My beautiful, brilliant daughter has a blog called Travels Down The Yellow Brick Road. Her recent post, How Do You Stop Trying? got me thinking about coping with life‘s challenges, specifically when dreams don‘t materialize, and when plans don’t turn out as planned. Because, as we’re all painfully aware, plans often go awry and dreams don’t always come true. Disappointed, frustrated, and disheartened, we’re left standing alone, reeling from the blow, not knowing which way to turn or what to do when the game plan changes mid-game. We pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and muddle though. Life goes on. A change of plans won‘t kill us. Literally. But figuratively, a small, symbolic death occurs when a dream dies.
And there are times when that symbolic death doesn’t seem so small. Sometimes it’s devastating. Sometimes it feels like your whole purpose for living has been altered forever. And sometimes, the pain is so unbearable you wonder if you’ll ever wake up again without that inescapable mind-numbing, sense of failure and loss hanging around your neck like an albatross.
Rather than try to explain my daughter’s dilemma, I’ll let you read her post; travelsdowntheyellowbrickroad.blogspot.com
The truth is, she may never conceive another child. Many women who desperately want children will never have them. Life just doesn’t always go according to plan. We may never take that trip around the world, or have that fabulous career. Your husband might turn out to NOT be the love of your life. There are people who’ll never cross the finish line in the marathon that they trained so diligently for, and others who will never walk at all without assistance. And there are babies born everyday who won’t even live long enough to have plans and dreams….
Life is short. Life is hard. Life isn’t fair. Life’s a bitch…then you die. No one get’s out alive. We’ve heard the cliché’s. And life is all of those things. So why try at all?
Well, because trying is what we do. Plans and dreams are what life is all about. But they can’t be etched in stone. We have to learn to be flexible. It’s like the tale of the oak tree and the willow tree. The strong, upright oak tree snapped in the wind because it couldn’t bend, but the flexible willow tree bounced back as soon as the wind subsided. When a tsunami hits our plan, we have to know when to bend, or to quote Paul Simon, “make a new plan, Stan…drop off the key, Lee…and get yourself free.”
Without plans and dreams, there’s no motivation. However, when the plan has snapped and the dream has flattened out, How do you stop trying? At what point do you put a dying dream to rest?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question, because there’s no standard answer that applies to every situation. I only know what’s helped me deal with life’s circuitous turns, and these are my suggestions…
Give yourself a timeline, with a deadline. In that allotted time, give it all you’ve got. Try like hell. But when time is up, if you haven’t reached your goal, or accomplished what you’ve set out to do…give it up…let it go…and don’t look back.
Be flexible. You might not get what you want, exactly how you want it, when you want it, and where you want it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get something worth getting.
Pay attention. Don’t be so hell-bent on grasping a dream “out there” that you miss something right under your nose. The road of life is full of signs if we can just learn to read them.
Don’t compare yourself to others. You’ll be angry and bitter if they have more than you, and you’ll feel depressed and guilty if they have less. Just don’t go there…
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Have lots of small to medium plans and dreams, don’t have just one gigantic dream that your entire happiness and well-being hinge upon.
Count your blessings. Seriously. Everyday I write down at least ten things I’m thankful for.
When do you stop trying? No one else can answer that question for you. One day you wake up, and you just know. You didn’t die. Literally. But figuratively, a symbolic death has occurred, and there’s a void where a dream used to be. You’ll always feel a twinge of pain when you touch the edges, but life goes on…