At some point, it must be asked.
What if I’m ordinary?
I mean, would that be so bad?
Would life become a hollow enterprise, and would my bones care after I died?
There is such a drive to be special. To have that specialness make people love us. Because that’s what all of us really want. To be loved. That’s what I want, anyway, at my most basic level. Whether it’s the love of my husband, which cups me gently between its palms, or the love of a reader who’s never met me, which isn’t really love at all, of course, but more like the warm silence around a song.
What would happen if everyone in the world loved me, either like a warm silence or like a cup? Would that kill the urge to be special? To make a mark?
I doubt it.
You just have to look at celebrities—and I’m not talking crazy celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, but good celebrities like Paul McCartney—to know that the need never really fades. Maybe Paul doesn’t think he needs to be loved. Maybe he sees his music as something like rainwater from galoshes: it just has to be poured out. But why still distribute and perform it, then? Paul McCartney’s not going to get any more special. Once you’ve written, “Blackbird,” you’re about as special as they come. But the man wants to know that he still matters. I was here, damn it, and look how much they loved me (and more than John, right?). I just packed the new Citi Field Stadium, for god’s sake, 44 years after making thousands of girls lose their voices in Shea. I was The Cute One.
All in all, the drive to be exceptional is probably a good one if kept in proper perspective. We get things done. We aspire toward new heights. We create art. Impress others. We want people to love us, and maybe they’ll be special in a way that sings to us and we’ll give them our love in return.
When it becomes dangerous is when the need to be loved, to be validated, to make that eternal mark just doesn’t happen. Maybe we’re not that special. Or maybe we are, but not how we want to be. Not enough. Never enough. That’s when the need to be special just clobbers the heck out of a different kind of love.
The love for oneself.
My husband (another Paul) and I talked about this last night. I was down because I’m reading this truly great book by Jonathan Safran Foer, called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, while also working on my own novel. I said that I could never write anything comparable to this book. Not even close. It's like apples and oranges. A Mozart opera, and "Rock Me, Amadeus."
He very sensibly told me that I didn’t have to. Write that book. That my writing is a lake, and Jonathan’s writing is a lake, and lakes don’t drain one another or cross. My goal is to focus on my lake (okay, he said all of this much better than I am). I liked that. I felt very much like I was cupped, gently, between his palms.
Now to hang onto that feeling, without doing anything at all. And then to focus on that lake. That rainwater in my galoshes. Because I want to let it pour.
Without sucking the soul dry.