I was first introduced to Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully (BlueBridge, 2008) about seven years ago when I first moved to Florida. I remember enjoying the reflections on aging, yet I realize now that I had read them as descriptions of my mother and other women whom I considered to be models of grace-filled aging. When my church book club chose The Gift of Years for one of our monthly discussions, I was not especially eager to re-read it.
Fast forward to the present day. What a different perspective I now have! I am now in the age group that Chittister calls the “young old” and every reflection seems to be speaking directly to my current experience. Each of the forty reflections is about five pages and focuses on a different aspect of aging, for example, wisdom, letting go, learning, and legacy. One of the reflections that spoke to me this week is called “Dreams.”
Chittister says, “We must dream to be better people tomorrow than we were today,” and, “In our dreams lies our unfinished work for the world.” The meditation caused me to think about what have been my dreams on my spiritual journey, which dreams have come true, and which ones I have had to let go. In my lifetime, I have dreamed of
- Becoming a world renowned travel photographer for National Geographic or Condé Nast Traveler
- Marrying a kind, generous, and talented man
- Raising a daughter
- Being a size 10
- Being recognized as an expert in my field.
Many of these dreams have been realized, just not as I imagined they would be.
- I am recognized and appreciated for my photography: family, friends, my church, and colleagues in Latin America. I often serve as the unofficial photographer at family and church events. One of the motivations for starting this blog was the opportunity to share some of my images with you, my readers. While my camera comes with me whenever I travel, I no longer have any desire to earn a living as a photographer.
- Marriage didn’t happen. I never really chose to remain single, at least not in the sense of making a commitment to a particular way of life. I read an article this week about being single “by default.” At this point in my life, I am content to work along side of kind, generous, and talented men, without necessarily sharing my living space with them!
- While I do not have a daughter (or a son), I have been privileged to work with young women in the education profession. There are five young women in particular who sought my advice with decisions in their work and careers: two are pursuing doctorates in education; two have assumed leadership positions in educational organizations; and, one has found encouragement in balancing work, family, and church. I did not raise them from childhood, and they are not Yet neither can the daughters we do raise from childhood be considered ours.
- Still dreaming!
- I have been invited to speak at engineering education meetings and conferences, and to give workshops on teaching, learning, and assessment at universities around the world. I originally thought my contributions would be in teacher education, but I later found a different and more appreciative audience.
This brings me to the more important question, “What are my dreams now, that is, what is my unfinished work for the world?”
I’m trying to identify “dreams” that might be a stretch, but not impossible. I would like to make a contribution to the world by developing an expertise in feminist theology and spiritual ecology. I’m not sure what form that might take. Continuing to write this blog? Publishing reflections and articles? Leading women’s retreats? Teaching in a graduate theology program?
Q. What are your dreams now, that is, what is your unfinished work for the world?
I leave you with a song about dreams: The River of Dreams (1993) by Billy Joel.
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross
And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for
And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole
I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for
I know I’m searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams