We are amazingly created and creative. We are born with essential capacities that become the ability to dream of a future, imagine it, hope for it, even hunger and thirst for it. We can have a passion for our dreams and work toward their fulfillment. Our ability is a two-edged sword, however. The amazing capability of imagining can also turn into a form of avoiding the lives we are living.
To know the difference requires a “heart-check.” That heart-check starts with a very simple question. Is my imagining about getting away from something or about getting to something? Am I working with the underlying thought that says, “When and if I can get away from some specific place, then my life will be better?” Or am I asking something along the lines of, “Is this action what I need to do now as the next step in living life fully?”
I have spent a lot of time in the “when and if” category. When I ran track, I ran really hard; however, I ran to get the practice, or even the track meet, finished, so I could be done. Of course, it made some sense to want to get it over with when running twenty 300s for practice! But that is not the point at the moment.
When I worked on a concrete crew, prepping sites and making concrete pours, I spent a lot of time looking for a cloud build-up, hoping for rain. If it rained, we could usually leave. When I worked towards my PhD, I spent a great deal of time getting the next project over with. If I could get the degree, then I could move on to the “productive” life. When my children were in diapers, I could hardly wait for them to get older, so they could start driving in sixteen years.
I was wishing my life away to get somewhere else. I wasn’t actually dreaming, as much as I was looking forward to a day that doesn’t exist—a place away from fear, concern, pain, passion, the work of caring, struggle, sacrifice, all that makes up being loved, loving others and loving living. I wasn’t living the day. I didn’t see the present as a present. I was becoming an expert in the life I didn’t have, more than I was experiencing, living in, and appreciating the life I did have.
If we will let ourselves struggle in the present with “where” we are emotionally, and do that struggle with others, we can have a lot more living fully in the life we have now. I didn’t know about such things then. I didn’t know how to address life emotionally and relationally. I always thought that living the life I had was somewhere else. I didn’t realize then that my best life was in the present.
Of course, I’m not saying that we need to find gratitude or appreciation in onerous experiences. I am saying that we can miss a lot of extraordinary beauties and gifts if our eyesight is always on the horizon. Our best life may be now. Living fully where we are. Not missing the good while trying to get somewhere better.
When the opportunity comes, I go over to the local university and run the stadium steps. When the wind is blowing, the whole place turns into a giant wind-chime as the breezes catch different angles of the structure, making whistling sounds. I enjoy the “whistling of the wind.” When it is really hot, I sweat like crazy and am grateful that I get to be there. The sounds and echoes of the town around the stadium I can hear, and I remember growing up in the town; I’m grateful that I was able to return to my hometown after being gone for many years. Sometimes, I watch the pigeons take flight, or notice a nighthawk “swoosh” down on some food, or see the moon rising or notice a sunset full of color, or see a rain coming in. Occasionally, I’ll say “hey” to one of the football players if we pass by each other as they finish up a tough practice. I wonder if they are getting it over with or moving towards something. I hope they are living their best life now. And I hope it even gets better later, but not by getting where they are now over with.