Is Your Life A Dream Catcher Or A Spider Web?

Spiderweb1

Do you have dreams? Do you keep them packed away in a safe place, waiting for the day, when the time is just right to finally take them out of storage and display them, proudly, for everyone to see? This storage unit is your Dream-Catcher. In it, you do not allow anything bad to take up space. It’s your make-believe life.

Your real life is not a Dream-Catcher at all, though. It’s more like a spider’s web. Endlessly, you work. You feel as though your life has the potential to be great but, so often, your work is destroyed by something, outside of your control, of course. You try to fix what you have to make it work but frustration grows and grows. Is there a chance that you will ever have your dream life? You’ve grown tired of building and rebuilding but you are too afraid to leave. What if you leave and find yourself somewhere that’s even worse? It could happen, you know. At least that’s what you tell yourself.

What you really want is arms to wrap you up in a cloak of confidence. You want to breathe courage directly into your veins and some kind of super power to take hold of your legs. Instead, you feel trapped, in this web; shivering, scared, and alone.

This is how I felt, as I was contemplating leaving yet another marriage. I used the analogy of the Dream-Catcher one year, with my staff.  It had been an exceptionally difficult time.  I asked them to try to see only the beauty of what had happened that year and let the bad drop on through. I have attempted to do this with my own life but the reality is that, at one time, I was more like a fly, caught in my own spiderweb, instead. I had become the food for someone else’s life. And I did feel trapped. I had, for some time, contemplated an escape but always came back to that fear of “What if someplace else is worse?” I had actually begun to feel that this was my due, karma perhaps, for failing at, yet, another marriage. So, perhaps I needed to just “suck it up” and accept my circumstances as God’s punishment.

Then, I found myself on a mountain in Sedona, in the midst of a vortex: referred to as “spiraling, spiritual energy” with an overwhelming feeling that I was supposed to be there, right then, at that exact moment. And during those three days, the lessons just poured into me, all based on Indian lore. Tears flowed and fear nearly consumed me, but one person said this one thing that I held on to for dear life: “Let go. Let God.” And a stillness took over the air around me. The group, that I was with, starting singing “Amazing Grace” and I felt wrapped in protective arms. I felt courage pour into my veins and found a little strength power through my legs and I felt love…for me! I came home from that trip and pulled myself out of that spider’s web. I put it all in God’s hands and God delivered me to the edge of a nature preserve full of beautiful living creatures and then God surrounded me with flowers that bloomed every single day through the hardest months. And my life became a real Dream-Catcher, but I wasn’t dreaming.

Fear is the devil. Fear robs you of your life. It consumes you with doubt and hesitation. It buries you in guilt. Fear is an enemy that needs to be fought instead of accepted. I mean, really, if you knew that the devil was knocking at your door, would you open it? Yet, how many times have you, willingly, let that energy sit at the same table with you; drive along side you in the car; walk along side you into interviews; stand with you as you face an audience? The devil is fear and fear drives you to drink, makes you crumble, and leaves you huddled in the corner on the floor.

Sometimes, we’re mistaken about the voices we hear and the messages that are trying to come through. As I tried to make my way up that mountain, in Sedona, I thought the devil was the person behind me who was yelling at me to “Keep going, Jane! Push yourself! Trust the power in your legs!” I had told him, over and over again, that my legs were weak. I had just had knee surgery. My balance was shot. He responded “Your life is off balance. Keep moving.” When I finally got off that mountain, he offered me his hand and I yelled at him saying, “You wouldn’t help me when I needed you on that mountain. Why would I take your hand, now, down here on the ground?” (This is a true story!)

I had felt like a failure. I had let fear consume me and I stopped half way up that mountain. I sat for three hours with nothing but my own thoughts to keep me company and the real devil played with me the entire time. “Just go home, Jane. Be happy with what you have. It’s the safe place to be.” Then, the person, who I thought to be the devil, came back to me and asked me, “How many people passed you while you sat on the side of the mountain today?” I replied with anger, “No one!” And he calmly said, “Don’t you see, Jane that most people never even try to climb the mountain. They stay on the paths that are flat and safe. You made it higher than any one of them. Do you see that, Jane?” And then, he walked away.

Let go. Let God. God did not help me up that mountain. God stood behind me yelling “You can do this!” God said “Be proud. You made it pretty far today, farther than most. Tomorrow will be even better. And I will be right there to yell at you again and push you again, if I have to!”

So Dream-Catchers shouldn’t be for pretend dreams; catching things that you fear are out of your reach. Dream-Catchers should catch your real dreams; power, confidence, strength, courage. Then, as the legend of the Dream-Catcher goes, the bad falls through; fear, guilt, intimidation, doubt.

If you catch the voice of God, the devil falls through. Listen!

