I used to think that Living the Dream was my goal, that when all of the pieces fell into place, I would be there. I would be doing work that I love, and my people and I would be healthy and happy. I would have the resources to learn, grow, play, and be a force for healing and empowerment in the world.
It was as if I’d heard of a sacred and magical land out in the middle of nowhere that, if I could get there, would be absolutely perfect for me. Perhaps the perfection would be that all of my favorite foods grew with ease, or that my body would magically sync with the rise and fall of the sun. Maybe the surf would rage and rest depending on my mood. I believed that the place would support me, and that my me-ness would be useful there.
Living the Dream would mean I’d arrived, and even though I expected to encounter storms and other wild obstacles–romantically crafting the intensity my stubborn soul secretly desires–it would always be exactly what I needed to live my very best life. It meant finding my paradise, the place where everything was exactly true for me and my dreams could be my reality.
I spent many, many moons searching for that place–exploring, studying, and even talking to people who seemed like they were living their dream to find out how they got there. Finding paradise became my obsession. As I searched for mine, I grew and changed. Every quest revealed a new piece of self and integrating it into myself guided me from one place to the next, each one was more true for me than the last. Life progressed, becoming clearer and in many ways easier along the way. I felt more happy and more healthy with each move.
One day, I discovered what I believed to be my paradise way off in the distance. I didn’t know how to get there but I was certain that once I did, I would be Living the Dream.
It seems that there are only a handful of ways to get to paradise island from the shore on which we are standing when we find it. Some people stay put long enough to gather what they need to make the journey with relative ease–a boat, fuel, food, etc. It takes a great deal of time and patience to prepare to journey this way but, barring catastrophe, one can expect a relatively smooth and secure sailing adventure.
Other people discover paradise off in the distance, drop everything, dive into the water, and swim like mad trying to get to the other side. This is a really hard way to get there and lots of these people don’t make it to the other side. If they do, of course, the stories they tell about how they came to be Living the Dream are stunning and inspiring. “The sharks and hunger… the sun that warms you after the long, cold night but then almost destroys you by the time it falls again the next night.” We’ve all heard (and loved) these stories, like the almost too good to be true one of J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series).
Swimming across is super sexy… as long as you survive.
There are many whose journeys fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. We might prepare to sail but not well enough to reach our destination. When the boat runs out of fuel, some jump in and swim and the others find a way to get more fuel so they can complete the journey without taking the risks that come with diving into the ocean.
One on end hand we have the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach and on the other super-sexy-but-prone-to-self-destruction one. To be honest, I’m not sure what all factors come together to determine which of those people we are. Certainly it is some parts nurture and nature, but there’s also something factored in that has to do with learning what we need to know, and healing what we need to heal. I think sometimes we just need to fight for our lives, and other times it’s okay to sail.
Three and a half years ago, I hurled myself into the ocean and started swimming. I started life coaching school and my opened my business the same week (as a student coach, of course). My wife was in college and we had these children to feed and clothe, and financially, it was a very difficult time.
By “very difficult,” what I really mean is sort of devastating. But it wasn’t the new business that made it impossible to make ends meet. Our ends weren’t meeting and then, I started the business. I’d already resigned from my old job when a work-related injury put an end to my wife’s postal career (thank goodness). Life got crazy fast and while I looked for a job, I couldn’t get anyone to give me one. This business was an old dream that came to life because in our moment of crisis, every single other door seemed to be closed. It was like I jumped off a boat to take a little swim and the boat pulled away. I started swimming toward the dream as an act of desperation.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a dream. In many ways, those were less than ideal circumstances but also, I was driven by the profoundness of our need in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. Because I was swimming, I worked harder than if I’d been sailing. I faced mental and emotional obstacles that I would have been to afraid to face, if I’d had a choice to stay in the boat.
The intensity of this experience has regularly taken my breath away, and I am undeniably stronger for having had it. I am also, in the spirit of full disclosure, exhausted. It is hard to live for so long with the awareness that the next financial challenge might just be the one we can’t overcome–lumps in breasts, broken teeth, car repairs, and sometimes even just the utility bills and food. My family has sacrificed a great deal just so I could keep swimming–not the least of which is my wife spending her first year of law school alone in another state because I couldn’t cultivate what it would take to move the whole family–and I am so grateful to have had so much time to try to reach my destination.
I used to think that if I didn’t “arrive” soon, I would surely drown. And since I am Seeds and Weeds Coaching, it would go down with me. Honestly, in the really hard moments, it seemed easier to just close the doors, write it off as a failed attempt, and go back to doing anything I could to pay our bills. And yet–with the seemingly endless support of my family and community–I kept swimming.
Still though, I haven’t made it to my little paradise, the place where I can do this job and support myself and my family with ease. This summer, my stubborn sink-or-swim mentality gave way to something better. I realized that I could, at the very least, get myself a boogie board or a life preserver or something to support me in the final stretch of this extraordinary journey. Yes, I got a job.
I start my new job next weekend and I’m pretty sure it is going to shake up everything about my life… in a good way. My intuition is telling me that this is what I need for my life (and my business) to bloom. It is my intention to continue writing and I hope to hold space for one small group meeting and two or three private session appointments each week. The rest is for my beautiful family… and for me.
I’m finally going to be able to relax a bit, to breathe and marvel at the miracle that is me getting paid to do what I love, even if it’s not quite enough to do all that needs to be done.
I used to think that Living the Dream was my goal but I was mistaken. Living the Dream simply means that I am fully committed to being awake and engaged in my life, that I am living intentionally as I journey to the destination that is true for me. As we move through the days, months, and years that make up this experience we call life, let us remember that–if we choose it–The Dream is alive in every single day, in every single breathe, and it is waiting for us to live it.