Wednesday, October 24, 2012

About that Dream

“This moment will never happen again.” I sat with a student the other day. Well, I say he was the student, but really, I was the student. He, the teacher. This young man has been given a second chance at life. He has been given many second chances. The doctors have told him repeatedly that he should have died. He is, perhaps, the most hopeful, most compassionate, optimistic person I know. He sits across from me and waxes philosophical on the purpose of life. He is in awe of the concept of time and stressing to me the significance of showing gratitude for every second. This moment will never happen again. “Look. It’s gone. We have only this moment," he points to the desk for emphasis. "Too late. It’s gone now.”

I am sitting in the pew one Sunday morning. The priest of our large downtown congregation has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has undergone chemotherapy, prepared her children for her possible death, and come to terms with the life she has led. She stands before us now in all of her beauty, bald head wrapped in a silken blue scarf. She speaks of the certainties of life. “The only certainty in life,” for effect she inhales deeply, then releases the breath slowly and loudly, “is this. The only certainty in life is this one breath.” We are moved. The crowd is silent. “Each day I wake and give thanks for this one breath.” She breathes deeply. “And this one.” She breathes again. “And this.”

I get caught up in living out my purpose. I get caught up in following my path, doing what I was put here to do. I get so caught up in following my destiny that I become paralyzed because I question what exactly my destiny is. Do I even believe in destiny, in fate? I don’t know. That’s like asking if I believe in Santa Claus, in God, in the living Elvis. Some people believe. They feel strongly. I have never sat for lattes with any of those. How do I believe in something I have never seen? How do I believe in a construct with no tangible evidence? I do believe in choice, in free will. I do believe that I end up in the direction that I go. Maybe destiny exists. Maybe I end up at the same point, destiny, no matter which path I take to get there.

If all I have is this one breath, am I thankful for it, am I using it to benefit myself or others, am I living this breath, or dying with it?

With this breath, I am putting word to page. I find joy in that. I hope you find joy in the reading, so that I am not wasting your one breath.

I am a fan of Martha Beck. She is a life coach who melds the mystic with the scientific. She does it well. She speaks of following what she calls “the urge to merge.” We all have those things inside of us that will not go away, those urges, desires, dreams. No matter how blatantly we ignore them, they are like the child who grabs the parent’s face and turns it to her when she feels the need to be heard. Beck tells us to move toward that. As long as the urge is legal, moral, and does no harm, we should keep moving in its general direction, asking ourselves, “Does this action make my heart happy, or does it make my heart sad?” Move toward happy.

I had a dream. In the dream I am sailing. The waters are beautiful. The sky is clear. I do not see my end point, but I know exactly where I am to go. This is odd for me, for two reasons. Number one, I do not sail. Ever. Number two, in real life I lack all sense of direction, both literally and figuratively. I get so caught up in the end point that I cannot focus on the drive. I want to be there. I need to know where “there” is. I panic. How will I know how to get “there” if I don’t know where it is I am going? I remember my dream. I remember the peaceful feeling of knowing that I would arrive at my destination soon, that it was where I was meant to be, and that I was safe in the now, guided by a higher hand, perfectly on course.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mother and a teacher and a writer and a doctor. I saw all of these things as different, as existing in multiple people, as options a, b, c, and d. In reality, I have become and am in process of becoming each of them. Only now I am feeling uncertain as to my little girl dream. Is this what I really want? Is this where I am meant to be? Am I one and not the other? Should I jump ship, find a new path? Why am I on this Earth? Am I doing all that I am capable of doing, using all of my resources, throwing out to the world everything I have to offer? I am feeling that familiar panic, lost in the vastness of the possibility.

Then I remember the dream, the peaceful feeling of knowing that I am on course and exactly where it is that I am supposed to be. I slow myself. I inhale deeply, find my heart, and ask simply, "What is it that I am meant to do with this one breath?"

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