if the best of all possible worlds were reality

In ALL, INTROSPECTION by Stephanie Klein31 Comments

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If the best of all possible worlds were reality, Karma would still work. I’d have time to read my children bedtime stories every night, to lie in bed with them and cuddle, to watch Disney movies and make up our own fantasies together. If the best of all possible worlds were reality, I wouldn’t have to endure too much anxiety. I could live happily, comfortably, without worrying about security, about my finances. I’d know more about finances and wouldn’t feel intimidated by keeping track of it all. I’d raise independent children full of passion, drive, and their own wants.

If the best of all possible worlds were reality, I’d eat in bistros and drink wine, and watch lives unfold, surrounded by characters. I’d continue to learn about things that excite me. I’d continue to have moments like I did outside Mrs. Kalb’s class, inside Mary Gordon’s class. I’d leave the house more and have more people over for dinner. I’d be okay with all the contradictions.

If the best of all possible worlds were reality, I’d have a house in Florida with white seating that the kids would never ruin, where I could walk barefoot, drinking lemon water from tall glasses. I’d have a pool and wouldn’t need to clean it. My children would always be safe and healthy and excellent swimmers. My family would be closer, here for holiday dinners and dance recitals. If the best of all possible worlds were reality, my house would be decorated with rich fabrics, coordinated like outfits, with central vac for a dust free, pet hair free, home that smells of the seasons.

Phil and I would fight much less, he’d somehow get less frustrated, have more patience, and wouldn’t be as loud as he is, or so easily irritated. I’d diffuse the situation and handle it correctly. If the best of all possible worlds were reality, he’d be healthy, and we wouldn’t have to think about the things we do. We’d have more dinners outside, more wine, and more grilled fish. If the best of all worlds were possible, we’d dance. Or know how to dance, but mostly just dance together at all.

If the best of all worlds were reality ideas would come easily and I’d be left to craft the fun parts. To create menus, to take painting classes, to learn to play the guitar with the kids. If the best of all possible worlds were reality, we’d take a family vacation somewhere new each year and blow up our photos for framing. 

If the best of all possible worlds were reality, I wouldn’t have to worry about web design, marketing, or advertising. Someone else could handle it all. I wouldn’t have to be in self-sales.If the best of all possible worlds were reality, I’d have people stopping me on the street, telling me how I’ve influenced their lives, how I’ve touched them, moved them, given them the courage to take risks in life.

Maybe I could act a little, sing perhaps, skits and campfires. Improvisation. People would still be in plays as adults, even if they suck. I love being a mother and wish there were more hours to do it all, to nurture and make my family feel safe, and take the uninterrupted time it takes for me to create more things of which I’m proud. I want to make a difference in the world, to touch lives and make people think. I don’t want to have to worry if my books are in stores, if my show gets picked up for another season, if people think I’m talented. In the best of all possible worlds, I wouldn’t need validation. I’d know and believe in my own voice and ideas and wouldn’t be bullied out of them. I’d laugh a little more. 

I feel so lucky that I’m able to do what I love. I think I need to read more because when I read, I think. I need to live more, interact more, meet people and hear their stories. There are easy ideas out there, simple, obvious. I want to create a story with characters who are frustrated, restless with where they are, desperately wanting change but struggling to figure out where they belong. I want to make enough money to know my children are always provided for, that they get good educations, opening their world to whatever opportunities they want. I want to try writing other things, to try fiction, to write about coming of age Judy Blume kind of moments, to be giddy about ideas and excited to write about them. I want to be able to focus on the work, on the actual writing, reading, and thinking, watching movies and going to museums, being enriched. I want to keep wanting. "Never satisfied" isn’t the worst thing in the world… in fact, it’s part of what makes the best of all worlds possible.

Comments

  1. Sometimes I think we don't have the best of both worlds because then we appreciate the really good stuff when it does come along.

  2. If the best of all worlds were reality…I'll always have new Stephanie Klein to read.

    I may not be able to stop you on the street and thank you for the inspiration and courage to take risks that your writing has given me. But know I would.