Go Ahead, Sail Off Into The Future

Sail
See how far you get

Looking out on the horizon, when you’re young, you are confident that you’re sailing towards great things; you know, that pot at the end of the rainbow. that buried treasure. During my generation, I assumed that I had to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up but when I wasn’t at the top by the time I reached 50, I got impatient and resorted to dreams of winning the lottery. Then I’d have that pot of gold, by, say, tomorrow! And then, I could just go out and buy that fabulous life. I mean, come on, now, I’m 50 years old! Well, I waited for that instant wealth, but, still, I had to go about the day to day business of sailing the vessel that I had, in the meantime. I’ve never been fond of water. I don’t swim well, at all, so thinking about being on a sailboat out on open water, with all of the elements, makes me just quiver. But, symbolically, it is a perfect way to talk about life’s journey.
So, now, I reflect on my life as a sailor. I knew, kind of, that I needed a plan (map), the right tools, and the skills to sail. But life doesn’t automatically set you up with those things. I actually had to put this all together myself?
Again, this is a big ah-hah that I’ve learned now that I’m old and know what it’s like to get on that damn boat without all of the above.
I suppose someone told me that going off and sailing my own boat wasn’t going to be easy but you know, kids! I assumed all those “old people” were just trying to scare me to keep me stuck at home.
For me, I went sailing off to college, with all my graduation presents (still in boxes) to set up my first dorm room; a brand new clock radio, a portable hair dryer, and a new portable typewriter. My new three piece luggage set carried all, and I mean all, of my clothes and other valuables. I was ready! Let’s do this college thing.
But then, I got to my designated room only to find out that my roommate was the floor monitor which meant that she was a Senior and was supposed to have the room to herself only there were too many new Freshman. That meant that she was forced to share her room with me! So, guess what, she was mad. She had also been told that I was a non-smoker but she was a smoker so now she was going to have to leave her own room to find a place to smoke. Lucky for her, I had taken up the habit over the summer and when she found that out she didn’t think I was half bad after all. That was the only time, I think, that smoking worked in my favor. Still, she didn’t plan on hanging out with me much. I mean, really! I was just a freshman; such a newbie that I had to read the directions that came with my new clock radio to figure out how to set the alarm!
My mother thought that college was a waste of time for a girl so it didn’t help that I had no plan for a major. I guess I thought I’d figure it out as I went along. And sure enough I did. There were little clues along the way that rocked my boat but pointed me in the right direction. For instance, I found myself begging one teacher for a “C”. The course was accounting. Did you know that the role of debits and credits change depending out which side of the ledger you are looking at? I promised him that I’d leave the school of business if he’d just pass me. I was drowning in assignment due dates, test after test, after test. My ship was rocking in a sea, of courses, that I didn’t even like! It was the end of my Sophomore year that I decided to pick up a map and plot the course. What a concept!
I charted out a course and found myself in calmer waters for the rest of my college days. In fact, for a period of time, there, I even got to enjoy the peacefulness of sailing and the beauty of a sunset or two.
Still, you know, it probably would have been wiser to get my sea legs steady, on a little boat, on a smaller body of water, rather than putting that sailboat into the ocean and just trusting that there would be enough wind and that the wind would take me to my destination, when even I didn’t know where my destination was.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I set sail and then veered off course, sometimes on purpose, sometimes purely by accident. I can tell you that even when I did plan out the course, it wasn’t a given that it would be smooth sailing. Usually, the storms took me by surprise and some of them threw me around wildly before tossing me up onto to shoreline and there I’d be, looking around, thinking “how the hell did I get here? This wasn’t part of the itinerary.” And “friends” would seem to come out from behind the rocks, everywhere, to say “Well, I could have told you that would happen.” or worse yet “I TOLD YOU THAT WOULD HAPPEN but you didn’t listen.”

But, sometimes, these events feel like some kind of cosmic occurrence, pushing you whether you like it or not.  And, it’s here, right here, where we decide our course.  Our response.  Do we push against the current or let the tide take us? This is exactly where I was and how I felt about my divorce.  I was in the middle of a storm, and I felt the wave pushing me, throwing me. Then, there would be periodic calm spells, time to collect my thoughts and almost enough calm for me to turn back but then the winds started blowing again and now, instead of being pushed, I was being pulled into my destiny. I don’t think, at that point, I could have stopped it.  But, you know what, I could have.  I could have turned back, avoided the storm. And then what?  Then I would have been left, back on the beach, left to live in the body of a person I wasn’t destined to be.  I know too many people who have denied their storm, too afraid to let the winds take them to their next destination.  I see them, now, as empty shells, trying to figure out why God abandoned them.  So they, in turn, abandon God.

I know that people who call themselves “Friends” try to convince you that you’re headed in the wrong direction but if your inner voice is strong you need to just stay the course, remain calm in the middle of your storm.  I know I didn’t want to end up an empty shell, feeling discarded on the beach.  I needed to continue to develop my inner pearl. So, I sailed, again and again, metaphorically speaking, because that’s what you do. It’s like the song sung by Garth Brooks called “The River” (1992).

