Lost Dreams and To Do Lists

IMG_0890I recently spent a lot of time by myself in the car, driving to a writing conference. This means I spent a lot of time in my head. And I was reminded that there is a lot of scary stuff in my head. I was reacquainted with my obsessive thoughts about work, especially related to circumstances I really can’t control. I encountered many of my of my deep fears: Do I suck as a writer? Am I terrible at my day job? Does anyone even like me? Will I end my days sad and alone?

And that was all in the first thirty miles outside of town.

The truly scary stuff came later, namely this question: Do I still have dreams, even, or just a to do list?

Since I became a parent, I certainly feel like life is a checklist. I’m responsible for myself and two small people, not to mention tending a marriage, working at my day job and taking care of a house. I am not doing this alone – I have an amazing spouse who splits the “second shift” with me. But I still feel like I’m mediocre at everything at best. (I’m not alone – the New York Times reports findings from a Pew study that many families feel like this.)

This post isn’t about my obligations, which are more than some but much, much less than many. It’s about whether or not I still have time time and space to create and discern dreams. Writing is my dream – so in so many ways, I’m pursuing that dream. But it doesn’t have the lightness or joy that I expected. And I’m not sure I have other dreams on the horizon, but that’s mainly because I never feel like I have the time to ponder those dreams.

Which leads me back to the to do list. I certainly don’t make that time for myself. I have a to do list at work and at home. It’s supposed to go like this: Once I finish the to do list, I will have time to write. (Can you see where this is going?) Yep, since the to do list is never done, this means I never have time to write. Because I never make the time. I prioritize everything else over writing time.

It’s funny to write that now, since I’m still at the writing conference. I’m not at work. I’m not bathing the kids and putting them to bed. But it was also because I prioritized going on this trip that I came to realizations that had eluded me for months.

For the past few months I thought I’d lost my creativity. The answer is much more banal and (fortunately) easy to fix. I have dreams but I never prioritized them. Time for a new to do list, perhaps, one that actually reflects my priorities.

4 thoughts on “Lost Dreams and To Do Lists

  1. This is a really great post! I do the same thing in the car at times. If we think about life as a true prioritization “to do” list how different it would look!

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    • Thanks, Bill! Totally agree about the to do list. And now I’m starting to get excited about what that actually means in my life & what it will look like. And how it will probably take many road trips to figure it out and stick with it. 🙂

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  2. Bravo and thank you! I’ve had almost 23 years of feeling mediocre at best about everything on a regular basis (Jaimee, a college grad, employed, on a 4 week vacation to New Zealand, turns 23 in April). Add to that seeing my age creep into higher digits, too many “to do’s” to make a list, the poignancy of having a first grader while still feeling like just yesterday my daughter was a first grader. That “little girl” is taking trips I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to take and while we were once partners in crime, I’ve raised her so well that she is independent and has a plethora of friends and rarely partners with me on anything (except when upset about something; where’s the joy in that, like the days I’d wrap her into a big hug at the end of the day?) While wrapping my first grader in a hug at the end of a school day, it’s difficult to not realize that as much as I am central to this beautiful boy’s world right now, if I “raise him right” he will go into the world as his sister has, with “mom” in his conscious but seemingly as an after thought.

    Dreams? Goals? Being over the mid century mark and in a new occupational arena where I am not at the top of my game, but rather in a startup of a popular, in demand item yielding no profit due to lack of capital and automation, as I’m told it should be at this stage, it is cause for wondering, “What was I thinking?” You, dear Julie, in my mind, are ahead of the game. Your writing above demonstrates just that. Write on, sister!!

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    • Aw, thanks, Nancy! And you are one of my heroes – starting up the new business and taking a risk. That’s amazing! (Also reminds me I need to order more whoopie pies soon – yum.) Parenting is so fraught – and you write so poignantly about it. The other day I found myself anxious for the day when they can bathe themselves…but I also know I’ll miss bath time when that comes. So true that we raise them to get along without us. And heartbreaking, too. Oh, life….

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