"The Dash” is one of my best friend’s favorite poems. She is one of those friends that is not afraid of dying. She is one of those friends that don’t realize how her lack of fear encourages those around her to see the magnificence in life. She and I share a passion for questioning, quotes, and quests. In the middle of the day it is not rare to find a text message or a phone call or an email (and even the occasional singing telegram) sharing a thought – or a song – or a quote. In fact, when I was packing up the house a few months back, I found my box of memories. Tucked inside were letters from her back when I left St. Louis to find myself. I called her up, and read her words to her. The letters may have been nine years old, but yet today we are still those same girls – searching for more. Wanting more. She called me this afternoon at my office to check in and see how I was.
“Are you seriously interrupting my traditional end of the week golf game?”
“I just wanted to see how studying was coming alone – I see your priorities are in check. Golf first, study later – ‘tis that the plan?”
“I don’t know much about anything it seems lately. I cannot focus this week to save my life. And you know what’s riding on this exam. My life as I know it. I pass, and I complete phase one of my plan. I fail, and I … well, don’t even want to think about it.”
“Chrissy, what do you want?”
“I’m sorry – I was in mid-swing – come again?”
“Seriously … want does Chrissy want?”
“I thought I knew Jess, but I feel the plan slipping from me. I postponed the test next week because I am not ready. After a lot of thinking I had to admit I was being too hard on myself – I was pushing too hard for this plan to work, when really I think I was setting myself up for failure. I was trying to overachieve.”
“You??? Overachieve? Pushing too hard? I don’t believe it!”
“Okay smart **censored**”
“I will ask you again – What does Chrissy want? And don’t give me the phases of the plan answer. That has no bearings on what you truly want.”
As much as I hate to admit – she is right. I sacrifice what I truly want in order to conform to sensible plans. One of the reasons I stepped away from Plan B is because I am at a place in my life where I am being given an opportunity to soar in my career and I am desperately afraid I am going to fall short. I thought giving up some of the things I love, some of the things that allow me to be me – sacrificing for the greater good – could allow me to be focused and driven to achieve. But in doing so, it has given more power to the worry and tears, than it has given to accomplishing “the plan”.
I feel frustrated, and scared – the term focus doesn’t even makes it appearance as most days the fret and doubt consume most of my brain function. Do you ever feel like that? Do you worry? Do you question your ability? Do you give more power to the doubt than you do to your power to excel? It’s like we spend so much time focusing on how to become focused, that we forget to enjoy the satisfaction in our lives. Like going for a midnight run to burn off frustration and to look up at the sky and see the wonder of the moonlight. Or blowing off part of your to-do list to catch up with an old friend at the theatre. Or driving out to a sandy beach and walking in the vast presence of nature, and God’s creation. Or waking up to a four year old cuddling your hand and telling you good morning - seeing a new morning through the light of a child’s eyes.
Although plans are necessary components to our lives, sometimes even in our greatest architect and engineer abilities, we neglect to incorporate our imagination. Not every day can be lived by a cookie-cutter, cut and dry, either do it or die trying outlook. The creation of the plan is great, in theory and written on paper, but if it does not provide the opening to enjoy what you are creating, then really what is its purpose? Each day you inch closer to what you are leaving behind your dash in life – and if we overlook to break free from conformity, routine, and ease then truly what is behind the line is something that we are missing.
I miss writing. I miss painting abstract at 2am with the sound of the blues in my ears. I miss packing a suitcase and taking a trip just because I need to get away. I miss the sound of laughter coming from friends, sitting around a dinner table, sipping wine and sharing stories. I miss driving to my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon for a game of Dominos, and the taste of stuffed cabbage cooked by one of the greats. I miss watching a sunset of a day passed, and looking forward to the sunrise of a new day to come. I miss making memories. I miss feeling like I was living my life. But most of all, I miss just being me – the Chrissy who knew the answer to the question of what she truly wanted.
The past four weeks of sacrifice has shown me the true importance of not basing your life solely on a plan; but giving yourself permission to find the balance between enjoying life, and achieving it. When you take the pressure off and give yourself room to enjoy, the pieces to the puzzle seem to fit. You become more driven to excel in all of your endeavors, because you appreciate that life is not about living a plan … it’s about making a life that you can find elation in, as well as achievements. After your dash is written, there will be no more sunrises … you have to watch them take silhouette now and truly value the meaning of what a new day can make.
So I ask you – what do you miss? What do you want? And when are you going to find the balance between the two? Three questions. You know the answers. Just try to give yourself permission to allow room in your plan to make both achievements, and memoirs, to leave behind your dash.