January 10, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

As the famous song remind us, life is but a dream

Cynthia DewesThere’s a TV ad going around in which people are asked what they’d like to do when they retire. The implication is, what dreams will you fulfill that you’ve deferred all your life?

Excuse me? Have these people never heard of “carpe diem,” as in seize the day? What have they been waiting for? This also seems to imply that one’s work over a lifetime is probably not very satisfying, so we must wait until we’re retired to enjoy something better.

Of course, we need to be realistic. One person in the ad said she’d always wanted to be a writer. Speaking from personal experience, I’d say if she really wanted to be a writer she’d have written all her life. Maybe not the great American novel, but parish newsletters or Christmas messages or notes on her husband’s pillow, or something!

Someone else wanted to be an architect. OK, maybe it’s too late to go to architecture school and make it a career. But how about designing and building a playhouse for the kids, or putting up bookshelves in the spare room? How about planning a new kitchen or reorganizing the garage?

Some of us may secretly long to be artists. Realism strikes again, however, because we know that we can’t paint or draw or compose music well enough to make a living at it. Still, we surely can visit the local museums, take drawing lessons or just doodle on our own; or attend concerts, sing in the choir and make up tunes for the children’s school shows.

Because we work in a windowless office all day doesn’t mean we can’t admire the beauty around us elsewhere. And we can listen to the music available on radio, CDs and whatever media we have. We can even turn up the volume and sing along!

The point is, it’s possible to follow our dreams one way or another. We may be working at a fast food place just to keep ahead of the bills, but that doesn’t have to mean we’re unable to live an interesting, satisfying life. After all, we do have free will.

Sometimes we may think we need to have money in order to fulfill our dreams. We think with enough money we’d be able to travel, to see and hear and experience wonders we can’t find at home. But that’s no truer than the generally discredited idea that money can make us happy, period. No, it’s we who can make ourselves happy.

We may think we must wait until our health improves or our kids are grown and gone, or whatever other excuse seems to be holding us back from fulfillment. But those things are not the cause—we are. We need to find ways to make our dreams come true.

It seems to me that the occasion of beginning a New Year is the perfect time to begin following our dreams. Money and talent and social connections are not the major aides in this effort. More importantly, we need the will to do so and the faith that we will succeed.

Of course, this is the time when the usual new-year assessments kick in. We consider what’s worked and what hasn’t in our lives, and we make New Year’s Resolutions (capitalized) to further our resolve in changing what’s wrong.

That’s fine. But more than dieting or exercising or reading the classics, we need to remember the dreams that inspire us, the promises that bring us joy. That’s when our Happy New Year really begins.

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

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