The River
by
Garth Brooks

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…and

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide

There’s bound to be rough waters
And I know I’ll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all…yes

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry.

Today, I Am A Carpenter

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You build your life, one day at a time. I wish I’d known that.

Life is a funny thing, isn’t it? You don’t realize that you are building something until you look back on it. “Wow, if someone had told me that I was building my future, I would have taken school more seriously.” Oh, people tell you along the way, but it’s hard to hear some things when you’re busy pounding away.
When I was little, I was probably told that I was too little to cross the street by myself. I didn’t hear that. What I heard, instead, was my friends asking if I wanted to go to the candy store because they had a little money and wanted to treat us. I got the candy…and a spanking!
When I was in high school, I’m sure someone told me that studying was necessary to actually get A’s. What I heard was, “C’s are good average grades.” I was the perfect example of how telling someone that “you will need this someday” didn’t motivate me to take my job more seriously.
And so it went throughout my early life. There were, probably, messages all around me, I’m sure, but did I hear them?
I was busy trying to figure out how to not sweat while working on a project. I didn’t like to sweat. At the time, I was a carpenter building shanties, leaving behind little piles of rubble everywhere I went. I can see, now, that I was trying to figure out what kind of life I wanted to build. Practice is necessary for that. The shanties were my practice.
Now, I’ve reached a point in my life where I see the little piles. The shanties are long gone, having disappeared into the earth along with the shanties quickly erected, for practice, by others. Then I see, other structures that I erected; a little more sturdy but each remodeled often. I’m still a carpenter apprentice. I built my first life thinking it would fit my needs, only I outgrew it.
I didn’t realize that what I was building was a very important life. It wasn’t just my life that I was building. My younger brother and sister were watching everything that I built. While they wanted to build their own structures, I was modeling one way for them. I didn’t realize that. I maybe would have tried harder to do a good job!
When I started my career as a special education teacher, I was laying out the building plans for every child I taught in their early elementary years. I was pouring the foundation for each and everyone that I touched. In the eyes of the parents, I was probably seen as the general contractor. They looked to me to know what products (tools and skills) would stand the test of time. The students had no idea that I’d never poured a foundation before. Some of the parents knew, but still they trusted that I could do it. Now I look back on those days and thank God because it had to be God who guided me through those first years; God and the Physical Education teacher. It was that person who showed me where the school supply closet was and how the past special education teacher used books from there for her students. I’ll never forget the principal coming into my first classroom as I was attempting to draw a tree, freehand, for a bulletin board. I think his exact words were “Not much of an artist are you?” Again, luckily, over time my skills improved (and I found an overhead projector).
Then I became a mom. Now, my understanding of parenting came directly from Dr. Spock in those days. My own mother shared lessons that I didn’t want to use, while Dr. Spock seemed to be on every other young parent’s coffee table. Well, I read this book like it was my blueprint. I read, now, that this man was later seen as the reason for moral decline in youth and the rise of criminal behavior. However, I saw him as being totally bent on schedules and structure and I blame Dr. Spock for telling me to let my baby just cry if it appeared nothing was wrong. He said that it was good exercise. I followed every design detail. Today, I have apologized to my oldest daughter for letting her cry for hours on end. Luckily, she doesn’t remember. I must have replaced that rough material with something a little more polished by the time she was old enough to remember. Either that or the experience was a good one for her because, today, she is strong and powerful. Maybe it was good exercise.
As time went on, I was trusted with the task of being a general contractor (principal) for a whole construction crew (teachers). And what did I do? I had learned that it was important to have blueprints. It was important to have the right tools. It was important to go slow and follow a step by step process. It would be easier that way.
I told them that they were “Building A New Tomorrow”. I said “Today, you are a carpenter.”

Life Is A Metaphor

Life is a metaphor

A day to day interaction between things, events, and people; all presented to you as a living lesson. Pay attention and you will see that you are surrounded by messages right there just waiting for you to listen to them.

Years ago, I was drawn to metaphors to help me guide a school staff through changing times. The symbolism worked as a way to visualize the journey and organize the path. Over the past years, I have been reflecting on my life and found writing as a way to pour thoughts out and then edit. Was this what I really wanted to say? At one point, I looked  at the themes that I had used with my staff and felt that perhaps there was something there that could help me make sense, once again, of my changing times.   And so, I begin again to organize my own path through the use of metaphors.  Perhaps my journey will help others.  It has definitely helped me.

Please Enjoy

Today I Am A Carpenter

Go Ahead, Sail Off Into The Future

Is Your Life A Dream Catcher Or A Spider Web?

Life Is A Game

Today, I Am An Athlete