Some call it a “bucket list”, some make a “dream board”, and some set “personal goals.” Whatever you want to call it, the practice of articulating what you want to see, get, and do in your life is a good habit to have. Having a bucket list helps me think about the future instead of getting completely caught up in the present. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for living in the moment. We have to enjoy the here and now because it’s all we’ve got. But we still need to find a little time to daydream about and plan for the future. If we don’t figure out where we want to be or what we want to do down the road, how will we know which road to take?
My bucket list is so random; it almost seems like more than one person made it. Places I want to go, things I want to do, stuff I want to own – it’s got everything on it. From holding political office to living on a houseboat. There’s the obvious ones, like successfully publish at least one book, build my dream house, and own at least 10,000 books. The castle-in-the-sky-pretty-much-impossible-type daydreams like owning my own island and a yacht to go with it. And no bucket list is complete without a few travel goals: visit all 50 states, a motorcycle trip through South America, an African safari honeymoon. And the list goes on.
Some of it will never happen; hopefully more will work out than not. Even if I only accomplish a few things on my list, I will have done more than if I just drift along letting life happen to me. I don’t want to be a spectator to my own life – I want to grab hold of my life and mold it into what I want it to be. And what I want it to be is an unconventional adventure. My bucket list is the first step in that direction. Of course it’s completely useless unless you actually use it, so that’s my next step. Have bucket list, will travel.
Fear is a funny thing. It seldom makes sense. It certainly isn’t the strongest emotion we feel. I like to think of it as our most persuasive emotion. While others are stronger, fear sure is the best at convincing us that we are completely in his power. Sometimes the things we are afraid of are real and actual threats; sometimes there is no reason to be afraid. Yet fear so often holds our soul captive and we feel powerless to act. Overcoming fear, especially irrational fear, is one of the biggest challenges we face in life. And yet, if we want to live our lives to the full, it is something we must do.
Most people perceive me as one of the bravest and toughest people they know. What they don’t see is the inner struggle. I have wrestled with deep, almost paralyzing fear since I was – well I don’t know since when. As long as I can remember I guess. Unfounded, irrational fear. Overcoming fear is a familiar feeling for me. And yet, perhaps that is true courage. To look fear in the eyes and to still keep on doing what needs to be done. Not the absence of fear, but the defeat of fear. Or maybe that’s just the coward in me talking, trying to make me feel better. I don’t know.
There are 3 things that are stronger than fear. Three ways of overcoming fear. The first is anger. This is the easiest way, but it is also temporary. Unless it is possible to always be angry, but I don’t think it is – nor is it advisable. I have plenty of experience with using anger to beat fear. It is good in extreme situations, but will never be a permanent solution. Another way of combating fear is through willpower. For strong-willed people like me, this is a good option. Or at least, it has served me well for years. I also have a contrary streak, which probably doesn’t hurt. It’s like daring myself to do the things I’m afraid of. Every day, I push the limits of my fear, making my comfort zone ever bigger. But the best and strongest adversary in the war against fear is oh so simple: love. When we love deep and pure, fear dissipates like smoke in the wind. And suddenly, overcoming fear is an anthill instead of Mt. Everest. It is a beautiful, amazing, incredible experience.
The sunflower is my flower. I love many flowers of course, but sunflowers and I have a special connection. Bright and cheery and energetic, they and I share several personality traits. Flowers don’t have a personality in the literal sense of course – and yet, somehow, they kinda do. Seems to me that sunflowers, if they could talk, would say things like “Oh, what a beautiful morning! Good morning, sun! Good morning, birds! Happy day!” Don’t you think so? Standing tall, drinking in the sunshine, cheering all who see them – if I were a flower, I’d be a sunflower.
I remember the first time I saw sunflowers up close. My best friend’s mother planted a few rows of them in her vegetable garden. I was only about 3½ feet tall and they seemed huge. We’d play in and around them; had a grand old time. It was especially fun to play tag amongst the tall green stems. I tried to play “Jack and the beanstalk” once – the poor sunflower didn’t survive. I was in pretty hot water for that particular escapade. It was still a lot of fun.
Now I have sunflower wallpaper on my laptop. Lots of sunflower wallpapers. Each one always makes me smile. They’re so happy, that I can’t help being happy too. It’s hard to frown when a sunflower is smiling at you. Sunflowers not only look like a small sun, they also turn to face the sun (which is called heliotropism). Perhaps they are attracted to sunlight because of their own cheery disposition. Or perhaps it’s the sunshine that makes them so cheerful. Either way, sunflowers are both beautiful and happy; and they make people happy too. People have all kinds of goals and dreams, and so do I, but what I want more than anything is to be like the sunflower. To be a ray of sunshine wherever I go.
Last week, I wrote about my dreams being put on hold. I learned something about myself through writing that article. Those old dreams have been on the shelf collecting dust for so long, I had almost forgotten what they were and how much they once meant to me. For me, it has always been easier to push hard or painful things so far back in the closet of my mind that I can almost forget about them. In order to write about those old dreams, I had to pull them down, clean the dust and cobwebs away, and take a good hard look. They and I had to become reacquainted, as it were. And in that process, I realized something.
The girl that put those dreams on the shelf so many years ago is gone. She has vanished, leaving only her memories to remind me of her. I stand here today as a totally different person. I’d like to think a better person than I was then, but certainly a completely changed person. Putting myself back in her shoes and seeing the world through her eyes was not an easy thing to do. For a brief span of time, all her deepest fears and insecurities and longings and dreams became mine again. And I realized that I am glad that I am no longer that girl.
I also realized that as I have changed, so too have my dreams. They have grown and matured right along with me. This period of waiting has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only has it made me a better woman, it has also given me better and more beautiful dreams. So I will not be putting all those old dreams back on the shelf – they are dead and need to be buried. It is time for new dreams, new plans, new purpose. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Another year has slipped into the past. As each of us says goodbye to 2015 and greets a brand-new year, what thoughts are in our hearts? Is it regret for all the things we didn’t do last year? Maybe for a few things we did do? Relief at a chance to begin again? Anticipation of what the future brings?
It’s quite common and perfectly normal to step back and take a good hard look at ourselves and our lives at the beginning of a new year. A good chance for self-evaluation. It’s easy to lose focus in the everyday hum-drum of life; now is the time to refocus and redefine. Who we are, where we’re going, what we want. To get back on course in this tempestuous sea of life.
I always ask myself a list of questions around this time. The answers, though some may be difficult to admit even to myself, invariably point me in the direction I need to go. Perhaps they will help you as well.
- What did I do right last year?
- What did I do wrong last year?
- Am I the person I want to be? Why not?
- What is my biggest weakness? How am I going to beat it this year?
- How can I treat the ones I love better than I did last year?
- What specific things do I want to accomplish this year?
- What do I want to accomplish in the next 5 years? 10 years?
- How can I be moving toward those goals right now?
- What am I doing that is not bringing me closer to where I want to be?
- How can I make a difference in the world around me?
The only way to answer these questions is with complete, even brutal, honesty. Only when we are honest with ourselves can we see progress. Getting specific with what is wrong and how you are going to fix it will put you on track for a great year. With determination, clarity, and more than a little help from above, there’s nothing we can’t do.
Happy New Year to you and yours from Dirt Road Princess! May your days be filled with peace, joy, contentment, and above all, love.