Funny things, egos. Even funnier, by the way, is the Id, a word with which, during one 1970s rainy family holiday in Wales, and in the midst of a tightly fought battle of Scrabble, my dear old dad swept into a commanding lead by means of a triple word score and a bonus for using up all of his letters. Bear in mind, this was a man who openly considered himself to be uneducated (he left school at the age of fifteen in 1945) and unintelligent, yet when robustly challenged by my brother and I about the use of such a clearly made-up word, he was able to provide us with a fairly useful explanation of the concept, tinged as it was with some skepticism. At the age of twelve, I found the word itself unaccountably funny. This despite the fact that dad won that particular game with a highly suspicious two letter word that I had never come across, but sounded like something my brother or I would call one another when we ran out of real insults.
Where was I? Aha; egos.
Well, my ego in particular is a funny thing. Funny as in: odd, rather than hilarious or entertaining. It's so NOT hilarious, I'd sometimes like to trade it in for a model that's easier to live with, but I don't believe that the one I have is worth anything in exchange. Unless, that is, you find it funny or entertaining that I can feel deeply inadequate in almost any situation, yet become righteously outraged if I feel that I am being treated in a way that does not show an appropriate amount of respect for my advanced years, or undoubted varied background of experiences. It's a dichotomy as much as it's an ego, this ego of mine.
It had a little workout two days ago. For about eighteen months I've been working on a book which was inspired by my thoughts following the death of my father. Increasingly, I'd come to the distressing but inevitable conclusion that despite having lived in the same house as him for twenty one years, and despite having had him in my life for almost forty seven years, I really knew very little about him. I knew him as a father figure, but precious little about his life outside of that role. The prospect of leaving my own kids with the same sense of loss hit me in the face like a wet rag, and I knew that I had to do something about it. The result was a project aimed at enlightening my children (now almost all adults) about their dad, about the man, the personality that they had grown up with. So, after much toil, much re-writing and re-re-writing, I recently completed a book of some 125,000 words, and submitted it to a publisher. Two days ago, an editor's appraisal of it landed in my email inbox with a sound (at least in my head) not unlike a lavatory being flushed.
It was with no little trepidation, therefore, that I opened up this four page judgement of my work. My wife was sitting nearby when I did so, and within a minute she found herself sharing the room with a large, middle aged man whose face was suddenly wet with tears. Tears of surprise, tears of bewilderment, but also tears of joy. I cried because I was thinking of my father's legacy, and that mine would not now be the same. I cried because one of my goals had - amazingly - been immediately fulfilled, and I cried because I had, at various times, put so much of my self into the book, it had begun to feel like a part of me.
Thanks in large part to my version of an ego, I had set my sights low in terms of any success as an author. I had said from the outset that if only one person enjoyed my work, I would feel satisfied that I had, indeed, written a 'successful' book. I was suddenly, therefore, presented with success, as a frankly astonishing and almost gushing review of my work unveiled itself before me. Of course, I have made lots of small mistakes and the work needs a thorough proofreading by someone with professional training and standards, but the style, the content, and all the things that I had been trying to get right, were all, here in a truly flattering message, apparently hitting the mark. It seems that when I put my mind to it, I really can write, just a little. For a small boy who took so much pride in reading out a story of his own making to his friends in the classroom, that is a very, very big deal. He's still here, you see, inside me...
I'm still a little in the clouds. I wrote my book for my children, but I quietly hoped that other people might enjoy what I had to say, even though I suspected that I was putting together something very personal and even quirky; something that suited only me. The fact that at least one other person has indeed been entranced by it is all the vindication that I need to proceed with sharing it with a wider audience. To know that I have enabled such enjoyment - even within one person - has made me feel wonderfully fulfilled - in a way that I hadn't experienced before. I've hit my two main objectives: to leave something of me behind for my kids, and to have brought some smiles into someone else's life. It's been surprisingly hard work, but hopefully the final steps are now in sight. I can't wait; I'm excited about finding out if anyone else likes what I have said, but in my heart - and this is very difficult to get past my defensive, unbelieving ego but I seem to be winning - I feel like I have already succeeded, and for that, the whole project has been more than worth the effort. It's a very unfamiliar feeling, and my world is still changing around me as I take in what has happened. As I said; this is already a very, very big deal for me.
Anything else will just be gravy.