Tag Archives: 2012

The Cost of Dreaming

30 Jan

photo from soul meets body

So I was looking back over my wishes for 2012 and saw that I wrote, on this very blog, that I would live to cross 15 of the 25 remaining items off of The List this year. That’s 15 things in 12 months. Or, more accurately since I haven’t accomplished any this month, 15 things in 11 months. Holy crappers, people, that’s a lot of things to do!

As I look over my list, the thing that strikes me most is that crossing things off my list is going to cost me. Why didn’t that occur to me, in a real dollars and cents way, before now? A and I do just fine, thankyouverymuch, but most of our money isn’t liquid. As A likes to put it, we’re house-poor. Even more so with our water heater basically exploding last week. The more I work on crossing off the list, the more I realize that even having a list means accepting cost. It has a tangible monetary cost, but it also costs time, it costs effort, and I can see why people put off their dreams because, at the end of the day, dreaming is costly.

A few months ago I was at a lecture by Kathi Lipp where she talked to women about finding their dream. One of the things I remember her saying the most was (and I’m heavily paraphrasing here) that lots of women don’t know how find their dreams, and those who do let the excuses of time or money get in the way of pursuing their dreams. My 30 before 30 list is an excercise in dreaming, and there’s no way I’m going to get 15 things crossed off in the next year, let alone 25 in two, if I don’t plan for it. Make the time, set aside the money, and just balls-to-the-wall go for it, baby.

When A and I decided it was time to put aside excuses and have me start Christian counselling, we did it not knowing where the money was going to come from. All we knew was that we’d prayed for assistance, it hadn’t come, but that we’d waited long enough and it was time. After we took the leap and I started meeting with a counsellor, the financial help appeared. Our prayers were answered. But we had to take the leap first.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that was a special case. I don’t think God’s going to show up if I pray hard enough for the money to appear so A and I can learn to make sushi. My point it that dreaming takes planning, intention, and making a choice to go for it, come what may. So this month I’m starting a 30 Before 30 fund. I’m lucky enough to work at a job where I get reimbursed a bit for the endless amount of commuting I do. With A’s blessing I’m now going to save up my mileage and designate it my dream fund – a little bit above and beyond our normal income that I can put towards my dreams guilt-free. But if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t let that stop me. I’d find another way to cut a corner: forego my Friday latte, reduce my cell phone’s data plan, nix Netflix, something. Because as nice as those little luxuries are, they’re nothing compared to seeing a dream become reality and being able to look back and say “yeah, I did that. I went for it.”

If you’re waiting on someone to hand you the golden ticket to  make all your dreams come true, I have three words for you: Get Over It. No one will care more about your dreams than you will. No one has the capacity to make them happen like you do. No one else will hunger to see them come to life, and darn the cost. Because it will cost you: effort, time, willpower, maybe even money, but as someone working through her own mini-bucket list I’m here to tell you that it’s worth every bit of it.

So that’s my pledge for this next chapter of my life: to go forward with no excuses. If I can’t afford it, I’ll save up or find a way to make it happen for less. If I don’t have time, well, we always make time for that which is most important to us, don’t we? If I don’t have the drive, I have a friends and a loving husband to help keep me accountable. I’ll be intentional, and make it happen.

Do you ever let outside forces stand in the way of your dreams?

An Excercise in Intentionality

16 Jan

Scene – Thursday night:
A’s first day back to work after a week off. Unbeknownst to me he is mad stressed out, realizing that the work he thought he had a few weeks of grace to finish is due, like, yesterday. Coincidentally, this is the night I decide to implement my long-awaited plan to live intentionally by increasing our intimacy and enjoyment of the time we spend together over dinner. My plan was three-fold:

1. Taking the suggestion of a featured chef in Runner’s World to take time to savor a glass of wine with a light snack – in this case spiced nuts – before dinner.
2. Heat dinner – in this case yummy leftover carrot ginger miso soup with pain de levain and butter – while we enjoy wine and snacks.
3. End with a tasting of good cheese – in this case a 5-year aged gouda from whole foods ($3.62 for 5 oz.) with rosemary flatbread crackers – as a dessert alternative to finish the meal on a decadent and satisfactory note.

