Recently, I had a very pleasant experience playing golf with high school buddies that I had not seen for awhile. My round once again proved to be a humbling experience. Yet, all of the sliced drives, chunked wedges and missed putts were easily forgotten during a highly successful 19th hole. It seems that, when sitting on a bar stool, my muscle memory is quite good – I keep my head down, my balance and weight shift are perfect, my arms are extended properly and my elbow tucked whenever I am about to hit a nice, long, cold gin and tonic.
I like reunions of all sorts, probably because I still have most of my hair and I can still see some of my belt buckle. I don’t mind at all listening to former cronies talk about grandchildren, corporate careers, vacation homes, lawn care tips and applying for Social Security. It’s fun talking to old friends who have accomplished something over the years since our days of punching each other in the arm and using “douche bag” as our favorite epithet. Some of my amusement comes in trying to reconcile the people my friends have become with who they were in the past. Normally, I have no expectation that these guys would have changed at all. They have changed of course and this comes as a mild surprise because I like to entertain the idea that I haven’t changed a bit in all of the years.
If truth were to be known, I still find the old jokes funny; I still want to punch my friends in the arm; and, I still want to make them laugh by saying something clever and rude. As hard as I try to break myself of this habit with friends, I liked who I was and in a lot of ways still want to be that hale fellow. In the olden days, I drew my energy from those around me and it worked.
But therein lies the rub. While I may not recognize it, or want to admit it, I have changed, just as my friends have. This denial is the likely source of my discomfort when someone approaches me at the occasional golf outing and says: “ Hey, I hear you’ve written a book!”
I should be used to this kind of comment by now, but I’m not. It’s clearly a friendly approach, intended to express an interest in me. But I was never a writer of books in the long, dim past and I find it very difficult to see myself as such. My yearbook says I was the one most likely to recede, not most likely to proofread or maybe re-read. My novels just sort of happened. So, my typical response is to make a joke, to play the fool in some other way or to downplay it by commenting that sales aren’t what I’d like them to be. In short, I tend to deflect the responsibility for whatever success there is in getting a book out.
Knowing this to be a very unattractive trait, I currently am taking re-hab advice from Princeton’s (et al.) Amy Cuddy. Dr. Cuddy is a social scientist who, among other things, is known for theories of body language and personal power. She argues convincingly that we should “fake it until you make it.” In fact, Dr. Cuddy has taken that notion a step further to advise: fake it until you becomeit. She talks about a personal epiphany in her teaching when the day came that she realized that she no longer had to fake it as an Ivy League professor, as she said she had in her early days. In fact, the ah-ha moment came when, after repeatedly standing in front of a class, she realized that she actually had become what she was supposed to be.
I am now on the Cuddy Plan. I continue to write and when I’m not writing, I try to play the role of author as I know it. Maybe after my tenth novel, maybe when sheer volume argues against my fear of the change in me, I will have become what I aspire to be. I may even be able to talk about it as an adult.