Friday, October 30, 2015

Finding Reality

I saw this statement recently, "What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be."

This hit me like a ton of bricks... How many times in my life have I become so upset with the injustices of what I felt like was supposed to be instead of what is actually real. This week I had a discussion in class with my students about how fairy tales and myths affect what we believe, and almost everyone agreed they influence us by shaping what we expect from reality.

The problem with is we begin to imagine a reality that is very much a fairy tale. What girl doesn't dream of having the life of a Disney Princess, and what boy (or man for that matter) doesn't think they can be like Tony Stark of Ironman. The lives we read about in books, see on TV and in Movies look so real to us as we watch and read about these people and places that have been crafted to be "perfectly imperfect." The girl gets the guy and the castle or if not still ends up finding an amazing sense of empowerment in being a strong independent woman, and then the guy always saves the world, gets the girl, and makes millions of dollars. Good always defeats evil, problems are always solved etc. Even in the inevitable deaths of a Nicholas Sparks book/film there is good; the story may make you cry, but there was love and happiness and such unwavering love that you can't help but cry when that person loses the love of their life. Even in stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars we see such incredible evil, and then we watch how good always triumphs!

All of these myths, stories, and fairy tales greatly shape the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be. We are supposed to fall in love, never argue, never fight, and if we do it is supposed to resolve itself in a magical 30 minutes - one hour. We are supposed to end up in the fairytale castle with little woodland creatures that come and clean up our messes. Our children are supposed to be great friends, who while they argue and fight still end up best friends who can become crime fighting superheroes who work together to save the world. We picture a world in which we have no pain, we get everything we always hoped for, we can pursue our dreams with no fear of rejection and we will always receive the support we need. Our dream life would allow us to provide for ourselves, our families, our parents and anyone else we want to help. I think we often leave school (high school or University) with this invincible feeling of "I can conquer the world!" and then we encounter a taste of reality and realize this finding a job thing is much harder than I imagined. Or this marriage thing is not what I thought it would be, because this person who could do no wrong when we were dating just really hurt my feelings and doesn't seem to care one bit. Or realize the amazing income we thought we would have is quickly depleted by the necessities of life. We get in a car accident, we get sick, our loved ones get sick, our brothers and sisters drama quickly invade our life when we are supposed to be the mediator between a sibling and parent, or we find out that life just kind of sucks sometimes.

Not only do we have fairytales shaping our perception of what reality should be, we also have social media. We see people posting about their perfect relationships, and their perfect children, and perfect jobs, and how they are "living the dream!" and say to ourselves what about my dream, what about my relationship, what about my kids, what about my job?

That is what screws us up we picture these impossible things for our life and when reality meets our dreams we are crushed. As a dreamer I have a really hard time accepting that because I want to be the one who dreams this amazing life and makes it a reality. The problem is I am finding that there are just some things you can't dream into reality. There are those moments in our life where the person we love and dream and pray will be healed dies, and there is the moment when we dream of a job that we have always wanted would happen and we don't get it or we can't make it happen, and there is the moment when we imagine the fairy tale of our home with the prince and the perfect children and don't forget the woodland creatures cleaning the house just doesn't happen. So, as a dreamer I am left with a bit of a conundrum.

How do I hang on to my idealist personality but still accept that reality is not going to always match my dreams?

I don't want to just quit imagining a better life for me and my family. I don't want to let go of the childhood hopes I had for my future. I want everything to turn out for the best. And I guess I can continue to dream and hope and pray that it does turn out that way, but I know that will mean I am faced with disappointment. I mean a large part of my hopes hinge on humans, and we know humans in their imperfection sinful state will always disappoint. So I have 2 choices really, let go of the dreams and stop being disappointed, or hang onto the dreams and continue to feel the let down of disillusionment.

I think though I would really like to find an in between place... a place where I can still dream and hope but not be disappointed when what I dream and hope doesn't happen. And I guess that means finding contentment in my reality. Coming to realize that what I have is a good thing even when evil wins (good will eventually prevail), even when people hurt me, even when what I really hoped would happen just isn't going to work, I have to look at what is good and what is right about the reality I am living in. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. When I let myself get so filled with disappointment over the dreams I wish would come true I cheat myself out of enjoying the good I have right in front of me. I also cause those around me to deal with my disappointment because I let it affect me in a negative way, and that causes a spiral of disappointment because my negative mood cause the relationships I want to flourish to suffer, which then leads to even more disappointment and so on and so on...

So, while I can't control how the people in my life act, and while I know they will continue to disappoint me and cause what I dream to not always come to pass, I CAN control my reactions to my disappointments. I CAN turn to what I know God tells me in Scripture, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 What God dreams for me is way better than anything I could dream for myself. And it doesn't mean I am not going to filled with disappointment at times and it doesn't mean my dreams aren't going to be crushed at times, it just means that I HAVE to accept the fact that God is in control even when my life feels so OUT of control. I also have to remind myself that the Bible says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 I love how this verse doesn't say, tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done, then he will give you all you ask for... No, instead it says "Then you will experience God's peace..." Disappointment will still come... dreams will not become reality, but there can still be peace... peace in a God who loves me and truly does have a plan for my life. 

I am going to stop letting the picture in my head, of how things are supposed to be, screw me up, and realize there is no picture. THIS is how it is supposed to be. It is like an Etch-A-Sketch, the picture keeps changing with every turn of the knob, and sometimes someone or something is going to come along and shake that picture until nothing is left and a new picture has to be created all together. I don't want to allow disappointment to cloud that new picture, I will always dream of blue skies and a life in which all my hopes are fulfilled, but I am also going to roll a little more with the punches and do whatever I can to stop living in my head and find reality right where I am...

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