If Not Now, Then When?

If life is so short, why do I do things I don’t like and like things I don’t do?  What one thing have I not done that I really want to do?  If not now, then when?

Last evening those quandaries came across my path within a list of ‘stop and make you think questions’.  Those three grabbed my attention strongly enough to made me stop to ponder them at length.  The questions were still fresh on my mind when I woke up this morning.

On a thousand occasions I have tripped over the phrase “You can do anything you put your mind to”.  I believe that is true.  I also know it is easy for me to think all I have to do is imagine what I’d like to accomplish, point my mind in the direction of the goal and wait for success to arrive.

To a some degree this is how dreams and hopes come true. Intention blended with action is a powerful force. But the “you can do anything statement is misleading because it fails to mention the absolute necessity of focusing mentally on a specific goal and leaves out completely how very difficult doing that is”.

Digging deep, if honest with our self, most people don’t know what they want. On the surface we think we do, but in reality we really don’t. Instead we have a laundry list of things we know we don’t want. We don’t want to be a failure.  We don’t want unfulfilling work.  We don’t want a troubled relationship. We don’t want to be poor. We don’t want to disappoint those we care about.  We don’t want…. on and on.

In “Alice in Wonderland” she asks the Cheshire Cat “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”.  The cat replies “That depends a good deal on where you want to go”.  Alice responds “I don’t much care where” to which the cat says “Then it doesn’t matter much which way you go”.  Like a pinball bouncing around a pinball machine I have done lots of going nowhere particular in my life. 

I realize on some levels I have learned to love what I do but under examination the realization comes that learning to love what I do is not the same as doing what I love. The former is a compromise and there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s clear to me now that the latter is the way I define life on my terms, a way to live when survival is not an issue for me.  Have I EVER been at that point? Either I haven’t, have not done so very often or more likely, something has kept me from it.

To pointedly know what I want is far different from knowing what I don’t want.  As long as I know only what I don’t want, my intentions aren’t focused and little will change in my life.  Another issue that has been constant, is what I want, even when I am aware of it, often morphs and changes over time.  Yet, there are a very few things rooted deeply inside me that never falter.

Back to the questions are the top:  the first one quizzes me if life is so limited why do I spend so much of it on things I really don’t like and forsake things I do with such frequency.  Without hesitation a substantial piece of the answer quickly pops into my head:  FEAR of making a bad choice, FEAR of failure, FEAR of lack of money,  FEAR of appearing foolish, FEAR….. Admitting that is progress!

Mark Twain said something that sheds a little light on the subject: a habit cannot be tossed out the window. It must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time.  So in an effort to step out of my upstairs room of fear and attempt the slow journey down the stairs I will admit two of my deepest dreams:

1 – To travel the world unencumbered for long periods of time, weeks and months, staying in places long enough to come to know and savor a place, its people and its customs in some sense as a ‘local’ might.

2 – To write and publish a book.  That is the impetus that has driven me to come here every morning for 278 days in a row:  to learn the discipline to write daily and through practice, improve my writing skills.  I believe a book created from the best of what I have written here will be completed by this time next year.

With those two points made, I can apply the 2nd and 3rd question this blog started with today:  What one thing have I not done that I really want to do?  If not now, then when?  Those questions are answered for the second dream, but the first one is still a blur.  However,  just stating it openly is a big step forward.  Realizing that far too soon “that’s all folks” will be flashed for the end of my life, I commit myself to either making firm plans to accomplish dream number one or getting it off my “hope list”.  I am grateful for the wakeup call!

The only way you know you love yourself — or anyone else — is by the commitments you are willing to make and keep.
Dr. Pat Allen

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