I felt this plan was very French; spread the enjoyment of a meal over a longer period of time, eat less because you’re less ravenous, and reap the benefits of an evening filled with good food and conversation instead of spending another night rushing through dinner before watching the newest episode of Biggest Loser.

Act 1 – my car, between school campuses. I dial A on my cell. Split screen to show conversation.

Me: “Hi sweetie! How’s your day?”

A: “Fine. Busy.”

Me: “Oh, sorry. I won’t keep you then. I just wanted to let you know I had an idea. Tonight we are going to do an experiment to increase our intimacy and enjoyment of dinner!”

A: “…..”

Me: “Honey?”

A: “I’m here. That sounds…nice…”

Me: (Not sensing the tone) “Great! It’s going to be really good, honey, trust me.”

A: “Ok…I’m going to try and work out when I get home, so I’ll be later for dinner.”

Me: “That’s fine! We’ll make it work. I love you.”

A: “Loveyoubye.” (click)

Now, for the uninitiated, A gets pretty hungry after a workout. I briefly thought about putting off my experiment since A tends to come in from workouts hungry as a bear and lingering over a glass of wine and a bowl of nuts just might not cut it. However, I decided to trust in A’s love of snacking to get him through and get on with the plan.

Scene – Our living room.
A comes in sweaty after a workout. He asks me if he can shower before we sit down to eat (yes, please!) and heads off to get clean. I insist he eats a banana before he showers to ward of the hungry bear effect, which he does. While he’s scrubbing up I set out a small bowl of spiced nuts, two glasses of a yummy pinot grigio, and put the Feist station on Pandora. (I told you I was obsessed. It’s the perfect soundtrack: mellow, yet interesting with a touch of whimsy music for an intimate evening in.) A gets out of the shower and dutifully asks if he can put a load in the laundry before sitting down.

Fast forward 30 minutes:
A and are sitting in the Talking Chairs, feet up, wine in hand. Our glasses are mostly empty, and the nuts have done their job. A’s shoulders aren’t hunched with tension as they were when he came through the door. We talk about our day and share anecdotes and thoughts we’d had that would interest the other. Just before I get up to take the bread out of the oven, A heaves a deep sigh and says “you know wife, I was sceptical about this ‘intentional night’ of yours, but this is really nice. I was stressed out today, but now I feel  a lot better.”

We start dinner, nothing special since it’s leftovers, and a funny thing happens. Since we’d already talked about our days, we get to talk about other things. Goals, dreams, plans for keeping our spiritual intimacy while A’s going the rigors of tax season. Thanks to the pre-dinner wine and snack we’re not ravenously chowing down our food as we usually would – we’re tasting, savoring, and enjoying both our time together and the conversation that’s flowing like honeyed wine between us. Adele, The Postal Service, and, of course, Feist is playing in the background, adding to our mellowness.

I clear the plates, put away the leftovers (both usually A’s job since I ‘cooked’, but I was feeling very mellow and loving towards A.) and set out the gouda and crackers. We both have three small satisfying bites (even though there is much more cheese to be had) and declare ourselves sated. A gives me a more in-depth view of how stressed out he’s been all day. He tells me that the workout helped, but coming home to this purposefully relaxed evening really undid his tension.

The Difference:
Usually we rush through dinner, or even eat it in front of the tv, then watch different shows to unwind before ultimately getting tired enough to go to bed. That night A suggested that after dinner we just read together on the couch for awhile. He didn’t say it, but I knew what he meant: he didn’t want to break the tranquility of our evening with canned laugh tracks and a contrived plotline. So we curled up on the couch with our two lazy dogs and read. After awhile A got up to change the laundry and do the dishes without me having to ask, with a smile on his face and relaxed shoulders. All in all, the night turned out better than I’d hoped.

It wasn’t my intention to de-stress my husband (mostly because I didn’t know when I planned this that he was stressed), but I feel my intentional evening did exactly what I wanted it to:

– Brought us closer together emotionally and spiritually.
– Created an environment of intentional enjoyment, of each other and of the food God has provided.
– Gave A a respite from his day.

