Some of us are up there ahead, what's coming next kind of people. Some of us are right here, this moment, today kind of people. Ever since I was old enough to think about the future, I've been the first type. I don't know if I even realized there was another way, until I married the second type. Dreaming big has never been a problem for me. Call it ambition, call it drive, call it annoying over-achieverism, call what it whatever you want - I'm a make it happen, go big or go home, kind of woman.
Those of us who dream spend a lot of time imagining what could be; and like most dreamers, once I have a vision for where we are going, I want to be there five minutes ago. The steps between here and there - the entire middle part of the story - I tend to brush across while running hastily (sometimes recklessly) towards the end goal. The middle steps can be a real buzz kill to my spit-fire zeal.
But after too many burnouts and a handful of closed doors, I've seen that the middle steps build stability. Those in-between places are never as menial as they appear.
The trouble is, those middle steps are often the hardest ones.
"[God] allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing." -C.S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The last five years have been about slow building. I can't even tell you how foreign that idea is to my nature. Slow building wasn't in me before. Then I got pregnant and was faced with the first thing I couldn't rush. There was literally not one thing I could do to hurry things along. Not in pregnancy and not after. Almost every story since then seems to come back to slow building and learning that the work established over time lasts a lot longer than the work I throw together impetuously.
Anyone who has walked what Lewis described as the "transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing" knows that sometimes the doing looks a lot like waiting. Not necessarily waiting and doing nothing, but rather growing here before going there. I'm terrible at recognizing this in myself, which is probably why each time I've heard the "not yet" voice, it has come from someone else. A door closed, an opportunity missed, a plan rerouted. If I had been listening, I probably would have heard whispers of that in my own heart, but often my drive to jump ahead is louder than my willingness to slow down.
This summer, I'm learning a new step between a dream imagined and a dream realized. It's the place where I tell myself to calm down and take a seat long enough to hear my life saying, "not yet."
One of my dreams not yet realized is a book. Three kids under age five means I have plenty of time to think about it, writing pages upon pages in my mind while standing over a sink or driving to get groceries or nursing a baby. Three kids under age five also means those words are staying right where they are - in my head - for the indefinite future. I know what people say, there's no right time to write and yes, that's true. But there is a wrong time. I have to be honest with myself about our family and our time and my limitations; because you guys, we have a five month old who wakes up every 2-3 hours during the night, and a two year old that moves whole pieces of furniture and opens "childproof" medicine bottles (and usually wakes up during the night), and a four year old who is up by 5:30AM most days and never, ever wants to be alone (and 50% of the time, wakes up during the night)...and I'm working whatever hours I can because we need the money...and yet, I want to write a book. Like RIGHT NOW, I want to write the dream of my heart that's not yet realized. Sometimes my optimism looks a lot like denial. This summer has seen me pushing and twisting and trying to live out my "suck it up and make it work" philosophy, but it's August now and I'm ready to accept it. I can't. I can't make it work right now without destroying myself and my people.
This, right here, online with you, this is what I can do right now. Maybe that will change in three months or nine months or two years (please Jesus let it change sooner than 2 years)...but for today, this is what I have. There is no margin left to maneuver and that's okay.
The middle road builds stability and health and wholeness. The space between dreaming aspiration and dreams becoming reality, that laborious doing, that is where the story is. It adds flesh and bones to what would otherwise be a thinned-out idea headed for burnout.
If you could see into my living room right now, you'd see me eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because its Friday and buying groceries is hard and questionably worth it. You'd see two very dirty children watching TV and a desk covered in medical bills. You'd see cold coffee and baskets of laundry and Lincoln Logs that multiply like loaves and fish. This is where the story is! This is the middle road. This is where the people are. This is where the failure is. This is where the really good stuff and the really boring stuff happens. This is where, if we let Him, God meets us and changes us and breathes fuller life into us right where we are. This is how the dream is built, slowly, with care and intention and patience.