I have this fantasy. It was inspired by the movie, Something’s Gotta Give, starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. In it, Diane is a playwright who has the most amazing, elegant, writing-nook office that overlooks the ocean. Light streams in through the bay windows, and hydrangeas peek up from the window sills. I’ve been dreaming about that office for 13 years; I want that office with every fiber of my being.
Naturally, I keep telling my husband that we should buy a waterfront condo or beach house so that I can live out my dream of writing in my office as I gaze at the water for word-smithing inspiration. It’s a worthy investment, I say, because once I have my waterfront office, I’ll become a multi-gazillion dollar published author.
So far, no response from the hubs except for a long sigh and a not-so-subtle rolling of the eyes. This generally means it’s time to put my feet back on the ground.
Of course, I recognize that my waterfront, wordsmithing fantasy may be a bit grand. I confess I do love having that dream sparkling away in the back of my mind, but I also want to be happy in my own “feet on the ground” reality.
We always hear the advice, “Follow Your Dreams” and “YOLO” (You only live once). Our culture romanticizes those who throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to live out their dream. Grand gestures are brave and ballsy. No guts, no glory!
Remember the book Eat Pray Love? The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, ended her marriage, and then jet-setted around the world on a plumb travel-writing assignment. She gorged on pasta and gelato in Italy, discovered her zen in India, and found love in Indonesia.
I’d like to do that (minus the divorce part), but I have a job, a mortgage, and two kids. So instead, I gorge on pasta and ice cream in my kitchen, find zen while meditating on my bedroom floor, and find love every day in the little things. Or try to…
Big sparkly dreams of greatness are fantastic, but let’s be honest: generally, life rumbles along on the ground level. We’re busy putting one foot in front of the other, working, parenting, cleaning, sleeping, and trying not to get too fat. But there can be unsung glory in all these ground-level rumblings, beauty in the routines, habits, and traditions that shape our days.
Instead of always focusing on the next big thing, we can be here, now, smack-dab in the middle of our crazy, messy, and sometimes outright boring lives. We can embrace our own realities and relationships, stubbornly cultivate gratitude, and seek out the joy, no matter where it’s hiding.
The point is not to stop dreaming. Dreams can fuel our spirits, inspire and entertain us. But maybe we can’t take a sustainable leap of faith until we’re happy on the ground level.
The point is to work with what you have and embrace the life you have. For now, I can’t wile away my days writing in my fantasy waterfront office, but I can write for three hours on Fridays in the quiet solitude of my living room. I can’t spend two weeks wandering the winding streets of Capri and dipping my toes in the Mediterranean, but I can go to the beach near my house and breathe in the salty ocean breezes there.
For those of us who are rooted in real life and utility bills and saving for retirement and college tuition, the daily grind can feel like a dream-crusher sometimes. But, we have a choice. We can fix our eyes on that hazy mountaintop in the distance, or we can open our eyes to the tiny blessings all around us.
Blessings like that pink and orange sunset lighting up the sky or that tree swaying in the breeze outside your window.
The feeling of grass between your toes.
A warm shower washing the day away.
A hug so full of meaning the tears unconsciously rise up.
An unexpected compliment that puts a spring in your step.
A knowing look between friends that holds a million shared stories.
The comfortable quiet between you and your spouse.
A sweet, spontaneous “I love you.”
A soft hand in yours, needing you.
If we single-mindedly focus our gratitude on the little things, slowly, ever so softly, things start to light up. We start to light up; our relationships light up. And when that happens, our dreams do come true, and the beautiful life that we have always had unfolds, right before our eyes.
Photo credit: Solange Swafford