Now before you think I’m all pie in the sky, I’m a realist. I know we’re not going to be able to do this every night. But on the nights we’re home with enough time to sit down to dinner, I want to work on making a habit of taking it slowly, enjoying our food, our evening, and each other. This is especially important since A’s heading into the worst tax season he’s seen in his career.

I figure I’ll continue with my experiment for the next two weeks – a good trial period to see if the wine-before-dinner-cheese-after thing can be sustainably successful – but if Thursday night is any indication, we are well on our way to making 2012 a year of intentionally enjoying each other.

And we didn’t even miss the tv.

(Re)Learning to Dream

5 Jan

Did you ever give up on a dream because life got in the way?

photo from thewonderforest.com

It seems like everyone is talking about dreaming lately. I suppose it’s fitting; we tend to examine our lives more closely every time January 1st comes around. From a talk I recently attended at my church on helping women to achieve their dreams, to several blogs on my blog roll, to talking with my best friend about whether we have the right dreams for our lives right now, having dreams is on the brain. The most common lament I hear, especially from other women, is that they don’t even know how to begin to figure out what their dream is. Either they don’t know how to look ahead, the future is too big with too many options, or they’re just not used to thinking about their own desires anymore.

I’ve had some amazing responses to my 30 before 30 list since I made it public. Friends have shared their own lists with me that they dreamed up a long time ago, others have started lists of their own. I’ve had more than a couple of my (crazy, loveable, absolutely fabulous) aunts ask me what I thought about them making a six before sixty list, or other some such integers, which I told them was an amazing idea! I never thought when I published my little list that I would get to hear all about others’ dreams, both the ones they look forward to and ones they’d given away. Which got me wondering: how do we keep dreaming when life keeps on coming?

When I starting writing down what I wanted to accomplish before I turned thirty, I surprised myself by thinking about all the things I’d ever wanted to do instead of shooting blindly into my future. For example:

When I was a kid, running down the street to ask the neighborhood kids “want to ride bikes?” was the highlight of my Summer’s day. I stopped riding sometime around junior high – I must have outgrown my bike or something – and haven’t been on one since. But I always looked wistfully at the kids cruising the strip down Huntington Beach while I was on vacation and envied the bike messengers streaming down the streets in SF when I lived in the city. So “Own and Ride a Bike With a Basket and a Bell” went on the list.

I love school, I’m good at school, I was happy when I was in school. I stopped going before I reached my personal academic goals, so ‘Go Back to School’ went on the list.

Since turning 21 I’ve been invited on approximately 50 wine tastings trips. Due to consistently poor timing I’ve been able to go on exactly none. I’ve dreamed of going wine tasting on a gorgeous Spring day, wearing a sundress and sandals, laughing with the man I love while sipping a wine that will remind us of this perfect day months later when we open a bottle to compliment the perfectly prepared meal I set on the table. So that went on the list as well.

Every time I tried to imagine what my life might look like years from now, and what sort of goals I’d have to set to get there, I got so hopelessly overwhelmed that my potential dreams quickly drowned in the sea of possibilities. The future is large and nebulous, but my past? My past is set. My past is a vast ocean of memories – times I was happy, times I was inspired, times where I felt like I was doing exactly the right thing for myself at the time. Our pasts are a veritable field of dreams, ripe for the harvest.

Jon Acuff wrote a brilliant post on what he calls ‘dreaming backwards’, and he had this to say on dreaming:

Instead of asking forward-facing questions like, “What do I want to do with my life?”, we dream backward and ask, “What have I done in my life that I’ve loved?” And the answer we get is not a bottomless, faceless list of options that could apply to anyone. It’s a personal, small, uniquely tailored to our hearts and our souls, handful of life experiences that made us feel alive.

It hurts my heart when I hear people say they don’t know how to dream anymore. So this is my antidote to being overwhelmed with possibility and not knowing where to start: start by thinking about times you were happy, when you were doing something you loved, when you felt needed. Think about what you might have done if no one ever said “you can’t.” Think about what you were working towards once upon a time, before life, finances, relationships, and busyness got in your way. Think about it, and then dream big. Because life’s too short to live it halfway.

What dream might you dare to revisit?

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