Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
7. The Dream of the Hero
Some of us dream of saving an old lady in an upstairs window from a raging fire. I, on the other hand, have watched too many Angelina Jolie movies. I have deep, developed fantasies about a rogue band of terrorists storming into my book club meeting, at which point I transform into a sexy, karate-chopping warrior, complete with machine guns and machetes, and kick the butts of all the evil masked offenders, only to take off running into the night at high speed to preserve my secret double identity, which no one in my book club ever suspected. This is not going to happen. But I have been the warrior of lasagna for my friend with leukemia, who couldn't stand up to cook. I have been the ninja of at least two weddings where the bride succumbed to a panic attack and fainted in the bathroom. And I have been the superhero of Tuesday afternoon swimming lessons, which my son so badly wanted to take, but which also coincided with the end of the school day, requiring me to drive across town in under seven minutes, find an illegal parking place (since no legal ones exist), gamble on how long it would take the meter maid to find us and tow us, and then dress my son on the sidewalk as we sprinted to the pool, ripping off his T-shirt, slapping on the floaty backpack, only to bust through the doors and sit him down on the bench by the shallow end, saying to him with all gravitas, "Nobody can stop us, son. Nobody." You too have pulled off the heroic and inhumanly possible on the way to the convenience store—and you will again and again and again. Most dreams are also part reality (otherwise we wouldn't believe them), and reality happens to be a condition that gives you plenty of chances through your life to rise to—no, soar through—the occasion.