April 26, 2013

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

It’s the chase, plus the goal, that counts in life

Cynthia DewesSetting goals has always interested me. For some reason, if I plan ahead for something, it gives me a focus I seem to need to feel that my life is on a trajectory to the future.

When I was a kid, this involved things like learning another level on the multiplication tables, or selling X amount of Girl Scout cookies to meet the troop’s expectations. In fact, many of my goals then included winning approval from teachers and mentors, and even from other kids.

Getting good grades in school was one of my priorities, because I loved learning and there was never a lack of new things to find out about (still true). It pleased me to be a “good girl,” following the rules and obeying adults.

Later I learned to establish goals that pleased me alone, and if they made others happy and didn’t harm them, so much the better. Maybe we’d call that maturity. Whatever it is, it’s been keeping me afloat.

One of my early goals was to marry a doctor and have four sons. (I’d been reading Little Men. I don’t know where the “doctor” came from). As it happened, I married an engineer and had five sons, plus the bonus of a wonderful daughter. So much for that goal.

Another thing I aimed for was to travel to New York City and to Europe. At the time, New York City seemed to me to be the center of the civilized universe and Europe the same, only on a larger scale. Later I fulfilled those goals and enjoyed them, but in the end I came to believe as Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz, that “there’s no place like home.”

That’s the thing about goals—they change over time. When we’re young, our goals may be romantic or unrealistic, often unattainable and maybe even undesirable. We may or may not achieve them, but we learn from the pursuit of them. We find out that we need to adapt them to the realities of who we are, where we are, and all the other factors in our lives. That’s maturity, too.

Not that the goals we set later are so much better, they’re just different. We abandon the ideas of becoming chief engineer, or bishop, or president of our union, and settle for completing our work every day in the best way that we can. We give up what I once called “sentimental motherhood” for the satisfaction of dealing efficiently with tantrums and diapers.

We give up trying to transform our spouse into Price Charming or the Prom Queen, and settle cheerfully for the person we married. We remember the real attractions they presented to us, not only of passion, but also of humor and stability, kindness and loving support. Having said that, I must admit it’s not a requirement that our spouse be good-looking, but it doesn’t hurt, either.

Now we have less responsibility but more time to focus on enjoying “grands” and “greats” as we never could when raising our kids. Now we can enjoy relating to our parishioner friends without the stress of running the parish plant or keeping within diocesan expectations. Now we can enjoy the love of friends and the professional successes we’ve earned.

In other words, now we may enjoy the fruits of our vocations in life. Now our goals will be realized, as part of that larger goal we all look forward to.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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