‘Protect me,’ says my favorite t-shirt, by artist Jenny Holzer, ‘from what I want.’

I want to be read. Famously so. But I watch the authors parade through TV and realize that I really don’t love the idea of having to talk about myself.

I want the comforts of conversation, of perfect love. Yet I am notoriously solo.

I want the creative challenges (and the income) that come with a job. And the income. And still, I love the time spent writing for myself.

In the commencement address by Steve Jobs that we’ve been seeing a lot of, lately, he talks about following one’s dream. The suggestion that this is the only life worth living…no doubt about it. Managing the courage to live that dream is something else altogether.

We all know someone who has followed a muse to the ends of the earth; who surrendered job and life and relationships to go where Art led. Some of those muse-followers have found their way to fame. So many more have found their way to invisibility. And the invisible ones…how do they live, now that the too-few years remaining in their lives leave too-few chances to find the dream?

We are bound by the conditioning of our personal histories and habits…the familiarity of the regular paycheck, the need to plan for the unknown, the settling into comforts, the occasional, effortless indulgences that we have always been able to afford. When one takes the leap, certainty flies out the window. And, truth is, even with a job there is no certainty. Not any more.

So. In the Zen of our existence, asking questions is answered, as always, with more questions. What is it in us that draws the favorable universe to us? Where does courage come from, the guts to live the life one dreams about? Is it courage at all…or is it delusion? Where does one find the nerve to live today and let tomorrow take care of itself…and how dumb is that?

And here is the thorniest question of all: When, for the first time in her life, a writer has a big part of what she’s always wanted…when she has a chance to grab the illusion of the dream—even if it means sacrifice and scaled-back expectations—should she?

Protect me. From what I have, what I know, what I doubt. Protect me from what I want.

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