There is a bit of madness involved in this dream living stuff. Initially, for me, it all had to do with words from my past that kept popping in my mind. The first quote is Jesus, saying that we will do far greater things then he did during his lifetime. (John 14:12) The second quote is Jesus saying “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
The reason it made me feel crazy is because the words felt so contradictory to me. The first quote inspired me to do something BIG with my life. The second quote felt like it reigned my heart back in and said, "Well, maybe not THAT big." I felt as if Jesus (the authority of my childhood) said. “You can do great things; they just need to be the great things that I approve of. And of course I would only approve of the holy sorts of things, the sorts of things that take life from you rather then making you come to life.” Basically, "It's gonna cost you kid." In my background, dreams were something to be sacrificed on the alter of Whoever Else Needs Something From You.
I had to work through a lot of religious baggage in order to work with my dreams. For you, this dream living might have little to do with a particular sect of religion. It might have to do with other sorts of rules that have been issued out to you as decrees. But I am willing to bet, in one way or another, as you’re attempting to live out your dreams, you’re butting heads with the way things should be versus they way you want things to be. And you’re editing your dreams accordingly.
We are bombarded with these conflicting messages. On one hand we have had the people in our lives cheering us on, encouraging us to make something of our lives. “Do big things. Go big places. Change the world,” they say. But they also say, “Don’t do it that way, and don’t be selfish, and don’t think you’re all that, and remember where you came from, and don’t embarrass us.” We are no sooner set free to then be called to return to where we came from. Our dreams are most fatal when we are caught in this business of u-turning for the sake of others.
As a writer, I often feel like the backspace key is my biggest enemy. It’s very easy to use that key to edit my voice right out of my words. I type something deeply personal and meaningful to me, some great opinion I have stumbled upon and feel passionate about, but before I can get to the end of the sentence my brain interrupts me with a bunch of qualifiers. “But this can’t be true because of this. And what will this person think if you type that? And do you realize that is totally sacrilegious and unfounded?” So the period never gets placed. I u-turn back from where I came from, and edit the sentence so that it is true based on someone else’s standards and beliefs. Sure, I am safe now, but I am also disgruntled.
Last night I had about a 10 minute window of alone time. I sat on a couch in the public library while my kids played games on the computer. I felt the disgruntled surging inside me. I was hoping the angst would not come pouring out and make a public spectacle of itself. I was not pleased. I decided to give myself some room to roam by pulling out a little orange notebook from my purse and popping the lid off a pen.
“Alright, here’s all the space I can afford you right now. What are you wanting to say?”
Here’s what came out: (I’m determined to not use the backspace key right now as I share this with you, even though I’m dying to)
Do I want to blog?
No, I want to write.
But blogging is writing.
Yes, but it’s interrupted writing. It’s edited writing. I am not going deep enough. I am not writing long enough. I am not exploring enough. I am not pushing enough.
God, it’s burning. The stuff I NEED to write is burning inside me and yet I keep distracting myself with “good” options to keep it at bay. Why won’t I just jump in? I’m so excited to let the flames rage, but equally timid that I might consume everyone in the process.
I’m scared I might:
- Lose my Messy Canvas “brand.”
- Lose my following.
- Lose friends.
- Lose my head.
Suddenly the word LOSE jumped off the page at me. “Whoever LOSES their life for my sake...” An understanding flowed down over me on that ratty little couch in the public library, while my kids were playing computer games. I am not being asked to lose my dream. I am being asked to lose the control of the path that gets me to that dream. I am being asked to lose the comfort of knowing my risks are definitely going to play out to my benefit. I am being asked to risk losing other “good” things in my life, so that I can trade it in for the “great” thing that is burning inside of me. The loss is not the dream itself. The loss is specific to what might occur as I begin to live out the dream.
Here I thought I had to sacrifice my dreams so that a God could show me the one exact thing He wanted me to do with my life - the one great cosmic holy purpose that must somehow encompass great suffering and pain while being delegated to me, with no choice of my own.
But I have shifted. What I want to do with my life is my choice, and it isn't one grand destination, it is the process of living it out daily, in small ways, as I see fit. I am searching for the wonder of my dreams, asking for the mystery and curiosity of that to show up in my day-to-days.
If I want to write, I write. If I want to tell great stories, I tell great stories. If I want to art journal, I art journal. There is a deep joy that accompanies my creating because I am in control of the choices. That deep joy is a great testament to the fact that I am going after the things in life I really want to go after. I'm not waiting for a decree from the heavens that this is right or that it's going to lead me to some great escape hatch in the sky. I am actively rooting into my life, choosing to enjoy today, knowing this choice will only better my tomorrows. How can I be an artist TODAY, a writer TODAY? That deep joy is remaining even as I allow and accept the things I “lose” as I live out my dream.
There are any number of real world tensions you might feel: Am I going to lose a really nice paycheck? Am I going to lose my free time? Am I going to lose my dream? Am I going to lose a growing blog community or business or audience? Am I going to lose my religion? Am I going to lose my friends? Am I going to lose my marriage? Am I going to lose my followers? Am I going to lose my social life? Am I going to lose my reputation?
Each next step in your dream will present another whole list of “things you might lose.” But if the deep joy remains, even in the midst of fear, I think it’s fair to say you’re on the right track - your OWN track. That deep joy is completeness. It’s wholeness. It’s freedom. It’s being true to yourself. It's celebrating forward, always forward, momentum.
All that being said, there is a lie we've been told - If you lose everything you are more noble. Quitting your job to follow your dreams makes you more noble, more legit as an entrepreneur, more dedicated. Being a starving artist is viewed as far more romantic than working a job while you build your creative dreams on the side. Giving away all you own to those who "need it more" makes you a better person. You get the idea.
You are not more noble the more you lose. You are not in a competition to sacrifice more than anyone else. Your dreams don't necessarily gain oxygen based on the amount of things you kill off around you. You don't have to lose sleep, lose health and lose all your money to "make it" in this world. This spirit is a spirit of feeling rushed, hurried, desperate and like you only have one shot at your dreams. It is me depleting our savings and cashing in on a 401 K to get to Italy. I am tired of living my life like my only hope at making my dream a reality is by risking everything for a shot at appearing before a panel of American Idol-ish judges and getting the divine endowed choosing of "You're In!"
Sure, there will be things you will lose, but they will be a natural progression as you go your course. You will deal with them as they arise. You do not need to feel the intense pressure of standing at the starting line of your dreams and trading everything in your life for a slim chance of being plucked from the Start and moved directly to the Finish line. You decide what it means today to live your dream today, and you do so with dignity, confidence and wonder, with an excitement and celebration of where you've come from and where you're heading. There is deep satisfaction to be found in owning your dream for yourself.