Building Dreams

I recently read a book that lead me to watch a documentary on the building of Sagrada Familia, the famous cathedral being built in Barcelona, Spain. As I looked at the structure, the columns, the soaring spaces within and the pinnacles without I couldn’t help but wonder what might the thoughts of its creator architect, Antoni Gaudi, have been as he was dreaming it up. Did he imagine when he was first putting his pencil to paper that the building would take well over a century to complete? That he would never live to see it done? That the plans would be destroyed along the way and others would have to interpret how he intended it to look? That money would have to be raised not from within the church but from private funding in order to build it? If he had focused on that, the first shovel full of dirt wouldn’t have ever been removed. Is the end result of the cathedral, which is scheduled to be finished in 2026 going to be exactly like Gaudi envisioned? No. Along the course of construction materials had to be changed, technologies changed and innumerable things had to be reinterpreted. That doesn’t make the results any less spectacular. Even in its unfinished state, it attracts millions of visitors every year who marvel at the results of Gaudi’s vision.

It’s so easy to be negative, a pessimist, or a party-pooper. I can always look around and find things that are wrong or aren’t going well. I’m not sure why. When someone is positive and bright about the possibilities of the future there always seems to be someone who will say they ‘aren’t being realistic’. Why do we consider that the negative result of something we’re working toward is more real than the positive? Why is failure more ‘real’ than success? Why do so many people think that it’s unrealistic to have an attitude that things are going to work out?

I think it has to do with expectations. In life there are many variables and few guarantees. The pessimist loves to focus on those, the things that ‘might go wrong’, the people who will ‘let us down’, and all of the possible things that might fall short of the ‘perfect’ result. I’m coming to learn that it’s the ‘process’ that is the important part of anything we do, not the results that matter. Another way of looking at the saying: “It’s the journey not the destination that matters.” Life consists in meeting the challenges and solving the problems that we face, not lamenting that the path is uneven and rocky.

We need dreams in order to move forward. We need to focus on our visions of what can be and work toward those things. We live and work in the present to make those dreams a reality. The pessimist and the party-pooper often don’t even begin a project because the results might not be exactly as they expected they should be. Push ahead. Today’s dreams will only ever become tomorrow reality if I work toward them.

Living the Dream

Happy New Year. It’s like my mother said, as you get older, time moves more quickly! That seemed like a quick trip around the sun. But it was a good trip; a trip filled with lots of lessons and learning. I know it is just another day, but it’s the day of new beginnings for many. I am sure the rooms of recovery programs will again see an influx of newcomers. (My sponsor calls January the ‘prime recruitment month’.) I wish them well on their path to recovery.

A question came to my mind today: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you be doing today? There are variations of the question out there. What are you knocking off the bucket list for this year? Are your affairs in order? Are you living your dreams?  For me though, it begs the question: So why aren’t you doing that now?

I’ve learned that life is full of twists and turns, just like the river. I don’t know what is around the corner. And yes, tomorrow may be my last day. Memento mori is the latin term for the practice of remembering our mortality: Remember that you have to die, is the translation. Life will not go on forever. It can end at any moment. This reminder could lead one into a blue funk, but for me it is a reminder of how precious life is. Each moment that passes I can be grateful for. Memento mori urges me on to live my dreams, to make a life and not eke out a living. I don’t have to build a castle, I can visit many castles.

It’s not always been easy, but I have been living a life that is different from the norm. I haven’t had a typical job for over thirty years: part-time, contract, seasonal, freelance. Some people say to me that they wish the could have my life in the tropics. I usually tell them that they can have this life too. Then I hear about responsibilities, and mortgages, and pensions and more excuses. I don’t argue but I do know from living the results, that everyone can stop having dreams and start living them.

This Christmas was the 23rd anniversary of my father’s death. He was only 63 and it marked me deeply. It taught me that life is a gift with an unknown expiration date and then  I too, will have to die. Life is for living. These thoughts follow on with the big lesson of 2017 for me: I will survive everything that comes my way, until I don’t.  There is so much to experience in this life. Step out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Live your dreams. Memento mori reminds me life is short and I will be dead for a lot longer than I lived on this earth. And I remember the movie Auntie Mame: “Live! That’s the message. Yes, life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

This New Year’s Day, if you must make a resolution, make one to live your dreams. Paint if you’ve always wanted to be a painter. Write if you want to write the greatest novel of the 21st century. Go on that retreat you want to go to. Don’t focus on the results. Forget about what people might say. Instead, focus on the experience. Live your dream. Dine at that banquet of life today and every day!


I had lunch with some friends today. It wasn’t sunny, but the view down across the jungle to the ocean is magnificent. We’re not a particularly ‘close’ group of friends. We get together once a month to discuss our writing. So I was surprised when one member of the group shared an ‘epiphany’ that she had just yesterday.

“I had been so angry with the place I used to work because they unceremoniously pushed me out and forced me into early retirement five years ago. I was so flipping mad. I wanted revenge. I wanted to do the same thing to them. And I nursed that anger for the last five years. I had poured myself into my work and my work was good and often praised.  How could they do that to me!”

“Yesterday,” she continued, “I was sitting on my porch overlooking the valley below and I realized all of the wonderful things that had happened to me in the last five years. I now live in a beautiful tropical country, I have met so many new friends, I still write, but in a different way and I have just published a book.  None of these things would have happened without ‘those people’ letting me go. Two days ago I hated them.  Today I love them and what happened because none of this would have been possible otherwise.”

A powerful revelation for my friend. And it’s a huge change in perspective. We discussed how momentous this revelation is in her life. Perhaps she needed the last five years to get to this moment of forgiveness and understanding, and arrive at the shore of the sea of gratitude. I have no doubt that this will change how she looks at so many other twists and turns in her life that she wasn’t happy about.

I can look at my past and regret it. There are plenty of things that happened in my life that I thought would have turned out otherwise. I made some questionable decisions and rash judgements along the way, but here I am! I survived and I have a serenity I wouldn’t trade. Each step along the way was necessary to get to today. Each element is another brick paving the road of happy destiny.

When I am in the thick of it, when I am mired deep in the crap of everyday life, when faced with impossible decisions and doors close in my face, I can turn and run. And who would blame me. Such an impossible choice and terrible circumstances. However, I have another option. I can stand tall and walk forward. Today I am grateful for all events in my past. Today I know that while I may not understand what is happening right now, it is a small piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I don’t yet know what the final result will look like so how can I judge if what is happening is good or bad? This might be that moment in my life when everything changes.

I am grateful that I can trust in something greater than myself and keep putting one foot forward and moving on. I don’t ‘get’ it all, but I know that I too will someday be able to reflect on this and see how intricately the puzzle is cut and the beauty of the final mosaic.

Thank you Carol. You made my day!