    Thanks for another spark today.

  3. I'll be the first to admit that I'm sometimes on the critical (read: hater) side of this blog and it's comments… and you guys ALWAYS let me have it. However, THIS post embodies the reason I keep coming back. Honesty expressed in wishful idealism,deliciously creating a place where insecurity, narcissim and the look and size of your engagement ring and/or jeans doesn't exist, but more importantly doesn't matter.
    This is why I spend my lunch break reading greek tragedy and this is the SK I identify with: the one who really wishes things could be good and right in the world so the things that matter most caught true time and attention.

  4. I am that person who wants to change so much yet having trouble finding where I fit in. I feel like I spent my life playing by other peoples rules. With the promise that if I followed them I would have a happy secure life.
    However, I am finding that isn't the case I want so much to find the courage and the confidence to follow my passions and dreams. Reading your blog makes me feel like that is possible. That it's okay to make your own rules and to follow them.
    Thank you for putting yourself out there everyday, and for having the courage to live your life out loud!

  5. If the best possible world was a reality… It would be totally acceptable to sit my five-month pregnant self down outside to have a bottle of wine while enjoying the last few days of the Oregon summer!

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I teach English and this is a great opening write activity. I can't wait to see what my students come up with!

  6. I am that person who wants to change so much yet having trouble finding where I fit in. I feel like I spent my life playing by other peoples rules. With the promise that if I followed them I would have a happy secure life.
    However, I am finding that isn't the case I want so much to find the courage and the confidence to follow my passions and dreams. Reading your blog makes me feel like that is possible. That it's okay to make your own rules and to follow them.
    Thank you for putting yourself out there everyday, and for having the courage to live your life out loud!

  7. I clicked the link to read the "wanting" list you wrote years ago. Reading what you wanted then, and what you want now, is not so different. But what is amazing is that you can officially check off some of the things you wanted years ago. That's what keeps us going – achieving some, but never all, of what we want. If you get everything you want, what happens then? Happiness? You can never wait on other things to be happy, but it's striving for them, for what they stand for, that can bring us there.

    At this point, my list of "wants" is similar to your one from the past. Seeing where you are now makes me happy because I know it can happen some day for me too. And that knowledge makes me so much more comfortable with the journey to get there.

  8. Oh, Honey -I think you just compacted the almost 64 years of my life into one little ole blog post! And so many of those "ifs" you mentioned are still there on my list, waiting to happen or at least wishing they could/would happen. Especially the urge or desire or need -whatever you care to call it -to do something! Doesn't have to be something all that spectacular but just at least "something" that I can hold to my own heart and say "Hey, it's mine. I did this!" Right now, the closest I come to realizing that aspect is that I have raised three wonderful kids into three pretty doggone decent adults and now, I have a little tiny finger in the pie towards seeing that three other children grow up to be warm and decent human beings as adults in this world. And I know I should be happy with that as my contribution, my accomplishment, but my mind, my heart, keep telling me there has to be something just a little bit more to be achieved. What that is, I sure as Hell don't know yet but I'd best hurry and figure it out cause my ideal world becoming reality is fast moving towards its end phase.

  9. Do you really not think you're doing most of these things already? From here anyway, it seems like you're doing a great job of making it all fit in.

  10. Thank you Stephanie. I'm struggling with some major decisions right now and I'm going to try and use this format to decide what I really want. This is much better reading than a pro and con list. You're helping people, see? : )

  11. Mentioned it on the last blog- High Maintenance by Jennifer Belle. And I could totally see you writing coming of age, Judy Blumesque books.

  12. Agree with Katie. You seem to already have much of what you say you ideally desire. At least that's what I've gleaned from reading your entries.

  13. It is good to consider the ideal, but don't forget that listening to your husband chase your kids through the kitchen with his "I'm gonna get you!" monster voice as they squeal in terrored delight is the stuff that sticks. Grilled fish, not so much…My point… focus on the shear miracle of the present little moments.

