Monday, 7 May 2007

The Miracle Question

About two years ago my husband asked me this question: If you were to wake up one morning and find that overnight a miracle had taken place and you were now living your dream, or perfect, life what would it look like? Since then my answer has changed and developed but certain aspects of it have remained the same. For ages I struggled to get over the whole waking-up thing. I could imagine waking up in a sunny, spacious room with the smell of coffee wafting in from the kitchen below. The sound of the sea breaking on the shore... And that was it. If I forced myself I could imagine going down to the kitchen and pouring myself some of that coffee and helping myself to a freshly made croissant from a pile on a board. Maybe going out onto the terrace to sit in the sun... But not much more, it wasn't a life I was imagining but a coffee commercial. And the odd thing is I always have tea in the morning, I find coffee too harsh. In order to develop my answer I had to get over that morning thing, I'm not a morning person and I found the morning bit debilitating. So now I have reworded the question to: A miracle has happened, you now live your perfect life, describe it. So much easier.

Interesting, isn't it, how language leads? How the way a question is formulated can make it unanswerable, or make only certain answers possible, precluding others. Barristers, politicians and other professional exploiters of language know all this, of course, and use it to their advantage. I've heard that polling companies can ask questions in a way that guarantees the answers given for those who employ them. Bastards!

I find myself, more and more, having to mentally re-word questions before I can answer them. I know this drives my husband nuts because I seem to go blank for ages 'it's a simple enough question!' he'll say looking slightly pained. But it's not a simple question, like most it needs to be disentangled. Its assumptions need to be uncovered and examined. Where do you want to go on holiday this year? for example, assumes that I want to go away at all. It also assumes that I am aware of all the options regarding not only destination but financial and time constraints. Not to mention where he would like to go, the sort of accommodation available in various places, if visas need to be procured etc, etc. Going away on holiday, especially with someone else, is a mine-field.

So anyway, back to the Miracle Question and my imaginary perfect life. I'd like to be able to say, hand on heart, that it's the one that I'm leading. And mostly it is. But I can't seem to stop trying to make a few minor alterations, for example I wish the roof didn't leak when it rained. And I would rather like to live by the beach and be a real writer, rather than someone who likes to write and has started a novel but not got round to looking at it for a while. I do think I'm lucky, though, that the things I'd like to change are pretty small. This means I don't really give them much thought unless I'm asked such a question.

But now I am throwing the question out to you: If you found yourself living your perfect life, what if anything would be different?


Mary Witzl said...

Okay -- here goes!

My mother would still be alive, for starters -- and she would be in reasonably good health and live near us.

9/11 would not have happened, nor would the war in Iraq.

G W Bush would not even have made it to Yale; someone like President Bartlet in the West Wing series would be president of the U.S.

Global warming would not be so pronounced, and solar heating would be a viable energy solution, entirely replacing nuclear.

There would be cheap, readily available remedies for malaria and AIDS.

Our roof would not leak.

My bicycle would work.

I would be 10 kg lighter.

I would not have arthritis.

My husband would have employment he enjoyed and excelled at.

An agent would agree to represent two of my books (I was going to write 'one,' but I got greedy and figured why not go for broke...)

My kids would put the milk back in the fridge on occasion and pick up their own clothes.

And while I'm at it, World Peace, please, and a pony for my kids...

Eryl Shields said...

That's really interesting, I would never have thought to include the whole world in my perfect life scenario. The question would have to have been 'if you found yourself living in your perfect world what would be different?' In which case my own life wouldn't have entered into it.

I have arthritis too and my bike doesn't work and my husband hates his job. Well, he doesn't hate it but he wishes he didn't have to do it. He doesn't love it.

eg(scotland) said...

For me it would have to be this one - although if it were to be perfect there would be a few changes -

I'd like to be a bit more adventurous and spontaneous - that way I might actually decide to try doing something different in terms of work.

A bit more money wouldn't go wrong - but that's probably the same for most.

I'd also like to fell that I'm making a difference by being on this earth - don't know how!

I'm sure there's more but I'll need to go off and think about it.

Oh - a few more hours in the day and days (non-work ones) in the week would be nice.


Eryl Shields said...

We get stuck in rut when it comes to work don't we? But that your instinct is telling you it wants a change is a start. Over the years I've learnt from other people that it's never too late to effect a change and it will happen when the time is right.

I know so many people these days who appear to have just, one day, thought fuck it and chucked their jobs in but actually something had been stirring in them for years. And they now wish they'd done it earlier, the improvement in their lives being so great. But the time wouldn't have bee right earlier.

I have a cousin who, sick of the term'take care' as if excessive caution were the best way to go about life, signs off her correspondence with 'take risks.' She's right but it's so not easy.

Mary Witzl said...

EG, you can have some of my spontaneity and adventurousness; I've got enough for the both of us!

I know I cheated on the miracle thing, Eryl. Once I started thinking of miracles and my perfect world, though, I couldn't resist putting in a few feel-good plugs for the world in general. And it's not as if I'm going to get any of it anyway, though I can certainly dream -- and often do.

Kim Ayres said...

For me it's quite simple. I would want more energy and less depression.

I have some kind of problem, which is vaguely related to a B12 deficiency, that drains me of energy, enthusiasm and motivation.

When I'm not drained of these things I can achieve anything I want if I want it enough - and I believe anyone can.

