So can the realization that dreams don’t always come true. Prince Charming may not show up and save the day or the bank account after all.  A bitter spirit gives birth to a strong temptation to fantasize about the lives of others, imagining all the ways in which they must be easier or better than one’s own. Sadly, that only creates more bitterness and disillusionment.

And wishing on a star does no more good than staring into the black void of space.

But there is something better.
Something far better than the futile vanity of our favorite foolish fantasies.
St. Paul was harsh in his indictment of those whose imaginations distended into self-idolatry. King James states it this way:
“…they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:20b-22a, KJV)
Paul is not condemning fantasy. Imagination in itself is not evil. It is a gorgeous, rich gift that often opens the door to deep truths.
C.S. Lewis says something about our imaginations actually being too weak for our own good, not too strong.
Reality is sometimes harsh. Circumstances are not always of our choosing. Things are often not the way we imagined they would be. That’s life.
If I discover in myself a chronic need to escape from reality, it may be because my powers of imagination are not sufficiently expansive to begin to fathom the difference between perceived reality and ultimate reality.
To see beyond the veil to the Reality that exists beyond the confines of my senses.
Where “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9, NLT)

I am convinced that the most fantastical fantasy I can conjure up in the fertility (futility?) of my imagination can’t hold a candle to the brilliant reality of God’s perfect plan and providence for me.

May I live it out in tender gratitude.


“…Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”  (Ephesians 3:20, NIV)


Was anyone else obsessed with The Wedding?
Feel like confessing silly fantasies? Make me feel better, please.


Laurel said...

Not into the royal wedding at all. In fact, I was hunkered down, waiting for it to be over. But even I was smitten with Kate's dress!

And, oh, yeah. Boy howdy do I have an active fantasy life. I have always made up stories, starting with Old Yeller when I was five and absolutely convinced they made a mistake, that was NOT how the movie was supposed to end, and I could do better. I stayed up all night three nights in a row reworking the way things turned out.

My theory on fantasy is that as an escape mechanism it is not only fine but healthy. As sublimation it becomes destructive.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kim, I feel like you wrote this post just for me which is the way I usually feel when reading your writing.

Trish said...

I feel so much better now! After the horrific storms that hit Alabama that Wednesday some fantasy was much needed! I got up at 3:30 and watched it all. I wore a tiara to work and brought sausage and biscuits for everyone! It was our royal breakfast Alabama style! But alas, after the wedding the reality of the devestation of the aftermath of the storms was still here. I pray for those who lost loved ones, homes, jobs, EVERYTHING. They could use some fantasy right about now.

Anonymous said...

O, to be a REAL princess! And in Christ, are we not? Amen!

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I frequently use fantasy to make it through my spin class... like the other day when I thought I was going to pass out (or fall off my bike... or both) I fantasized I was in the middle of a big campfire somewhere in Africa dancing along to the tribal music my spin instructor had going at full blast. It was fun! Sure made that hour go by quickly!

Karen said...

great post, rich, so rich