  14. You're fabulous at creating a mood, reading through this post I saw the things you described as scenes in front of my eyes. It's the thing I like most about your writing, you can really draw me in. For what it's worth, you did touch my life a little, your posts often make me think.
    On topic: It's great having 'wants', they give me goals to strive to. I actually listed them on 43things.com, along with the places I want to travel too on 43places.com. It's also great knowing what you want, a good friend of mine is suffering from anxiety attacks as he doesn't know what to do with his life (at 25).

  15. I understand the never satisfied desire. Right now, I'm doing my MFA at Newschool, I commute from Connecticut, I work, and I'm training for a marathon. I still make time for my husband and for my family – the things that matter. We make it a point to travel to my home (colombia) and someone international each year. Most people gasp at my goals and dreams – while I only want to set them higher for next year. As long as my priorities are set – which are writing, investing, traveling, exercising and my hubby, I feel like I can bloom.

  16. I live in Florida and have white leather mid-century modern couches….so I laughed at that part. It's lovely here.

  17. This is the street and I am stopping you.

    You've made a difference in my life. You've helped me to find the courage to publish/promote my own memoir (even though it's self-published and doesn't hold much -if any- merit in the real writing world) still, it took much needed courage to write with candor and to get it out there.

    I thought about you a lot when I was on the pansy brink of not publishing/promoting at all – or rewriting in order to sound nicer and more poised (not candid at all).

    And I think about you a lot when I have fleeting moments of "OMG WHAT DID I DO? WHY WOULD I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW THIS?"

    I've thought about you a lot when people have made nasty comments about my personal experiences/outlooks/opinions. And then I think about you when someone says that I encouraged or inspired them in some way, motivating them to take a risk, and then my fleeting pansy question is answered – "Oh yeah, THAT'S why! THAT'S why I did this. THIS is what it's all about."

    But more than anything, you didn't just make a difference in my life – you CONTINUE to make a difference. You help me to remember that I don't need to apologize for my eccentricities or for the desire to humanize others with my own true-life stories.

    Sometimes all it takes is that one word to make a difference in someone's life…motivating them to plow through their fears and insecurities in order to live out their dream. You've given me many, many words of encouragement and you help me plow through my own self-doubt. You make me think. You give me courage to take risks and you help me to brush off stinging remarks. You make me laugh. And you're why more people should share their experiences and outlooks, giving others a glimpse of much needed realness.

    Encouragement is a cycle and you're contributions are very much appreciated. Your spirit is catchy. Your writing emanates soul – good, bad, or ugly – it's always real. And I love that.

    Consider this a firm handshake of gratitude.

    Heather Kizewski

  18. When I return home tonight, as hopeful as I am tired, I will play in the mess and listen to "mud mud I like mud". I will think of you. We set ourselves aside to create a world and come back to find ourselves missing. I am going to get a facial this weekend and drink a bottle of the really good wine. By Sunday the laudry will be done, children working on projects and hopefully the husband still sleeping, I plan to pick up this weeks MBA project before the work week starts again. I will remember that whirling dervisous are the most spiritual form of dance.

  19. You sure Phil isn't bipolar? You mention an awful lot how easily irritated he is and that you fight. He ever been diagnosed?

    Jezzzzzzz wonderinnnn!

  20. Dearest Stephanie,

    You are an incredibly BEAUTIFUL & BRILLIANT young woman with BOUNDLESS opportunity at your fingertips.

    Your words of wisdom inspire so many — you've touched the lives of others in a profound way. Your blog is a testament to this.
    I know it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to appreciate your own worth. It is so much simpler to be your own worst critic.
    And yet, for sure, being hard on yourself drives you to succeed.

    I am a loyal and devoted reader, though I've never posted. I am making an exception because I want you — and your readers — to realize the power of ones own thoughts.

