What happens when our "perfect life" goes perfectly awry? When we wake up from the fantasy of our childhood dreams to the reality that is our life? I think about it as the life gone marvelously wrong.
My fantasy life began as it did for most of us -- in childhood -- and it set in stone a vision, if you will, for the outline of my "perfect life". My childhood options were limited and in line with the life of most in the '50s, which meant there was not much to aspire to and the lack of strong female role models contributed to a bar set dangerously low. But a vision of my "perfect life" was still shining in my mind like the rocks in the stream: Blurred and unattainable, but visible nonetheless.
My early teenage dreams took a dramatic turn when my father announced we were moving from our rural home in Oregon to Australia. He had decided he was through with the corporate life and his "perfect life" was looking limited and uninteresting. I boarded a plane for the first time and visited Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti before arriving in Australia, and I watched my vision of the "perfect life" morph into something new and different. The bar began to rise. A religious girls school ensued, my athletic abilities were rewarded, a love for learning developed and my first kiss and cigarette behind the tennis clubhouse signaled my coming of age. It was perfect until I was a witness to my father's affair and watched my parents divorce.
Once we arrived back in the U.S., my high school version of myself was higher than the low bar they had set for me. I joined all the clubs, was on the honor roll and was a jock with long hair, breasts and an Australian accent. It was a winning combination for me and my "perfect life" was at an all-time high, until my mother was unable to shake her depression and my father preferred his new girlfriend in Australia to his children in Seattle. Their inability to be present long enough to parent my sister, brother and I left me emotionally stranded while attempting to navigate high school and the challenges of becoming a woman. My dreams seemed to take a back seat to the emotional rollercoaster I endured as my mother reluctantly went to work as bitter but efficient secretary. Being a witness to this scared me into college.
My "perfect life" fantasy disappeared completely during college. I was consumed with learning: reading the Feminine Mystique, attending women's studies classes, learning about art, history and philosophy. I was redesigning my self without conscious thought. I was relieved to be filling my mind with concepts and new images that were unrelated to the drama of my low-functioning parents. Although it was hard to shake the self-esteem issues that seemed to plague me, I graduated and was recruited by Xerox. As I signed the offer letter, I was elated that someone believed I could do something beyond look pretty and remain silent.
The rigors of beginning a career did not allow much time or desire to maintain my childhood fantasy of the "perfect life". By the time I was firmly entrenched in my career in the new field of high tech, I was designing my "perfect life" on the fly, and it was so much better than anything I could have imagined as a child. My college boyfriend, whom I married, was an unfortunate victim of the personal alchemy that occurred: A complete upheaval of everything I thought I was. I needed to become someone new.
My fantasy life began to manifest in my mid-twenties and it was exhilarating. I remember those years as a time when I travelled everywhere, met everyone, made tons of money, had season tickets to everything and looked perfect in my beautiful clothes. It was a heady and intoxicating time. It was a self-absorbed time and I couldn't get enough. I would like to have been able to say that through my fabulous career with Apple Computer, I found balance and love, but I had instead, a career that outlasted my marriage, all the wrong people who revolved in and out of my life and a family who resembled a Saturday Night Live episode.
My "perfect life" morphed again by my mid 30s when I fell in love with and married the father of my children. Although my children were perfect, the short-lived marriage was decidedly not. I raised the boys and created the "perfect life" for them; everything I did not receive as a child and everything I had wished for, I provided. I stopped focusing on my life and instead I put all my resources towards the boys and their lives. Clearly, this was not wise, but you could not have convinced me of it back then. In creating a fantasy life for my children, the byproduct was that I healed parts of myself, which as a child, had been abandoned and ignored. Yet, in the midst of all of the drama of raising children with an ex, I still deeply loved the time spent with my boys.
The years that followed were filled with anguish, laughter and deep heart contractions. I could not remember a time that I wasn't at least kind of tired. It was my life where teenagers went dark, husband #3 became a white knight, achieving my 2nd degree black belt kept me sane, philanthropy sucked me dry, friends stayed true, the ex failed to kill my spirit and businesses came and went: The unexpected results of a "perfect life" gone marvelously wrong.