Once upon a time, I wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore. Not the real MTM, but rather, I wanted to be Mary Richards, the character she played on her television show in the 1970s.
As a high school girl in the throes of some serious teen angst, I'd daydream about working in a newsroom, living in my own cute apartment, surrounding myself with quirky-yet-lovable coworkers and friends.
Actually, all that is true of my life now, with the exception of the apartment. I own a villa and share it with a quirky-yet-lovable husband.
But back when I was in high school, I didn't have any of that, just a lot of internal melodrama and self-absorbed fantasies.
In my teenage daydreams, I lived in a metropolitan city, shopped at neighborhood markets and struck up conversations with Sam the produce guy about whether I should buy out-of-season cherries or stick with buying bananas, as I imagined MTM would do.
I even bought myself a ceramic N like the M that Mary Richards had hanging on her apartment wall.
I'd lie on my bed and try, by sheer will, to become someone other than who I was at the time. Veering slightly from my MTM ideal, I wanted to have blue eyes and blond hair and thin thighs. I wanted to be a dancer (MTM danced in the 1967 movie "Thoroughly Modern Millie") and was a long distance runner and a flight attendant.
I wanted to wear slinky dresses and drink martinis with men in tuxedos, when I was old enough, of course.
At one point, I think I spent more of my waking hours living my imaginary existence than I did living my real life. When my boring little life became too angsty to handle I would just "poof!" myself into MTM World.
If I had to pinpoint what it was that I really wanted from my MTM fantasy, it was to feel the feeling MTM felt when she tossed her hat into the air during the opening credits as the show's theme song assured her that she was "gonna make it after all."
I wanted my own personal theme song and a promise that I, too, would make it after all. That I would reach a point in my life when I could toss my hat in the air with triumph and joy and the sheer pleasure that comes with being secure and loved and at peace with myself and with God.
Maybe that's not what Mary Richards felt, but it's what I wanted to feel, although I couldn't verbalize it back then.
I think we all want that in one way or another. We all want an exhilarating contentment that compels us to whoop and holler and toss hats in the air. We want to not want and not need, to be able to be thankful both in the storm and the calm and to sleep soundly at night with a clear conscience.
We all want to know that we are living our best life, that, with the exception of heaven that awaits, there's nothing here on earth that would make us more content than we are.
The Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain. Another translation says, "A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God" (1 Timothy 6:6).
In the 30-plus years since my MTM fantasies began, I've had much joy and some sorrow. I've been financially comfortable for many of these past years yet also experienced cash-strapped times when I've lived on faith.
I stumbled into a career I love, without having had any formal training. It's been a gift from God, of that I'm certain. I'm healthy and content. I still love the man I married 33 years ago.
Next month I will be 54, and I can say with all honesty that I have all I need and my wants are trivial. God has been kind, his mercy great.
Years ago I had wanted the feeling of having arrived, of having attained, of having achieved, and in many ways I have beyond my wildest dreams. My real life has far exceeded any fantasy life.
So, cue the music, my hat's coming off.