Today I am feeling very different-different from other people, I mean. Not that that’s an uncommon occurrence. But the contrast seems to be heightened on days like today, the beginning of something new, where the messages all around us seem to blare out, “Dream big! Think higher! Don’t settle!”
Well, I guess it’s not just New Year’s Day when we hear those things. It does seem as though every time we turn around there’s a commercial or a magazine article or a new pop culture guru telling us we need to change so we can Get Better, whatever that means. And personally speaking, if I hear one more person urging me to Live My Best Life or Discover My Passion, I will be hard pressed not to punch them in the face.
This stuff just feels so obnoxious to me because it seems like the people preaching it never stop to notice whether or not where we are right now is already passionate, and amazing, and huge-which it is. It’s like where we are just automatically gets discounted, and judged as “not good enough” without actually being noticed or acknowledged. I really hate that.
(It reminds me of the time right after I became certified as a life coach and went to a big conference about 6 or 7 years ago. The whole theme of the conference was, “Everyone in the world will have a coach by 2010. ” And my first thought was, “What if they don’t want a coach? You don’t know what’s best for everyone.”)
Because I have dreamed a very big dream-for me. It’s one I continue to choose each day, in that I have chosen to live my life as a Professional Free Spirit.
Between us, my husband and I have created an everyday life where we are both doing things that we really enjoy. He is pursuing a career path that is both satisfying and challenging, which allows me to be a stay-at-home wife and writer, and a tryer-outer of all the different experiences that catch my fancy. And because I am happy and satisfied, making our home, managing our household, and dreaming up goofy stories about That Time I Forgot My Underwear, that frees up time and energy for him which he can use to progress in his career.
But even though I’ve (we’ve) got this great life going on, it’s not all puppies and rainbows, which is another thing that the gurus never seem to mention. In the worldview that they propose, there doesn’t seem to be any room for what to do when life is hard. It’s one thing to deal with the normal fears that come up when you’re trying something new and stretching yourself to reach a goal that takes you out of your comfort zone. But in the books and programs I’ve purchased (and, I admit-I’ve purchased quite a few), there’s no chapter on “What To Do When You’ve Put Five Years Of Hard Work Into Your Tutoring Business And Written A First Draft Of A Book, But Then You’re Struck Down By A Debilitating Illness And Can No Longer Do Anything, Which Causes You To Lose Everything You’ve Worked For”.
So in this place, the place of living with chronic pain and illness, “dreaming big” looks very different. What we do here, day after day after day is HUGE, although not by the standards that “officially” signal success and accomplishment. If someone asks what you’ve been up to lately, or what you’ve done today, it kind of sucks when your answer is, “Well, I managed not to rip off all my clothes and run shrieking into the street, and then throw myself in front of a bus.” I mean, that’s not really something you can put in your annual Christmas letter.
In this place, “dreaming big” means choosing to look for the humor in this illness. “Discovering my passion” means dammit, I am going to figure out ways to keep writing even though I’m sick. “Living my best life” means showing up faithfully every single day and doing all the things I need to do to manage excruciating pain AND paralyzing fatigue AND exhausting bi-polar mood cycling with grace and strength, and still finding space to create and live a good life.
It’s realizing that I’m not trying to get anywhere, that I don’t need to strive to reach a place that is different than where I am right now. It’s sinking down into my life, spreading out, and filling in all the delicious nooks and crannies, feeling into all the space around me and feasting on the juiciness that is right here, and finding that I am full to overflowing.
Right here is BIG. Right here is HIGH. Right here is HUGE. But most of all, right here is enough.
And may it be so for you, as well.