There is something about an indoor pool; how the voices and the light bounce around wildly. I took in the sight of them; flipping, splashing, hollering, sputtering, and swimming with great gusto, their arms slapping the water while their ineffectual kicks didn’t quite break the surface until stroke three. A young one swimming can bring to mind someone blindly fighting horizontally, all flailing.
I swam away from them, keeping all their precious selves in full view. Do you pretend any more? That faithful childhood voyage of the mind into fiction? If you say “fantasy” anymore only lurid connotations surface, unless, of course, you follow it with “football”. How telling that we’ve pigeon-holed that word into our culture’s favorite gluts: sex and sports.
Well…there my arm extended to the side, my slow-moving underwater form all grace and effortlessly on pointe. I was a ballerina there for some stolen moments, twirling, dancing in the pool. The kids were none the wiser. Any passersby would think I was engaged in some water aerobics. Because adults don’t pretend anymore…do they?
It happens too, whenever I wear a dress shoe with a hard sole; you know the ones that make that delightful mincing click when you walk? It’s when that click meets stone walkways or brick sidewalks, right there, I am transported by imagination’s fancy, to being a princess in a castle or out in her gardens. Heck, I can’t even don an apron without a jolt of pioneer-woman stealing over my good sense.
Perhaps why I enjoyed the stage so much. I got to actually act out a life I wasn’t born into. I was definitely a method actor, donning not only a costume but a whole new self for the span of an hour. It made my tears real ones and my emotions ran raw or giddy alongside my character’s. In one play I was to stage-slap a fellow actor across the face (meaning, I was supposed to slap lower on his neck and not actually on his cheek). Every show I had to apologize afterwards because every time I was so into character that I’d slap him right across the face in indignation. Oh dear.
I moved back across the pool, satisfied by my temporary transport to the ballet stage, and became, in turn, a shark chasing minnows and a dolphin to ride on.
I thought about pretending, and really, I think it is more commonly engaged than realized. Even reading a suspense novel, we have our hearts pounding, our palms sweat; we have in a way identified with the character and are living out what happens to them. Television and movies are certainly voyeuristic and provoke engagement with our imaginations. On a darker note, porn owes much of it’s consumption from the loneliness and discontent of men.
But here’s what I’ll promise you. I may pretend briefly to be a ballerina or a shark or a princess fleeing in tippy-tappy shoes through her garden, but I won’t pretend to be okay. I won’t pretend that life tips always in my favor, nor that my own sins don’t reek of rot. I won’t pretend that faith is enough to wipe the sorrows away, nor that with Jesus at my side, I can make it through anything. Because, really, He never said I could. He only said that He would be with me, ceaselessly beside me, loving me. I can’t pretend that doesn’t thrill me. That the Lover of my soul, the Creator of all that is, is ever with me, ever loving imperfect me. That the sufferings of life on this terrestrial ball aren’t the eternal things, much as they pretend to be.