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Act As If

October 3, 2010


"It is good to act as if. It is even better to grow to the point where it is no longer an act."
– Charles Caleb Colton

What initially strikes me about that quote, is that it is the essence of popular ideas of today (The Secret and others) and yet this is from someone born in 1780.  Rogers and Hammerstein knew about this concept too – remember their song, “Impossible” from the original Disney production of Cinderella?  My next observation ties into this.  Their last sentence says it all but my favorite is the bolded chorus:

Impossible by Rodgers and Hammerstein

Impossible, for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage. 
Impossible, for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage, 
And four white mice will never be four white horses, 
Such fol-der-ol and fiddle dee dee of course, is – Impossible! 

But the world is full of zanies and fools 
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And won’t believe what sensible people say.
Because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes, 
Impossible things are happening every day.

It’s Possible! For a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.
It’s Possible! For a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage. 
And four white mice are easily turned to horses! 
Such fol-der-ol and fiddle dee dee of course, is quite possible!

For the world is full of zanies and fools 
Who don’t believe in sensible rules 
And won’t believe what sensible people say 
And because these daft and Dewy-eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes 
Impossible things are happening every day!
It’s Possible! 
It’s Poss-i-ble!

All imaginative children pretend, right?  In your “let’s play” scenarios that you initiated, weren’t you always the heroine, the winner, the prettiest one?  It went something like this:“Let’s play faerie princess.  I’ll be the princess, and you be my lady in waiting.”  Said little Jenny (no one called me Jennifer back then…) to her friend, Mary with-the-long-German-last name I don’t remember.
“I don’t want to be the lady in waiting, I want to be the princess!”  Says Mary, miffed at being assigned such a lowly, subservient role.
“Oh, okay.  Then I’ll be the one like Cinderella with the yellow hair, and you be the one with the black hair, like Snow White.”  I negotiate.
Mary looks at me like I’m one brick short of a full load.  “But you have black hair, you should be Snow White, and I have blonde hair so I should be Cinderella.”
Doesn’t she understand?  This is MY game, MY make-believe world, and this time around things are going to turn out like I want them!  Let HER be the one stuck with ugly brown hair and boring brown eyes.  I get the physical upper hand this time around!  Besides, everyone with any sense knows you have to pretend something that’s NOT, not something that IS.  Otherwise… It’s not pretend, it’s real. DUH.
“But I WANT BLONDE HAIR AND BLUE EYES!!!” I explain in capital letters, so the obviously dense Mary “gets it”.

We would go on to portray our fantasies in varying circumstances, and during those episodes, it was all quite real to me.  I really was that princess, that adopted-by-poor-people wealthy child who was reunited with my rich “real” parents, or that beloved-by-someone, magical me. 

Just call me Cinderelly…

This (deemed by some as delusional) behavior has served me well.  It carried me confidently through an array of scary social situations I wasn’t accustomed to or on some level, dreaded.  I didn’t have the experience that would make me comfortable at dinners with celebrities, dancing in front of hundreds, teaching classes or giving presentations.  Except in my own mind that is.  I simply put on my pretend persona, imagined how it was and like the enchanted person I am, lifted my chin and thought “I am the most fabulous person here” when I walked into a room.  Then bippity boppity boo – magic happened and I did it by just acting “as if”.


Mr. MaidenShade and I were in a show this weekend where this kind of mindset came in very handy.  Picture this:

  • We haven’t done a show (due to many, many moves – see a few posts back) in a loooong time.  Lot’s of pre-show prep to do.  Finding shows in this area and applying took some time.  There were new items to create, inventory to take, signs, pricing, trial run set up to try a new display idea – I could go on. 
  • Setting up is preceded by packing and loading two cars, driving to the venue, unloading and about a 2-3 hour set up.  Hopes and expectations are high at this point.  We got a good wall spot with electricity and extra space available around us.  Our display looks great, this “feels” right!
  • Last minute details on the morning of the show are accented by quick bites of a very dry and tepid egg McMuffin and distracted gulps of chocolate milk.  It’s 9 a.m. and we are ready for the hordes.  This show ends at 3:00.
  • It’s 11:00 and a gorgeous day, not too hot, not too humid.  People are probably doing “nice outside” stuff before coming to the bazaar.  Right?  I make friends with a delightful woman from the Czech Republic who is selling ornaments and candle holders.  We keep each other company, make plans and dream dreams while we wait for all of those customers and Mr. M. reads a book.  My feet are cramping
    and ache.  The chairs we were given are for pre-school children and hurt our joints and behinds mightily.  We are grateful to have them none the less.
  • 12:00, no one coming around but other antsy vendors.  One buys a night light.  In the kitchen a cook burns a plastic cup in the microwave.  Noxious fumes roil through the rooms chasing us and the meager few would-be shoppers outside.  I fear for my shades which are fabric, i.e. odor holder onto-ers.  A frantic employee runs around spraying Lysol like she’s sprinkling some kind of magical faerie dust that will help, it makes it worse.  Now we have two horrible scents warring with one another for dominance.  Hack-hack.
  • 1:00 rolls around and we are looking at one another with tight-lips and furrowed brows.  We engage in tense and weary chatter in-between pacing, primping the products we have, and praying for someone with money and an eye for our stuff to show up.  Grumbling and disbelief are the prevailing energies floating around now, replacing the stench of that burned cup… vendors are pissed.  Some have driven an hour or more for this.
  • At 2:00 I notice people in the main room are breaking down.  Isn’t that like the Cardinal sin of bazaars, art fairs, craft shows?  You HAVE to go down with that sinking ship?  Ummm, not today.  Within 15 minutes me and Mr. MaidenShade are following suit.  Another two hours later we are driving home, then there is the unpacking of the cars and I, auto-immune Annie, crash without re-assimilating everything back into our tiny house.  I’ll have time tomorrow.
  • Speaking of that: The sun will come out tomorrow – I have another show in two weeks.  Another opportunity, and another after that.  In fact have countless opportunities!

My point?  It’s that “act as if” thing again.  When the poor harried coordinator of the event came around yesterday, all I could think of was to say what I wanted to be true.

“It’s all good,” I said brightly.  “You never know what contacts might call you because of this, who you may have touched, and you know there are no accidental meetings so there is a reason for us being here.”  Her face lifted just a bit as she went off to face the other vendors and their wrath; to shoulder the responsibility and take the blame for what was really not her fault.

I guess it’s a tribute to my feet being firmly planted in mid-air, this sunshine attitude.  Of course I can’t always claim it, but mostly I do.  I meant what I said, by the way.  I think I’ll have a commissioned tapestry to create, a special lampshade to make for a little girl I was blessed by and just had to hug, and who knows what else – I’m sure some one will discover me or I’ll discover “it”. 

Oh Mary, I can almost hear you “as if!” Dig Through Me Bins

About Charles Caleb Colton
English minister and author Charles Caleb Colton was best known for his book of essays, Lacon, or Many Things in Few Words. He was born in 1780 in England. He was an avid collector of both wine and paintings and was known as an eccentric for his lifestyle, which was both lavish and ramshackle, and for his church work, which was sometimes brilliant, sometimes slipshod. After leaving the ministry, he lived in Paris for many years. He died in 1832.
"It is good to act as if. It is even better to grow to the point where it is no longer an act."

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