I never allowed myself big dreams really.
I grew up broke and raised by hard working practical parents who were the children of immigrants and coal miners.
There was no room in our house for lofty goals.
You went to college and sacrificed so you could get a practical, stable job so you could have a normal comfortable life.
That was the most dreaming I allowed myself, to be comfortable enough to do a little traveling and afford trips to Whole Foods.
It took me awhile to get there but I did it. Scraped my way through college, slowly worked my way up in a corporate environment, paid off some debt, got married, bought a house. Finally went on vacation.
By my mid thirties I’d achieved the most I’d allowed myself to dare to hope.
And if you’ve been following me for awhile you know the rest. The complacency underscored by discontent. Then a run in the woods that changes everything.
For awhile that was more than enough.
But then a dream started sneaking in. A wish to feel what life was like in the mountains. Living in north Texas means there was no real way to live that experience without a lot of travel expenses or a major move so there for awhile, I did what I’d always done and dismissed these thoughts as impractical and told myself to be grateful for what I had.
I was grateful. But still…the dream persisted. And worse, it keep getting louder. I’ve talked before about finally taking that step and how hard it was so I won’t go into it again but we did it. We packed up and moved to place where I can fully experience life in the mountains.
The only big expansive dream I’ve ever allowed myself to have that came true.
And this, friends, is where the intention of my story turns. Because I was going to do my best to lay out plainly-tell you how hard a realized dream actually is compared to the pretty little Instagram worthy snippets you build up in your mind. How no matter how beautiful the outside, your insides don’t magically change. I was going to talk about regret and missing my old life and tell you I don’t know if it’s worth it, this dream life.
But then I went for a long walk in the woods the other day and was at the point in my sojourn that everything started to feel really uncomfortable. I’d been on my feet for hours, my IT bands were getting stiff, my toes were getting blisters and I had been dreaming of doritos and cherry coke for the last three hours. I was ready to be done and still another hour or so before I got back to my car.
And the tape was playing in my head. The cranky, tired voice of discomfort was wheeling right along with its usual extortions. It’s hot. My feet hurt. I want to be done. It’s hard. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY HILLS????
But then another voice popped up and very subtly said you know you don’t have to think this way if you don’t want. And I know that. The difference here is that usually even if I know how to be better, I feel resistance to the change and in this case, all I felt was relief.
In the past, I am ashamed to say that part of me expected gratitude to be like the blue pill. That if I was just grateful enough, I would somehow magically become this uber person instead of my neurotic self.
That day I was still in pain, still ready to be done but without the yammering in my head to make it worse. Gratitude quietly rode along with the blisters and the doritos cravings for the remainder of the hike and she’s been pretty consistent since.
And while I was out there changing my mind about the hike, I was also changing my mind about this dream that I’d walked into, the one that felt so different from how I imagined. Apparently when the complaining got put aside, the regret and doubt got set down with it.
Because you know what embodying this dream feels like? ALIVE. There is work -hard work- and missteps and backtracking and wayfinding. I am being challenged mentally, physically and emotionally. But I am IN IT and there is not a hint of stagnancy. Like the hike, a part of me just wanted it to be over. Wanted to go back to what I knew, go back to comfort. And like the hike, I am now so excited to see what’s around the next bend.