A dream to remember

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Do you believe in dreams? By that I mean, do you ever wake and know that your dream meant something real? I’m a big believer in the power of dreams, and I had one last night that was so encouraging to me that I just wanted to share.

First, a little backstory. This last year has been one of questions for me. I’ve done a lot of self-examination, a lot of mental wandering…wondering about vocation vs. hobby, who I am vs. who I want to be, etc. I can visualize the kind of life and work and meaning I want to have and bring to the world, but I have such a hard time finding the way there, and so much impatience about how long it’s taking, that I often wonder if these visions of the future hold any weight, if they could ever come to pass.

Back to the dream. I dreamt that I was wearing my wedding dress, and my hair was down, and loose. I was in a large open field, under a tree. There were lots of people surrounding me, including some I admire and know only by their work. Everyone was smiling and connecting with each other. In front of me was hanging a rope, the kind you would use to swing into a lake. I knew that if I got on this rope and swung on it while wearing my wedding dress in front of all of these people, it would look really silly, but I also knew that it would mean I had come to my fullest potential and finally become the truest expression of myself. I was kind of nervous, but I was laughing and everyone around me was encouraging me, “Get on the rope! Do it! You have to!” Finally I just decided to give in to it, and I climbed on the rope and started swinging, in front of everyone. I was going higher and higher, my wedding dress and my hair were flying out behind me and I felt completely free, with the purest sense of joy. Everyone was clapping and just so happy. Joy was the only emotion anyone had. My field of vision kind of panned out and I saw myself, swinging, surrounded by all of these people, and I was totally free of any fears or insecurities, basking in complete fullness of self, joy, and purpose.

When I woke up, I just knew that this dream was meant as an encouragement. Despite all the fears and gnawing, daily insecurities I may have about my talents, my work, my passions, my life and relationships…if I just move forward and swing on that rope despite it, I will accomplish those dreams. And I have so much support. It was like the whole world was saying, “You have to lay down your fears and just start swinging…we’ve got you.”

 

(photo of my sister-friend, Jen, in La Casa del Árbol Baños, Ecuador)

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Life as Paradise

I read a quote by Leo Buscaglia today that said, “Life is a paradise for those who love many things with a passion.” It made me stop and think. Am I living in a paradise? Am I pursuing the things I love with a passion? I like this quote because it implies that we are in charge of how great our life can be. Of course bad news, bad days, and bad circumstances will come our way. But we can choose whether or not we view our life on the whole as boring and lackluster, or as a happy paradise of our own making, filled with things we are passionate about.

So how do I make my life a paradise? What are the things I love and am passionate about? And then, how can I pursue those things on a day-to-day scale? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking long term or big picture, but I really think that it is small moments that are the most important. Daily decisions and small acts make all the difference- and they are much more attainable!

Buscaglia’s quote really made me desire to live more passionately, so I’m starting by writing just five things I love most to help remind me to take pleasure in the small things and small decisions, and build my own paradise.

1. Books- I have to make time to read, even just one chapter, every day. I definitely feel it when it’s been a couple of days without this time.
2. Aesthetics- I love putting together images of beautiful things. Something about a cozy space, a flower in bloom in a jar, or a gorgeous Christmas party makes me so happy. Now that I have an apartment of my own (shared with my husband, of course), I love finding images and shops that help me express my aesthetic. Sometimes, it can make all the difference in one’s mood.
3. Small businesses- If given the option between a chain or an independent store, I’ll almost always head for the latter. There is so many beautiful, unique things to be found by the creative, passionate types who open their shops, and I love supporting their creativity.
4. Food- I do love cooking, but I love eating even more. Now that I have my evenings free, I’ve been meal planning and trying out new things almost weekly. It’s been a good exercise in learning, patience, and health.
5. Relationships- This reflects not only my desire to cultivate the beautiful friendships I already have, but my desire to truly see people. I think of all the people who work in customer service who often get mistreated or simply overlooked by people in a hurry or in a fluster. I do not want to miss all the beautiful people in the world because I was too busy thinking about myself. (I think what this really comes down to is being present in the moment, but that’s another post.)

What are your passions? How can you make your life a paradise? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Annie’s Kind of Grown-Up

As one gets older, there is one question that consistently comes up after each milestone. “So what’s the next step? Where do you see yourself heading?” I’ve always hated this question. At first, I thought I disliked it because it was nosy and I don’t care to share my life plans with people I barely know. I’d answer with something vague, yet satisfying enough to get them to stop asking any more questions. This question always gave me such anxiety because I never knew the answer. If I was honest when people asked me, What do you want to do? I’d say, “I want to read. I want to learn French. I want to travel. I want to cook big, fancy meals. I want to write. I want to learn people and form meaningful friendships. I want to experience nature through autumn walks, sunrises, and mountain views.” But I could imagine their look of confusion so clearly, the words “I meant for a job…” forming, and I felt too ashamed to say what I really thought.

I graduated with my masters degree in theology  last September. I am not doing anything with my degree. I found a job at a coffee shop that was incredible and that I genuinely loved. Then I began watching my best friend’s baby girl and I’ve fallen in love with experiencing the world again for the first time alongside this child. But while I loved both of my jobs, the strain of performing both every week, adding up to 60 hours a week, began taking its toll. I never saw friends. I saw my brand new husband one day a week. I began to resent the job I once loved. I had more money, but I lost my life.

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure and gift of hearing author Anne Lamott speak at a nearby church. A question was asked which I don’t remember, but I do remember her response very distinctly: “I try to be a grown-up who practices radical silliness and rest.” Wow. Her response is so counter to what the American culture tells us is important. I have been taught that I must work hard in school so I can get a job in my field that pays well and provides benefits like paid vacation so I can still have some time to do what I want on the weekends. That has always sounded so horrible to me. The only jobs that have sounded remotely enjoyable to me have been teacher, musician, or writer. Office work? No way. Retail? Been there, done that, never again. Customer service? Well, still trying to get out of that one. I wanted a job that was fulfilling to what I loved, allowed me the freedom to enjoy holidays with loved ones, that allowed me to travel, to learn French, to practice piano, to cook for my husband…is that so much to ask?

It’s always felt like it has.

But Annie’s response about searching out the lighter, healthier things in life, like silliness and rest gave me hope. I don’t want to be made to feel that having rest means I’m not a hard worker. I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for doing something that I love. Because, it’s actually harder to chase after the things you really want. It’s really hard to say, I’m going to quit my job that gives me health insurance and paid time off, and just have one job that does not so I can have time to rest, and find joy and meaning, and purpose, and love, have time to write! To write! The thing I’ve always wanted to do (but didn’t know it). It’s scary to turn down security to pursue those things. But I finally realized the kind of grown-up I want to be: one who is able to find beauty in everything, one who values rest and self-care, one who pursues her passions with full force, one who fights for the life that is fulfilling to her, regardless of what parents or society may think is the safer route.

I’m finding that the safer route can oftentimes be the most restricting. It gives the illusion of freedom, but true freedom is throwing caution to the wind and chasing after beauty, in whatever form that may take. I think of the Howard Thurman quote, “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I don’t want to sit in a job I can stand and miss out on the job- or life!- I would love because I was too scared to go and do the things I am most passionate about. And while I may not know exactly how that will look, I’m willing to bet it will be different than I expected, and way different from how life is “supposed” to go- and I can’t wait for that.

It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do. Otherwise, you will live your life as a prostitute, you will do things only for a reason, to please other people, and you will never have lived. And you will not have a pleasant death.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross