Monday, March 21, 2011

The Rewarding and Happy Third

When you are planning on sailing into the sunset, or paddling, when is the right time to start that adventure you’ve always dreamed of? Should one keep one’s nose to the grindstone until there’s a big pile of ‘freedom chips’, or should we fulfill our dreams and worry about picking up the pieces when we get back? It is often said that there are only three types of people in the world:
     Those that make things happen.
     Those that watch things happen.
     Those that don’t know what’s happening.

I would assume that we all would want to deny being a member of the third class, although I have known some card-carrying members. It’s often hard to judge for ourselves how much of our lives are spent in the middle, while only dreaming of the ‘some day’ when we will move to the top of the triad. Robert Burns wrote:
     O would some Power, the gift to give us
     To see ourselves as others see us!
     It would from many a blunder free us,
     And, foolish notion.

Even that isn’t foolproof. An outside perspective may be helpful, but it may also be wrong. I’ve known several times when the common wisdom was totally lacking in wisdom. Some of the richest and most rewarding periods in our lives have been when we broke with convention and ignored those wagging their heads as they watched. It is all the more damning when those head-waggers are church leaders, community elders, family members and others who profess greater knowledge and divine guidance in knowing what is best for us. They are the saboteurs. My wife and I once entered a weight-loss program in which they highlighted the causes for people failing to meet their goals. The greatest cause was the Saboteurs. Whether knowingly or unwittingly, they were people, often close to us, who feign support while subtlely raising doubts and undermining us. To make your dreams come true, you will often find yourself standing alone. As my wife told our granddaughter, “Don’t be afraid to be different. When you know you’re right, stand your ground.” Meeting personal goals and fulfilling dreams takes courage, real courage. Mark Twain wrote:
     Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than
     by the things you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.
    Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  

Some of the saddest words I’ve ever heard (perhaps when I was saying them) were, “When I retire, I’m going to…..” If you hear yourself uttering these words, you might as well forget about retiring and plan on working until they carry you out of your cubicle. Retirement plans are hollow. Retirement almost never meets your expectations or plans. If you don’t find a way now to fill the deepest voids of your soul, you never will. Retirement should be nothing more than a continuation of what you’re already doing. The problem with planning for tomorrow is that it is like the carrot in front of the donkey. No matter how fast you run, it will always be tomorrow. As Lin and Larry Pardey wrote: “Go small. Go cheap. Go now!” They have lived their lives doing what they love, and what gives their lives meaning, and figured it out as they went along. They are like gods to sailors around the world. Why? Because they are only .00001% of the population with the guts to actually live their dreams. When your joints and muscles are no longer fit to carry you where you want to go, do you want to measure your life by how much you own, by how many check stubs are in the ledger, or by the dreams you’ve fulfilled and the experiences you’ve had? The greatest question to ponder, and the only one worth pondering, is whether we own our lives, or our lives own us.

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