This is a story about the life you want and the life you have. It’s about what you are creating and what you are neglecting. It’s about what you have given up and what you have embraced. If you pay attention, it’s going to change your world…
There are two lives we live, the one we imagine, envision, dream and do nothing about. And the one we live out every day from sunup to sundown. One life empowers and the other exhausts. One gives and one takes.
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If you think about your two lives as people in a relationship, one is the giver and one is the taker. The life you want, imagine, and rarely dare to dream, that’s the one that gives. Well, if you were pursuing it, nurturing it, living it, it would be a giver. And the other, well, that’s the taker.
As in most relationships, it’s so hard to admit to ourselves when someone or something is constantly taking from us. But that life you live out of obligation, should, requirement and duty, that life is sucking the very marrow of life and joy from you. It may “give” you what you consider to be benefits like income and a sense of security, but it’s not giving you a deep sense of satisfaction, is it?
This realization started with a book, well in truth it started much earlier than that, but you could go all the way back to my childhood to find the beginning of this idea brewing in my heart and soul. For purposes of brevity I’ll just start with the book, Elle Luna’s book, The Crossroads of Should and Must. This isn’t a story about her book but I would be remiss to not mention how artistic and creative her book is, from the design to the color, to the quotes, art and content.
For me, it’s inspired #my20dreams.
What if who we are and what we do become one and the same?
What if our work is so thoroughly autobiographical that we can’t parse the product from the person?
Ever since I left teaching, what I thought would be my lifelong profession, I have searched, wondered and wandered trying to figure out the answers to those questions. Am I an author, artist, photographer, teacher? All or none? Forced to pick just one? I tried to answer those questions in a short film shot in Paris.
As a teacher in my mid-20s, I felt like the question was answered, but after a few years in, as I was teaching an extracurricular writing group and coaching a girls dance team, I couldn’t escape the feeling and words that “those who can’t, teach.” I didn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. I don’t believe it. I know teachers who have a lifetime of teaching under their belt and they were designed and created for that. It is their story. I wanted it to be my story, but those nagging doubts made me question myself.
Why was I jealous of my student’s who brought in their novellas and told me how they stayed up late writing? Why would I hold back tears after writing group when I “should” have been happy and content with what I was teaching others to do. I could see their futures. I could see where they would go with encouragement and instruction.
I ached for my young self who wanted that same encouragement and instruction but didn’t get it. That younger version of me who wanted to be a writer, but didn’t have the courage or encouragement to pursue a dream that could end in failure. Even now I feel the lump in my throat and the tightness in my chest when I think about that young girl desperately wanting to live out her big dreams but settling for a small safe life that she was told was her place, her lot in life. Don’t get too lofty, too big for your britches. The messages came through loud and clear and never went away.
And before that, well the truth is that writing wasn’t even my first dream. So teaching, while a dream, was one much further down the list. My first dream, one so many young girls live and die with… I wanted to be a ballerina. Even as I write that, the sensible side of me wants to change it to dancer.
Ballerina is impractical, froo-froo, fluffy and I am not those things. but the deep calling in my gut says ballerina. That’s what I wanted and I studied and practiced. I loved the discipline. I didn’t mind the teacher pushing my toes to the floor until they ached and cramped. I did’t mind the strict rules and grueling practice. I savored it. It gave to me. gave me joy, that deep joy that wells up inside you so deep that you almost think the well inside will spill out in uncontrollable laughter or tears.
When was the last time you felt truly alive?
I think that if I hadn’t almost lost my life 3 1/2 years ago, I might have never felt it again. I might have lived the rest of my life settling for the second life, the shadow life, the version that is just enough to get by.
But instead life had a different plan. I was on a creative retreat and decided to take a walk to let the ideas continue to percolate. And then, as I walked into the crosswalk, a white car moved toward me and didn’t stop. I turned to face him and reached out my hands to stop him, but he didn’t stop. He wasn’t looking. He wanted to go right on a red and was looking the other direction. unaware. Sleepwalking through life.
That’s where things are black in my memory. I put my hands on the front of the car. I thought I jumped back because all I remember is somehow standing about 15 feet away from the car. It didn’t register that I couldn’t have jumped that far.
What really happened was that I fell over the front of his car, the forward motion threw me up 6 feet in the air like a rag doll and somehow I landed on my feet. Somehow. I think it must have been guardian angels because my pre-fontal cortex went offline. I have no memory of anything in between those two moments. The recording device of my brain shut off to protect me from the inevitable trauma (we’re still trying to get it back firing correctly and completely). But miraculously this mother of two beautiful children ended up on her feet alive.
In the years since that accident that nearly took my life, I have found myself again and again at the intersection of trauma, identity and lost dreams. Despair and hopelessness continued to haunt me during the day and invaded my dreams at night turning into night terrors, parasomnia and sleepwalking. I could no longer do work I loved or any work at all. I did not recognize my former dancer’s body in the mirror from the disfiguring surgery and muscle atrophy. I could no longer pick up my six year old son and swing him around in the air before embracing him in a hug.
My heart catches in my chest every time I think about those stolen years, the lost identity, and the moments that can never be replaced.
So with tears forming in my eyes and an urgency in my heart, I beseech you to listen. Not to me. But to your own heart. Your own lost identity and dreams calling out to you. I know it’s hard to slow down and get quiet long enough to listen. I know it’s sometimes painful to open yourself up again to the idea of pursuing what feels impossible and insurmountable. But isn’t it worth one more try? One small step every day. One moment of action to invest in a future and life that you have not been pursuing but desperately wish you could.
Do it now before you find yourself at the intersection of trauma you never imagined and identity unrecognizable. It’s never too late to be who you might have been. Believe me I know and I’m here to tell you it’s worth every ounce of strength and resolve it may take to get you there. 100% guaranteed.
So what do I really want to tell you?
Life is a continual process of re-creating and re-defining who we are in every moment. At the intersection of trauma and identity crisis, you can find new dreams to pursue.
We are all works in progress and it is a mistake to believe that we are finished. Take action every day in the pursuit of who you aspire to be and you will see your world begin to shift.
If you choose your dreams every day, you choose yourself and the ripple effects will have such lasting consequences, even you will not be able to calculate their impact.
Here’s what I’m doing… pursuing #my20dreams with everything I have.
Here’s how I’m doing it… taking one action toward #my20dreams every single day for as long as it takes.
How can you follow along on the journey… join my email list and I’ll be sending out inspiration and updates periodically.