    The title of this post could really be "Karma DOES Work".
    LOOK HOW FAR YOU'VE COME. You have two beautiful, healthy children. You have a husband that cherishes you. You have an amazing career pursuing what you LOVE. Everything you yearned for in the Karma 2004 post has come true.

    It is Karma. It is the Power of Positive Thinking. Of believing in yourself. Of never letting an obstacle stand in the way of your dreams.

    CHEERS TO YOU!!!

  21. I LOVE reading your work and need another Klein book to read like a drug. Write about marriage and family…what's going on now? Maybe short stories about your marriage bumps with advice at the end of each story. When you are more attached to the subject you are writing about, it shows in a powerful memoir. Don't do fiction! Advice from one writer to another.

  22. This post reminds me of the quote I always kept on my office door (or cubicle wall but I block those years out):
    "Peace is not the absence of conflict in life but the ability to cope with it."
    Continuing to strive for more and better is great as long as we all can appreciate what we have. Great post.

  23. Your post made me feel a lot better about not (never?) having enlarged my family photos and gotten them up along the stairway wall like I hoped to . . .

    That 'someone like you' still has things undone & wanted makes me less frustrated.

    Thanks.

  24. "Phil and I would fight much less, he’d somehow get less frustrated, have more patience, and wouldn’t be as loud as he is, or so easily irritated. I'd diffuse the situation and handle it correctly. If the best of all possible worlds were reality, he'd be healthy, and we wouldn't have to think about the things we do. We'd have more dinners outside, more wine, and more grilled fish. If the best of all worlds were possible, we'd dance. Or know how to dance, but mostly just dance together at all. "

    Stephanie,

    I've read about your life almost non-stop since the NY Times ran their first story on you. I recall the day so well – I was at my shore house and reading the NYT over a giant cup of coffee. I read the review of your blog – hopped on my PC – and was hooked! Life is very different for me now. I'm no longer single, no longer a city girl (Philadelphia.) Just a professional chick living on a lovely, lovely farm.

    While I don't know everything about your life, I do feel that I know enough to make a comment or two after reading you for all of these years. Plus like you – I'm a former teenage fatty, divorced parents, and have struggled a bit to in my personal relationships.

    I recently was in DC with my sister who made the comment that my honey (BF) and I fight "a lot." Well, I adore my sister and really respect her opinion so her comment stung! Honey was there too and he was equally as hurt. On our ride home from DC (3 hour ride) we really disected her comment and realized that we do fight a lot. We fight over really dumb stuff as much as the big stuff too. We'll fight over who made the other late, or who took out the garbage last. He's overly critical on the money I spend (even though I'm self reliant, and by most standards we're really fortunate.) I'm overly critical on how frequently he compliments me on my fashion, food and smarts.

    Still stunned by my sister's comments – I gave her a ring to get her perspective on how my honey and I could work through the fighting. (The thought of having that reputation w/n the family felt worse than the day to day pain of actual bickering would make me feel.)

    She was very upfront with her answer. I was shocked by it! She feels that it's a result of fighting my entire life. I always had to fight for what I wanted. She explained that when I was young (say 11 – 20) my parents were pretty brutal towards me primarily because of my weight. There was always this underlying tension, especially with my father, surrounding what I ate, my appearance, etc. While I was talented in so many ways (fine arts esp.) no talent was good enough to win the approval of my father. As a result we fought constantly – and that bitterness is still "in the air."

    Now, here I am 35 and still struggling. I always seek this unbelievable and unacheivable level of acceptance. If I don't get "glowing" reviews (especially from the honey) I get frustrated and fiesty. (And we generally end up fighting.)

    Clearly, my sister's comments have left a real impression on me. It's been weeks since she made the comment – and I'm still sorting through it.

    Do you think that your fighting with Phil is a form of protection or bad behavior held over from your Fat-Camp years?

    I'm interested in getting your take on this and look forward to your comments.

    Kind regards,

    Jenny

  25. stephanie!
    you are a beautiful, wonderful person and writer. your writing is so pure, so truthful and so compelling. you encourage and inspire me.
    mia

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