It does remind me once about a time a few years ago when I was in my mid-thirties and complaining to my father about the various things going wrong in my life, and he suddenly said "I'll swap you!"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I don't care what your problems are, how much debt you have, where you live etc. If I could swap with you and be 30 years younger, so be in a position where I had the TIME and ENERGY to make the changes, then I would take on any of your problems."

It was a profoundly sobering thought.

The intensely frustrating thing at the moment is that having made so many changes over the past 2 or 3 years, and that I've finally worked out the key to existing in the universe, I am actually in an ideal position to create the perfect life. But I never have the sustained energy and motivation long enough.

Give me energy and enthusiasm and I'll make the rest happen.

Carole said...

My fear is that if I somehow got my imaginery life, I wouldn't like it as much as I thought. Right now my life is filled with people. There is not a day goes by when I don't have pop in visitors, calls, etc. I think it would be wonderful to live a quieter life. My dream is to live in a little house in a remote area where people can't really find me. Now I imagine after a few months of solitude I would want to see someone...but I am not sure.

And then...I want to figure out how to detach enough that I have sympathy without empathy. But I empathize to the point of no sleep, mind scrabbling to find solutions to problems that aren't mine. Well well, I could go on, but I must say I haven't gotten to the point where I love my life the way it is. This questions makes me realize I need to really look at my life.

Kanani said...

So much of the 'perfect' scenario is associated with money. But I wonder if Bill and Melinda Gates have perfect mornings, or do they have some truly shitty ones? I mean, on one hand, they don't have to pay their electrical bill but then they are saddled with an imperfect product that almost everyone hates.

On a philosophical level, I'd be more accepting, organized and have more energy. And focus.

But as long as I'm not... okay....
I'd wake up and the coffee would be brewed. There'd be a big plasma TV on the wall, and I'd turn it on as My kids would run in, and we'd talk and talk and talk.

Then I'd exercise with my personal trainer who'd be waiting for me.

I'd go into the garden and dabble. I would admire my many roses and clip bouquets for neighbors.

I'd get ready to go to a really cool job, where I got paid obscene amounts of money to say cool things, like "Yes, buy one in every color."

Then I'd have lunch with friends who have flown in from all over the world for a weekend --compliments from me. And they'd have their kids, too. We'd get our hair done, nails and feet, then have neat things brought to us by various stores.

And Antonio Banderas would be there. And Nigella Lawson would be there for Kim so that he wouldn't be bored during his pedicure.

Mary Witzl said...

Actually, Kanani, Antonio Banderas is a good idea! Can I come over and have a look at him when you get your perfect world? (Smile)

I've just read Kim's comment and I can remember my mother saying that she would happily swap with me. What she actually said was,'Oh what I could do if I had your youth and my hard-gained knowledge.' I now say this to my kids all the time, but unlike Kim they are too young to really understand.

Eryl Shields said...

Mary ~ You may get some of it, you never know: a cure for arthritis may be just around the corner and one of the side effects may be rapid weight loss. Goeorge W won't be in office forever and the next predident may be more long sighted and do something about global warming etc...

Kim ~ Let's hope a cure for your condition is at hand too. What is this 'key to existence' then?

Carole ~ Your life sounds great, I never have pop in visitors. Though I'm pretty solitary so it might drive me doo-lally if I did. I guess we always crave what we don't have, to a degree. Could you set aside a couple of days a week where you don't answer the door?

Kanani ~ It sounds like you need to get out of LA for a while: personal trainer; plasma screen tv!?

Mary again ~ I remember my mother saying something similar and thinking 'what knowledge?' now I know!

Kim Ayres said...

It's all based around chalk lines and narratives - I'll try and explain when we finally get that coffee together :)

Kanani said...

Oh yes... I have NONE of that stuff. And truly, we could just meet at Baccara up in Santa Barbara. You said a "day," correct?

Utter fantasy. Helps when you're writing the third draft.

Eryl Shields said...

Kim ~ I'd forgotten about chalk lines I'll re-visit your post on that topic. I'm reading Irvine Yalom - an existential psychologist, don't know if you know him - and he mentions something very interesting about personal boundaries. Not the same thing but it all connects.

Kanani ~ The point of the question, I think, is to get you to really think about what your perfect life would be like as a whole life. But I did say 'you wake up one day' yes...

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

In my perfect life California would not be so far away from Scotland. I love California and my life is here now with my family, but I wish I could visit my granny more often. I really really wish home was closer.

Eryl Shields said...

Oh Sam, that's so sad and so human somehow.

Kanani said...

Oh, it's a problem I have. I never want to think very deep. Especially when knee deep in papers, dog poo in the garden and gardeners who weed whack my nice hedges.


Pendullum said...

I'll have to come back to you on this...
Probably in a few weeks after I truly have pondered the question...
But a beautifully written post, to start my day with my morning latte... fear I do not have the croissant... but I do have birds chirping in the back ground, my family asleep upstairs, and my dog at my feet...
Geez, I have a wondeful life...

Eryl Shields said...

Kanani ~ Hats off to you, I tend to think so deeply about everything that I can barely have a conversation these days. I'm hoping for a cure some day soon.

Pend ~ This question definitely takes time: two years later I still don't have a well rounded answer. Thanks for the compliment. Your life does indeed sound pretty wonderful even without the croissant.