I tend to live too long sometimes in this world in my head, fueled by online friends and brilliant blog wisdom, where hours are marked by hashtags and Facebook becomes a lifeline, where I register a comment count or today's subscriber numbers like a self-worth bathroom scale forever showing a number that leaves me feeling bloated and unsatisfied.
In this neighborhood and since it's my fantasy, my quaint old chippy farmhouse with miraculously leak-less faucets is nestled right in there with awesome neighbors like Emily and Sarah and Lindsey. I lunch with Anne and Ann and Annie and Anna and we break bread and talk about life and God and gratitude. My kids hang on the neighborhood monkey bars next to Shannan's and Lisa-Jo's.
I camp in the woods in invisible tents with Emily and Suzannah and their beautiful families. Tamára, Preston, Nish, and I debate microbrews at the backyard barbeque. My pretend writer's group meets at the corner bakery where Jeff and Mary and Dan and Shauna, over bites of something buttery, offer brilliant insight on this tricky manuscript, which I can't wait to share with my make-believe agent, Rachelle.
Because this is sorta what it really feels like for me to live here in this online space. To wander from house to house and blog to blog, to eat my lunch beside you folks and nestle myself into your reality, make you part of mine, let your words make mine somehow come out a little better next time. Like a fantasy. Like one of those dream sequences on TV marked by foggy edges and a twinkly soundtrack.
It's not merely virtual, though. The real-life encouragement, support, prayer, and tangible love that floats across keyboards and computer screens is not make-believe. It is substance and it is depth and most days, it gives me strength I haven't had before.
But I have a real life too. I carry spare pairs of cartoon underwear and emergency fruit snacks in my purse. I have foreheads to kiss more often than I do, and toilets to clean and filters to change and sunscreen to apply and more book ideas floating around in my head than time to write them all down. I have dirty carpet and friends I need to visit (the kind who knew me when I wore leg warmers and slap bracelets and crimped my hair). I have movies to watch, stories to tell, a husband who keeps me one step ahead of psychosis every day. Somewhere, there is probably chocolate I should be eating too, regardless of what my protesting belly pooch has to say. There are real books with real pages to read and holy moments to be had.
There is life to be lived, and you have one too.
Is virtual reality overshadowing actual reality, in your life?
This is a struggle for me. I'm a writer at heart, and at times, I think I need to set up camp in this virtual space to "make it" and make sleazy flashing billboards to get my voice heard. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves out there, and the Internet never sleeps.
But flesh and blood does.
It sleeps and cries and laughs long over good wine with good friends. It turns the laptop off sometimes to paint toenails with pigtailed daughters, to play in the rain with fuzzy-haired sons and attempt daring new recipes. It kisses your husband long and sweet, and dips its toes in river water. It leaves the bedroom window open and listens late to crickets and rhythmic breath and cars driving past. It star-gazes and goes out dancing. It eats the moments of life like bites of a sweet summer peach.
Be careful not to miss it.
Don't trade your life for eye-strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Don't sell your soul for another Twitter follower if you aren't bringing your whole heart into the world beyond the computer screen. Virtual reality has a funny way of reflecting actual reality. If your life is empty, your work will be empty. Live.
As much as I love my fantasy neighbors in my make-believe neighborhood, I have real neighbors I've never met, ones with pet roosters who wave enthusiastically every time I drive by. I have a lonely grandma who could use a lunch date. I have avocados to savor and dandelion heads awaiting the breath of a small boy who doesn't yet know about making wishes.
So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off go make a living… and make a life.