Dreaming Backwards

or the gift of the mid-life crisis

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

“We will never be here again.”

Homer, The Iliad

When driving through a dense fog, only the next few feet are visible before you. Everything beyond your sight is unknown.

When we were young adults, the foggy vision of our future loomed before us, vast and limitless, making us feel excited and alive. Our life ahead was mysterious because it was undefined and undetermined, making it full of possibilities.

Eager, we paced restlessly at the gates, listening for the gun to sound so we could race out into the fog ahead, each of us our own spinning galaxy, full of Potential.

We believed. We just knew we would find the magic of beginnings and the joy of surprises and the wonder of adventure. We were going to make our mark, find love, clink glasses with friends in revelry, and live breezy, sunset-filled lives.

The uncertainty of it all; the life yet to be lived… made us feel ALIVE.

Everything ahead of us was a choice yet to be made, our paths yet to be determined. Here, the idea of Endless Possibility reflects itself onto Time, making it also appear endless. Can Time be timeless?

It is sometime in our forties or fifties that we realize our paths are set. The foggy air becomes clear, and the question of “what is to be” is answered. Where we used to revel in the mystery of what is to come, we can now see. Our trajectory is set.

With minimal imagination and minimal maintenance, we can live out our days. And then one day becomes the next, becomes the next, becomes the next. And we become comfortable.

Until we’re not.

Suddenly, Time no longer seems timeless or limitless. And with the “end of the story” seemingly so clear in front of us, how can we not experience the infamous ‘mid-life crisis’?

The world looks so different when the fog clears. Without the excitement of the unknown, monotony begins. We may begin to look back more than ahead.

“I miss dreaming forwards,” Anna said.
“I dream backwards now. You won’t believe how backwards you’ll dream someday.”

Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

We think about the legacy we will leave behind. We think about the way we spent our time, the choices we made, and all the times we settled, became complacent.

Many will remain complacent and spend the rest of their lives looking back, living in the memory of years past, the best of their time behind them. Too afraid to make a move.

Some will yearn for more, but stay the path, afraid to make changes because of what others think, a sense of obligation, money, status, and familiarity. All the while, wondering “what if”.

We will all crave some form of intimacy and desire connections that offer depth. A few of us will seek out experience, adventure, knowledge, and a greater understanding. Philosophy and self-development move to areas of high interest.

We want to maximize the life we get out of our time, and maximize the value of the time we have left in our lives.

But how?

We have to fill our lives with things that inspire excitement and make us connect to the world around us. Without focusing on our careers or materialistic things, here are a few ways to improve the best half of your life and feel alive again.

Fill your life with Potential.

  • Never stop learning. Learn something new every day. There is no room for boredom in this world. We live in an informational age, everything at our fingertips.
  • Find your tribe. Find people that inspire you to be a better you. People that challenge you to think deeper than ever before. Surround yourself with the ones who want to hear what you are thinking. The ones that smile the moment you enter the room.
  • Stop escaping. Stop distracting yourself with the monotony of pointless and mind-numbing TV and superficial interests. If it doesn’t move you to the core, you are wasting your time.
  • Stop settling in your relationships. Don’t stay for comfort or out of obligation as that isn’t fair to them either. If current circumstances are not ideal, don’t be afraid to blow up your life. Regret from inaction is heavy. We change. We aren’t the same person that we were 20 or 30 years ago — actually — we better not be.
  • Have downtime. Breathe deep and enjoy the moment. Stare out at the horizon and listen to the birds during a sunset. Relax on your front porch and wonder at how the cloud formations create shapes. Watch the leaves blow through the treetops and notice how the sunlight reflects off a blade of grass.
  • Take an interest and passion of yours and make it grow. Make it a gift for the world around you. Be creative and express yourself — just write it, sing it, draw it… CREATE IT. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks…. just put it out there.
  • Pick up an old hobby. What did you once love but have forgotten? What passion did you give up in the name of a 9–5? Think back and reignite that energy.
  • Take care of your self. Go to the dentist, the doctor. Invest in preventative care. Lose weight. Learn to love healthy foods and see just how satiated they can make you feel.
  • Skydive, swim with sharks, learn to ride a motorcycle, climb a mountain. Do something that scares, excites, and intrigues you.
  • Exercise until your heart is beating out of your chest and your muscles are screaming. And then do it again the next day, and the day after that. Learn to love the physical discomfort of pushing your own boundaries.
  • Get lost in the woods. Or better yet — get to know those woods like the back of your hand. Learn about the land, wildflowers, rivers, ecosystems, wetlands, deserts… whatever corner you live in — study it and fully experience your spot on this beautiful blue planet.

The fact is that cultural and societal expectations pave much of our way. Take what you can control into your hands and begin living life the way you want to live. Be courageous.

Your mid-life crisis is a gift, an awakening. The universe is grabbing you by the shoulders and trying to shake sense into you before it is too late. Will you heed its warning? Are you paying attention?

“Let us not remain anchored in the quicksand of a waning past, and lose the war on obliviousness, but let us listen to the bracing sounds of new horizons, grasp the enchantment of the fleeting instants and seize the cleverness of the moment. (Could time be patient?)”

Erik Pevernagie

Originally posted on Medium. Read me here.

When I Left My Dream Job

and went to play in the woods instead.

“Red Trail” 7.13.19
photo by author

Last January, I walked away from a job that I initially loved and had worked hard to get. Structural changes trickled down and leadership had a massive turn over. New management came through and the environment became toxic.

I felt lost. I realized that I had wrapped my entire self-image and self-worth into my career. I am not sure, but it might end up being a chip on my shoulder for the rest of my time on this planet. The experience changed me profoundly.

