Where Am I Going?
Some people think destiny is shaped by the great turning points in life. Not me. I think it is in the choices that we make each and every day, in the little things that we do or don't do, from the moment we get out of bed in the morning until we fall back into it at night.
Knowing where you're going is only one step toward getting there. For some, self-knowledge takes a long time. Some never figure it out, or find themselves in places they never expected to be. Others might experience a sudden epiphany and decide - hey! I want to be an artist, a musician, a surgeon, a homemaker, a rocket scientist, a whatever. Inspiration can strike - and strike hard! - but deciding on a course and actually toughing out the journey are totally different things. Sometimes we think we know what we want and later decide we're not up to the challenge. And trust me, there will be challenges no matter what. What it really boils down to is this: Are you going to make your life, or allow it to just happen?
The highway to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the road to success is littered with unrealized dreams.
I've always known what I wanted, even though it took a while to get rolling. When I finally did, I still couldn't see very far ahead. I didn't realize how many twists and turns there would be, how many potholes, how much mire. Sometimes even now I want to stop, to turn around and go back, though not as much as I want to see what comes next. No one is forcing this journey on me. The choice is mine, just like the choice is yours. You can sit where you are (and, hopefully, choose to embrace it), or you can get up off your butt and move.
For most of us, an alternate route to fulfillment doesn't exist. We will either get there through hard work, or not at all. Blaming the bumps in the road doesn't make it any smoother. I have learned to watch out for them, to slow or speed up my pace, and navigate through the worst. Eventually, I'm confident it will bring me to my destination... as long as I just keep going.
It's mud season in Vermont right now (in case the metaphors didn't clue you in) and my road is a mess! I'm about to go face it anyhow. Here's hoping that what you drive through today brings you that much closer to your goals!
The Art of Overcoming
Life is an uphill climb.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment you get from achieving a goal despite overwhelming odds. As a dreamer I know this... yet, even so, I would usually prefer to spare myself the struggle. As a parent, it is even more difficult to watch your child's challenging ascent into adulthood, a bystander to lessons hard-won.
"Why can't it just be easy for once - why can't we ever cut a break?" was my husband's lament upon learning of the kitchen gremlins that tried their best to sabotage our daughter's recent Skills USA commercial baking competition. With much needed scholarship money on the line, and our most determined child as well prepared as was humanly possible, we were confident she would at least do well. And she did, too, just not in the way we expected. When everything started to go wrong, she sucked it up and plowed on. She overcame obstacles not of her making to put her best - for the circumstances - foot forward, finishing on time and without a pity-party, though a few tears may have flowed later in private. I couldn't have been more proud of her.
Yep, life is hard and it's not always fair. Admitting defeat without giving it your best shot is the easier route, but it doesn't get you anywhere. If I could have saved her the difficulties she had to face I would have, but as I watched my daughter reach a new level of maturity in that three hour blur, I realized that there is much more to success than having things go according to our neat little plans.
We won't know for two weeks yet how she fared in the competition, but I know without a doubt that she is a winner at life. She is sure to face more challenges over the years, and when she does, I'll be able to say in all confidence "Babe, you've got this!"
What goes around, comes around - so the saying goes. Considering our collective fascination with Downton Abbey, I think many of us are hoping that certain styles are ready to make a make a comeback.
Fashions are just one example of trends that get recycled. Ideals are another. I love how millennials are coming into their own while simultaneously embracing stories about former generations. Downton, the Broadway sensation Hamilton, even a renewed interest in Shakespeare and poetry recitation; these are just a few examples. Tattoos are definitely in again, and civil rights has re-surged as the topic of the day, not that that's a bad thing. But... it isn't a brand new thing either.
Neither is dismissing one's parents as old-fashioned.
"As much as any generation doesn't want to conform to the established way of thinking, they can't help but embrace the mindset of some former age."
It is not only normal for offspring to rebel, it is historical. Throughout the ages people have tried to be different from the generation immediately preceding their own. Often that means retro values come back into vogue.
"Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" was something my mother grew up with, and that many of my generation preferred not to embrace. My own ideals tend to be a tad out of step, since I lean toward my predecessors more than my peers. I'm glad to see simplistic living gaining momentum with the younger crowd. Sometimes though, I feel I little "old hat" - kinda tired and used up - especially next to my teen-aged daughters and their friends. I'm talking about more than body image here. Even though we share a love of many things (like Downton), we experience them differently. I wear second-hand bargains because it makes sense for the family budget; they do it as a fashion statement. I try not to waste anything because, well, I hate waste, whereas arguments about carbon footprints go further toward their participation in recycling. We both invest an inordinate amount of time in learning, but while they spend it hoping to secure a good future for themselves, I'm just trying to catch up to dreams put on hold. Whether material or idealistic, it is our way of viewing the world that separates us more than anything. Still, the result is the same.
One thing I long to see come back into style for all of us - and sooner than later, please! - is putting commitment to family and community above self-interest. Seeing more of the picture than just our own little perspective is something we ALL need to work on in this culture of self-indulgence and immediate gratification. Living more simply now, and considering others while we do so, may well be what prevents us from real hardship later on. And it's what may prove necessary for our survival in the end.
Do you believe in fairies?
Do you remember what it was like growing up and believing in the tooth fairy? The excitement and expectation of brushing against the unseen? Of going to bed with hearts filled with hope, and waking with them full of wonder? As children we're taught to cherish the magical world, yet as adults we rarely indulge in fantasy, letting our imaginations grow dull with disbelief. Why is that? Why do we prefer the mundane explanation to the improbable?
We all have to grow up eventually, I suppose, and finding out that our parents actually provided what magic could not takes its toll. Disillusionment sets in. Wariness takes wonder's place. But tell me - how is it any less amazing that my parents were able to feed and clothe nine children (and the occasional extra) on a single, average income and still foster our childhood delight in life? It had to take plenty of hard work on their part.
And that's what I've found it takes on mine to make dreams come true now, though for many years the mystery eluded me. I wanted the fairies back, doing the hard work for me. I wanted to be a child in the responsibility department, and an adult in the perks.
Shoes get made by cobblers, not elves; I see that now. Books get written through long hours at a desk, and sold through super-human effort. Yet...success finds those who toil at what they love. Fame and fortune may be more elusive, but to those who have become fairies themselves, that matters less.
And the world becomes magical once more...
The Importance of Play
There is a new craze in town that makes adult coloring books look more like a time out than a good time. Don't get me wrong - I love to color, always have - but just a couple of days ago, I had the privilege of teaching a painting class at a local pub. Talk about straying outside the lines! Several participants hadn't picked up a paintbrush since childhood. When they did, it was almost magical! Though a few were timid, something about having a drink in the other hand seems to allow people stop judging their efforts so harshly, and start remembering how much fun it is to free your creative inner child. Those who relaxed into the moment ended up not only creating a credible piece of art, but having a great time - which is exactly what the evening was all about.
I'm all for hard work and being responsible, yet we aren't put on this planet to just pay taxes until we die. While I'm not advocating drinking here, most of us don't play enough. We get too caught up in "adulting". Long before we're ready for the nursing home, we're acting like all of the fun has gone out of life. We're too serious, judging ourselves and others with a harsh eye. We forget that most biases are learned. As young children, we see everything as an opportunity for fun. New people, places and things are the raw materials for adventure.
As adults, we often see them as challenges.
Joie de vivre is something we're born with, but all work and seriousness, and very little play, does more than make us dull. It steals our joy.
Learning to re-see the world through a child-like lens, we recapture not only our joy, but also our sense of purpose. Life is meant to be lived, to be experienced to the fullest. Some things are hard, but even difficult things can be fun with the right attitude. Variety is what makes life so fascinating.
Here's hoping you enjoy a little play this week!