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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Monday, April 06, 2015

A Dream, a Door, and a Decision



"Hold fast to dreams'
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly."
--Langston Hughes

Dedicated to Luke Mitchem
who answered the call of his dreams
and chose the open door.
 
Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
except quoted and cited passages.

Dreams.

We all have them.  Some arrive with birth, born within as we enter this life.  Others we pick up as we traverse the pathway that defines our journey.  Some dreams are small; transient thoughts about what could be made better.  Others are big; transformational, yet seemingly unattainable.

They are with us every day, it seems; sitting on our shoulders, whispering in our ears.  Beckoning, seductive, causing an itch we can never quite reach to scratch.  

Most of us brush off or even ignore the dream and the accompanying temptation.  We'd rather live a safe life, one with security and predictability, and a regular paycheck to fund the car payment, the mortgage, and groceries.

But even within that bubble, we still yearn for something different, a life with some adventure, some risk, something that doesn't involve a commute, a cubicle, and a computer.  In those random, ephemeral moments, we realize that even the most opulent and comfortable cage...is still a cage.

Then one day, out of the clear blue, something happens.  Perhaps a job eliminated, a salary cut, an intolerable change in circumstances.  The path of predictability has veered.  We feel a gust of air, spin around and see that a door has magically appeared before us.  And it stands open.

But it's not just any door.  This one has no handles.  Both sides are but blank sheets of steel.  Going through that door will be an act of finality with no return possible.   And if we wait for that door to swing shut, it can never be reopened.
 
Looking hrough the doorway, we see standing on the other side, our dream.  It speaks to us, not in that familiarly soft seductive voice, but loud; insistent; demanding.

"Come on!  It's time!  Hurry!"

Part of us, in that place where adventure lives, realizes the gift of opportunity that stands before us.  But the other part, the part dominated by fear and self-doubt, restrains us, counseling that what lies beyond that door is unknown; dark.  Risky.  What if we fail?  

Most of us would call this moment a fork in the road.  We are presented with a choice between staying safe or taking the risk.  Despite our uncertainty, we acknowledge that anyone who has ever done anything great in life has faced this moment, and chosen the risk.

A dream reflects the self-acknowledgement of a skill or a talent, or even just a strong interest which could be turned into life that doesn't just pay the bills.  Such a life feeds the soul.  But the trap of the safe life, the predictable journey, will leave us with an empty soul, a quashed spirit; starving to death, not from want of sustenance, but from an emptiness where fulfillment should be alive and thriving.  It also reveals a latent discomfort, perhaps even an ache, telling us that whatever we have done, whatever we are doing, there is something more of us that lies inside.

But dreams are never self-fulfilling.  Even to keep them alive you have to take them out once in awhile to play with them, explore them, roll them over in the hands and marvel at the possibilities, and then place them ever so carefully back on the shelf.  To make them real, however, takes action.  It takes commitment.  Realization of a dream also requires an unbreakable confidence in your skills and abilities, and most of all, an utterly unshakeable faith in yourself.

Richard Bach, he of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, once wrote, "You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true."  It will never be easy.  It will require more effort and perseverance than any you have summoned in your past.  It will require you to acknowledge that setbacks, even failures are inevitable, and to promise yourself that when knocked down, you will always get back up off the floor and do it again.  The only true failure, after all, is the act of surrender.  You have to act.  You have to move, and keep moving.  That beginning of realization is the moment when you say to yourself, as Paul Coelho wrote, "Go and get your things.  Dreams mean work."

Know also that once you make that courageous choice, you will have to deal with doubters.  People who are perfectly happy within that cage of safety and security will expend all kinds of energy trying to convince you that this choice is a destructive one.  But realize that they are really not trying to convince you.  Rather they are trying to convince themselves that its okay to stay inside the cage.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. counseled, "No person has the right to rain on your dreams."  That is, after all, why umbrellas were invented.

We all have two choices.  One, to go on as before.  Two, to act on our dreams.  The consequences of choice number two are completely unknowable.  If you dream is to be a singer or musician, you could end up on a stage in Los Angeles accepting a Grammy award from the likes of Jay-Z or Nicki Minaj.  or you could end up in an alley behind a crumbling brick venue in Ottumwa, Iowa, head in hands whispering, "What the hell was I thinking?"  But the unknown is what defines the adventure; and makes success so much sweeter.

The consequence of choice number one is to find yourself, years hence, in a rocking chair before a fireplace on a long January night, tired, gray, and filled with bitter regrets about the things you never did, or even tried.

Do not let your dreams die.  As long as they live, you will live.  As long as they thrive, you will never be without possibilities.  And whatever you accomplish, do not stop dreaming.  The best kind of life, after all, is when your dreams run just a little faster than your accomplishments.

The future is not unalterably engraved.  It is, as Yoda said, "Always in motion."  What we choose to do today will determine where and how we end up down the road.  But time is against us.  Every year that passes, every month, every week, every day, and every hour we allow to slip by is gone forever.  Of all the cruel masters of life, time is the most merciless.  If you have a dream, and you see the blank door of opportunity open, take the step forward.  Pass through the doorway and embrace the possibilities of what lies beyond.  

The only thing you will leave behind is regret.

"Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.
Go forward and make your dreams come true."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
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