Friday, December 17, 2004

If you wish upon a star...

My mind is all aflutter. I just finished another wonderful book. A couple of weeks ago, my book group had our annual Christmas dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Good food. Good company. We had a book exchange – we were each supposed to bring a book that we loved, wrapped, and we would each come away with something new. I ended up with a book I already own (Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake), but I was not willing to face the disappointment on the face of the woman who’d have to give up a book she really wanted. It was one of those exchanges where an unwanted gift can be exchanged for someone else’s choice. Anyway, I ended up borrowing Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons from someone across the table from me. In that curiously named novel, a handful of housewives on a fictitious Freesia Court tell the tale of being part of a book club that lasts for 30 years. Birth, death, adoption, cancer, a gay son, abuse, widowhood, separation, music, infidelity, deception, betrayal, silence, forgiveness, restoration, redemption, long-term commitment. It’s all there. It’s all right here on my street, in my home, in my heart. I am gonna suggest it as a book for my group to read next year. I suspect no one will fall on the floor and admit to physical abuse or having given up a child for adoption, but I hope it will open up discussion about the ways in which we all put on masks and play charades in our lives. I hope it will cause us to face our own demons and reach out for help in exorcising them. If nothing else, it will certainly be an entertaining read.

Yesterday as I read someone else’s blog (, I was challenged with one of the best New Year’s Eve traditions I’ve ever heard of. Andrea, the writer of that blog, explains that she hates New Year’s resolutions. They are all about punishing ourselves for our shortcomings and making ourselves feel smaller than ever when we fall off the bandwagon. Why deprive ourselves of chocolate or berate ourselves for loving food by trying to starve ourselves? Yes, there are habits that merit abandonment, but the beginning of a brand new year ought to be the beginning of brand new dreams, hopes, expectations, and aspirations, not a time to set up a new list of ways and reasons to think less of who we are, of who I am. She shares an idea given to her years ago by a good friend: the Mondo Beyondo list.

The idea is simple and simply revolutionary. Write down a list of the biggest dreams and hopes that I have. Where do I want to be in five or ten years? What do I hope to be doing? What difference will I be making in the world? Again, it’s not about reminding myself of what I haven’t done yet. It’s a time to dream big: I will have a best-selling journal/memoir published, a well-appointed, high-ceilinged, three-bedroom apartment in Madrid, Oprah’s cell phone number on speed dial on my own cell, a standing weekly writing date with Lauren Winner, and I will make my acting debut opposite Richard Gere in a movie about an amazing writer from North Carolina whose blog catapulted her from her modest study room to the private dressing room of her new friend and most honest critic, Oprah Winfrey. I get to play myself, of course, and Richard Gere plays my handsome, supportive, loving, and generous husband. My book is, naturally, a beloved and highly recommended volume in book and writing clubs alike. I will walk the quiet beaches of that remote island off the Spanish coast and collect shells to add to my travel momento shelf while sharing stories of life, love, and faith with my favorite confidante and closest friend, Steve. I will be fluent in Italian and Portuguese. I will be able to cook a gourmet meal from scratch without recipes and without having to go to the market; I’ll have all I need in my SubZero fridge and immensely well-stocked pantry. Plus there will be Pellegrino, sweet tea, wine, diet Dr. Pepper, and all the tap water any of my numerous friends would ever want to drink. Not to mention red Australian licorice, almond M&Ms, and oatmeal toffee cookies galore. This is what dreams are made of, and this is the exactly kind of stuff that goes on the Mondo Beyondo list.

Perhaps my dreams would be more modest: five or six good friends who get together on a monthly basis for twenty or thirty years and tell our own tales while eating bon-bons and walk this journey of life arm in arm. We will cry together through cancer, accidents, funerals, the weddings of our children, our own remarriages after widowhood or divorce, and whatever else life throws at us. We will laugh together through botched Thanksgiving dinners, split pants seams at company events, bad hair days, and our husbands’ last-minute birthday and holiday gift choices. And every year we will go away for a spa weekend where we will stay up late, sleep in late, and enjoy every oiled, massaged, hysterical moment together.

The thing I am looking forward to most about this list is the chance to honor all my dreams, both big and small, by writing them down, uttering them aloud in the car on the way home from the supermarket and in my early morning huddling in front of the Christmas tree when I look back on Christmases past and dream of Christmases yet to come.

I will fill the list with cosmic, unanswerable, improper questions, too. The “what ifs” will pepper my list. What if I had…? What if I hadn’t…? I’ll wonder if today’s difficult homeschool lesson on binary numbers will matter in five or ten years, or this argument, or this burnt dinner, or these painful hair rollers. Won’t the relationships matter more than the job, and the family game and movie nights matter more than all the after-school, transcript-padding activities that pull us away from each other? Will today’s sticky gingerbread house episode bring back better memories than the perfect cookies we point at in the Dean and DeLuca’s pastry case? I’d better make sure that the Mondo Beyondo list consists solely of the real dreams, the big ones, the colossal ones – and I’d better make sure that those dreams are the ones I live out and not just the ones I write about. If I truly believe what I say I believe, then I’d better do whatever it takes to keep from becoming an angry, fat housewife eating bon-bons wondering where the years went. If I truly believe what I say I believe, then I’d better start living out these dreams and wishes and hopes and expectations and prayers right here and right now.

Here’s to living a mondo beyondo life - and having our dreams come true.

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