Unfortunately, nearly all of my friendships were work-related. It is rather embarrassing and it hurts to say, but losing the shared atmosphere caused my friendships to dwindle quickly. You know how that goes.

At the same time, I inadvertently pulled my head out of the sand and finally faced some hard truths about my 24-year relationship. That’s a story meant for another rainy day, but I mention it to illustrate the Snowball Effect that seemed to occur when I started to evaluate the world around me.

I took a couple of months off and slept. And felt sick. Really sick. Like not able to look in the mirror sick. And I felt useless and aimless and pointless and was filled with purposeless-ness. I mean, I *was* without purpose. I needed something that I couldn’t name. And I was lonely.

On a cold spring day in April, I went into the woods. To hike, to hide, to feel like I was running away- without actually having to run away. It was a distraction disguised as a positive outlet. 

I came up with arbitrary hiking goals that included:

  • Twelve Miles A Day Because Every Day is Leg Day
  • A Marathon a Week or It Didn’t Happen
  • Two-A-Days or Bust (super effective way to avoid being at home)
  • Muddy and Rainy: Better for the Brainy
  • If You Aren’t Crying Then You Aren’t Trying

But, seriously.

To feel a sense of control, I avoided any kind of paved trail and sought to find the more unknown trails. The messier the terrain, the better. The less-traveled, the better. I even made a couple of my own.

Over the course of 4 months, I lost the extra 40 pounds that my “dream” job had gifted me through stress and break-room bakery.

I sprained each ankle no less than 3 times, tore my calf muscle (brutal), tweaked my knee, slipped, fell, bruised, bled, and I might have hit my head a time or two. I worked through each injury, taking a day or two off when absolutely necessary. Basically, there was a lot of ice and kinesiology tape involved.

But I needed to push past my physical and mental limits. The physical struggle was the only thing that offered me release, let me cry, feel alive. Without it, everything remained all bound up somewhere in my head. 

The exhaustion made my sleep a little less restless —  although my legs would wake me nightly with the dull ache of overtraining. But I preferred it, as it was a physical pain that demanded more attention than the emotional turmoil I felt.

I have no real lesson to share here. But I am still out there. Down to 2–3 x a week because of the winter weather and the nightshift job I have to maintain.

And I’ll never stop. I may move to the mountains and make hiking take over my life. The trees, flowers, and even the bugs. The sun, the ice, the mud, the wind, the warm, and the cold. It is all so beautiful.

Maybe I need a hiking buddy. So if you see me out there, stop and say hi. 
If I’m crying, stop and say hi, anyway. It’s a good thing. It means I’m breaking through something.

And I will come out of the woods stronger… or fall down a mountain trying.

CVNP 7.6.19
photo by author

cross-posted on Medium

When You Don’t Know Your Niche

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

I can’t be the only one.

The writers who write about writing tell you that finding your niche is important. How do I do that? Do I write different topics under different pen names? Use certain platforms for certain themes?

Here’s the thing. I don’t really fit into a niche. Sometimes, I just need to write. And when that happens, I do just that. I write.

Something is born from my fingertips dancing across the keyboard of my laptop. Like a funnel, I become a medium between my computer and the universe, the words flow into me, through me, and onto the Word document before me.

Sometimes the words are surprising. It is incredibly romantic to think of how many different combinations we have created using the same words. Like a spilled bucket of ice, cubes flying out in all directions, each of us pulling them back together in our own unique way.

Sometimes the words are beautifully painful, achingly raw, and embarrassingly revealing. Sometimes it hurts to write.

Sometimes the words that are funneled to me uncover what I really need to write about at that moment. So, I continue. Tap tap tapping away, as words become sentences, which become paragraphs… and then are born as short stories, poetry, and recently, a few serious articles, too.

Sometimes I share what I have written. Sometimes I hide it in a sub-folder that only exists 7 layers deep in My Documents with shady promises to come back to it someday.

Sometimes, I DELETE, although a dear friend of mine has recently convinced me to ‘stop deleting, everything has value’.

But does it? Does everything have value? Is he right?

Yes, he’s right. The value is that the words come from within. That they are genuine and sincere and that I pour my soul into them. That matters.

But will my readers find any value? I hope so.

Sometimes I ache to hear my reader’s thoughts regarding the words that I have bled for them. To know that someone looked in between the lines to find me, as that space between words is where the real me is hidden.

Maybe, since I am still new to sharing my writing, my niche will become apparent one day. Until then, maybe someone can share their wisdom as I know I am not the only one.

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

― Mary Oliver

Cross posted on Medium

Follow Your Future

And then one morning you wake up.

Consciousness overcomes dreams, breaking through that sleepy haze.

Like the barometric pressure subtly shifting, we sense a change in our forecast. The weather vane swivels, our course suddenly pulling us into a different direction.

And in that direction, we will take one step, followed by another, and another after that. And it will feel all wrong. Unfamiliar and foggy, unclear as to what lies ahead. And you hate to admit it, but you are terribly sure that the known lands behind you are not meant for you any longer. Not everyone can accept that knowledge.

Some fight it for lifetimes.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, of course. Admitting that your old life no longer serves you, has you stuck, limited, in a rut, doesn’t cultivate personal growth. You will hesitate. You will look back over your shoulder and see the world of your past while knowing deep down that ‘just head back where it’s safe’ is not really an option.

Because now you know there is something else out there looking for you.

Some kind of inner honing device triggered, a call to arms, a neodymium magnet pulling you towards *it* as *it* demands you to become You.

It’s right. Go. Go, and leave the rest behind.

Going in the right direction may not feel right. But keep in mind that going in the wrong direction does not feel right, either.

Follow your future.

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Cross posted on Medium