The story for my column on Chattanoogan.com online news had a bad link this week, so I will post it here in a blog.
Jen Jeffrey: Life Is But A Dream
Sitting around a campfire with a bunch of friends and singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is something most of us have done at least once in our lifetime. As a kid, my three older sisters and I made it sound pretty good when we kept it going in a round. But I didn’t quite understand the words we were singing. At four years old, I had never been in a boat or down a stream. Daddy was in education and traveled – we were not a boating family. It was a dream of mine though to get out on the water one day. I loved the water. The only part of that song, I think I really grasped was “Life is but a dream” – THAT, I could do.
There was also a pragmatic side to me, being the youngest and watching my siblings make choices in their life – by the time it became my turn, I decided that I didn’t have to follow suit. I was always an independent child and marched to the beat of my own drum.
Life has taken its many turns and I have had times of going with the flow and I have had times of sheer defiance. I do learn from my mistakes and that is why I never regret sticking my neck out and trying. But when we are busy just trying to make a living, it leaves little room for dreams and ‘one day’ never seems to happen. I think as we go along our journey, our dreams change.
As a child, I wanted to be a fashion designer and travel the world. Then I wanted to be a detective and go undercover in secret coverts. I wanted to train horses and ride wild mustang and I wanted to be the Bionic Woman. Whatever I wanted to be when I grew up – it always entailed adventure. Even writing was an adventure. From the moment I learned to write, I made up stories and poems and thought ‘one day I will write books’.
Writing always seemed a secondary dream because no one ever told me that I could do it for a living. I thought you had to have a regular job and then write on the side or when you got really old, you might decide to write about all your adventures. As I grew up, I realized I enjoyed writing enough to use it in my everyday life keeping journals of poetry or songs that I had written but it was only for me and not anything I pursued as a career.
Living on Long Island changed a lot for me because it taught me how to fly. I tapped into courage that I had hidden away, but it was always there. I allowed myself to explore and to step out into this world. My adventures may have been small to some, but my eyes take in grand things.
After marriage, being a single mom for some years and now being in my grandmotherly years, I still am quite full of life. In fact, I look at it as Part one and part two. The first half of my life, I did something very rewarding and meaningful – I raised three amazing young men that I am proud of. That was a time when I listened to the pragmatic side of me and doing what my southern roots told me to do – just get married and have children.
When I came to the part two of my life, I needed room to do my own thing and not just do what is expected. Now, nearing the 50 mark in a few years, I feel old enough and wise enough to go after a few of those dreams no matter how big or how small – just because I can. I don’t have to throw away one thing for another – I can keep the job I have now, which I absolutely love, and I can also try my hand at becoming an author. I have written plenty of un-published books over the years, but experiencing a house fire along with today’s era of computer crashes, I lost my work and had never started it again.
Also, I really never thought I would do anything with them… they were still ‘one day dreams’ that I thought would not become a reality. But last week I began writing a few books and hope within a year or so, my dream of publishing them will become a reality. Now, it isn’t just a dream – it is a goal. I have a plan in place and have set things in motion. I see the possibilities and I am not afraid of the obstacles.
Now that I am no longer in a relationship (no drama, just a mutual decision) I have more time to think about my dreams in life. When you want a relationship – that is a wonderful thing and it doesn’t hurt to try it out. But when you see that your goals and dreams are different, it is okay to let go and be grateful for the experience.
Though there was no big break up or hard lessons to learn and it was a good experience – I still learned something from it. I learned that during most of my life when I thought the ‘ultimate goal’ was to find love with someone, that a relationship just may not be fulfilling by itself. This has nothing to do with any person I have tried to date or get to know – it has to do with my goals and direction for my life and what it takes to get there. I realized that what I want to do in my career and a few unanswered dreams is not going to happen ‘after I fall in love and live happily ever after’ but it will happen when I …go out and get it.
How many of us southern gals have let our surroundings make us believe that we are secondary? That we first must belong to someone in order to be significant or to get where we want to go? I waited on joining a church – in case I met someone and we would go somewhere else together. I waited on making roots thinking I needed to be flexible in case I met someone and I didn’t want anything holding me back from joining my life with them.
Then I realized… I was doing exactly what I said that I have learned NOT to do. In my marriage, I had no identity, and I revolved my whole life around his job, his family, his friends and his interests and here I was living the last few years thinking about a potential someone and how I had to put my life on hold to fit the needs of someone I hadn’t even met yet. So of course, when a woman has not made roots or gone for her dreams, it is easy for a man to see no obstacles for her to join what it is HE is doing with his life. It is fine to have things in common and do things together and I think it is important in a relationship to have similar goals. But if I have goals I haven’t reached yet – adding someone to my life right now is only going to take me farther from my goals.
I now spend a lot of time with my writing, but when I have free time to do whatever it is that I would like to do… I think about the small adventures that I want to be a part of that I haven’t done yet. Sort of a bucket list, but instead of doing them before I would ‘kick the bucket’; I have things I want to do now – just because I like exploring new things. And after a lifetime of raising children and barely noticing the goings on around me, there is a lot that I haven’t done that people may do all the time.
So on a facebook posting, I beckoned my friends to dare me. To let me try a hobby or an interest with them and I would write about it. Last year I went flying with one of my facebook friends and I haven’t really stepped out since. I had been on a few hikes and trail rides this year, but I didn’t have much activity over the summer while ‘trying on love’. Love was nice and I don’t regret it – I made a wonderful friend, but I know now that there is so much more that I want to do before joining my life with someone.
I was afraid to make roots. I had been waiting on a special someone in order for me to know where I want to go. But that’s just it – in doing that, it seemed smart at the time… to not build my own life too much because it could change when I meet someone. Well – change is inevitable when you merge lives, but by the time you get that far with someone, those changes will be welcomed. If you haven’t formed your roots and met personal goals that you want to achieve before you have a relationship – then you may feel they are holding you back or that you are being asked to not follow your own dreams but to take on theirs. I don’t think any man wants to do that to a woman and it isn’t their intention. But how do they know what we want? Half the time WE don’t know what we want.
I feel sorry for the male species… trying to figure us out. That’s why we must communicate with each other – but also to communicate with ourselves. I had to remind myself of the things I want to do that are important to me and I have to make them happen. I can’t wait for Superman to come along and expect ‘everything to fall into place’. Ever notice how we singles think that if we could just find love – everything else will fall into place? It doesn’t. I am not an ‘all or nothing’ person though. Just because I tried something and I learned more about myself, doesn’t mean I will run from love. I like being in love. Sometimes it’s crazy when that rush comes in and you don’t want to lose what you found – so you may get caught up in very serious feelings. But just trust that the rush will go away, you will regain your head and just have confidence in yourself and that you can have a grown up relationship where you don’t become heart broken. I know that God brought that relationship into my life – but alas, it was to gain more wisdom and just about the journey to enjoy. I believe in touching other’s lives and allowing them to touch mine. No one has to get hurt – just don’t be afraid of trying… or of letting go.
I have a good balance of pragmatic thinking along with making a few dreams come true. For now, my focus is on writing and I will also take my friends up on a few offers to join them in their hobbies. It looks like what is on the table so far is; shooting guns, learning to stand on my head (my yogi friend suggested that one!) collecting stamps… (yawn) or play football. The offer of horse-back-riding is a given but I hope to get several more offers of things I have never done. There isn’t much that I won’t try as long as time to do it and being able to afford it is concerned.
It feels good to embrace life – the practical side in reaching our goals and the fun side of going for our dreams. When we step outside of the box where society has placed us, life… is but a dream.