Tag Archives: fantasy

What Are You Missing?

“Well, I was born in the sign of water, and it’s there that I feel my best. The albatross and the whales they are my brothers. It’s kind of a special feeling when you’re out on the sea alone, staring at the full moon like a lover.” —Little River Band, Cool Change

Hello friend,

Eight years ago, when my daughter was still a baby, our little family of three took a vacation to San Diego. It was actually a work trip for my wife, but my baby girl and I got to tag along. I had lived in Southern California many years earlier and had fallen deeply in love with the ocean, so I was not about to miss that trip. On the day that my wife was free from meetings and told me I got to choose our adventure, the words could not have come out of me faster: “I want to go surfing!”

It was a grey, chilly afternoon at the beach—no one was on the sand but us—and as my wife and daughter bundled up on the towel, I ran across the street and rented a board and a wetsuit, then sprinted back and jumped into the frigid water. I was home! Every neuron was firing at maximum capacity, and my entire being was flooded with adrenaline. The little taste of saltwater on my lips was like taking a sip from a cup of lightning. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of this mysterious beast I was now a part of.

I had always, in my journals, referred to the ocean as The Power, and in that moment, I could feel exactly why. Even though the waves were small that day—I had been thrashed by dangerously large breakers at the same beach several years before—it was obvious that, by comparison, I was like a single speck of sand in a vast desert. The Power could have its way with me any time.

That vastness, that power, that whirring sense of danger that danced in the background, these are the things that lit my soul on fire as I dove into the cold water that afternoon. A few minutes later, after paddling out a ways in hopes of bigger swells and sitting up on my board to scan the endless horizon, I found the part that settles me into the deepest Peace. It is the suddenly obvious connection with All That Is. I knew that I was in the same water that touched the people swimming in China and India, in Australia and Antarctica and Argentina and Angola and Alaska and Algeria. It was this water, and the elements that composed it, that allowed LIFE to happen on this tiny little planet floating in the vast cosmos. That connection, that Peace–even more than the wild exhilaration–has always made the ocean home for me.

It is why that cold afternoon in the Pacific was so memorable for me. I was home.

That was eight years ago. I haven’t seen the ocean since.

Oh sure, I have been at the water. I go to the lake every Summer for some days with my family. I take my kayak out to the neighborhood lakes a few times per year. I swim laps at the gym. I used my free hour on my birthday this year to hike along a local stream. I love all of those things, and each time I am reminded of the enchanting power that water has always held over me. I am always so grateful to be there.

But a lake is not an ocean.

My kids are 6 and 8 now. After all these years of being too busy, too broke, and thinking what a hassle it would be to travel with two little ones, my wife and I decided it was time to give it a shot. So, several months ago, we finally took my parents up on their yearly offer and booked plane tickets to visit them at their home in Florida during our Spring Break. I then immediately put the trip out of my mind.

That was October. Now, it is March. Spring Break is in March.

As the month began, I officially gave myself permission to think about the trip: to daydream, to fantasize, to get excited. When I have had those free moments, I watch my mind as it travels. It has only one destination: the ocean.

Swimming in it. Listening to the waves lapping the shore. Watching the sun set over it. Swimming in it some more. And more. And more.

Intellectually, when I try to pull myself back from those thoughts, I can recognize that there are so many parts of the trip to look forward to: hanging out with my parents every day, watching the kids play with their grandparents, seeing one of my best friends who has lived down there for a few years, learning a whole new area I have never visited, feeling warm, swimming in a pool, taking adventures with the kids, and simply being on vacation. All of those sound fabulous and well worth some daydreaming smiles.

However, when it is time to let my mind wander and my eyes glaze over, all I can think about is the water. The beautiful, powerful salt water and the endless mirroring sky above it. That is what calls to me.

I can see now that I have turned off part of my soul in all of these years when I have not had either the time or the money to get there. I convinced myself that I didn’t need it, that I was self-contained, that everything that fills me is right here in my presence. I wanted to be that mentally strong, that disciplined, that stoic.

This week’s daytime revelations have shown me that I have been mostly in a state of denial all these years. I have been working hard to resist the ocean’s natural pull on my soul. I have used my visits to nearby lakes and streams to calm the calling. I have convinced myself that they are enough, that my heart doesn’t ache for more. My laser-focused daydreams of late tell me I have been fooling myself.

I have been missing something that, in this moment at least, seems so essential to the vitality of my spirit. It is a tank that needs to be refilled more often than every eighth year, obviously. I have been running on empty for a very long time and simply making do without it. I can feel now that even my visions of the ocean are beginning to refill the tank, beginning to revitalize me. My spirit soars with each fantasy. It is a delight in my mind.

This makes me certain that the real thing—that first taste of salt water on my lips as I plunge below the surface—will infuse my soul with the most profoundly exhilarating Joy and Peace. It will be a magic beyond measure. I am already grateful for it. It is exactly what I have been missing!

How about you? What have you been missing in your life? Open up your journal and shine a light into the areas you may have been hiding from. What are the things that your soul longs for but that you convince yourself you can do without? The range of possible answers for this one is as broad and diverse as we are. It could be a specific person, a community of people, a place, a thing, a vacation, a treat. I think mostly that it comes down to a feeling, and that the person, place, or thing we long for is what gives us that feeling. What is the feeling you long for, the one you have been missing lately? Relief? Peace? Forgiveness? Companionship? Inspiration? Fulfillment? Permission? Freedom? Connectedness? Challenge? Exhilaration? Gratitude? Worthwhile? Do you know what you need to do to get there? Is it a trip? A conversation? An acknowledgment in your own mind? How big of a risk or sacrifice will it require? How much of your longing can be curbed by better use of your mind?   For example, regarding my ocean, does my excitement over my recent fantasies speak to a need to better use my imagination—to daydream with a purpose—to get my fix for these soul-fillers that are difficult to visit in person often enough? Can you get what you are missing without going anywhere? Does the thing you are missing have relatives (e.g. I know that I would have a similar experience in preparing for a Summer camping trip to the mountains of Montana, another place that feels like home to my soul but that I haven’t visited in ages)? How much denial do you live in about the things you miss the most? Does that denial protect you? Is there anything you have uncovered in this process that you could go after? What step can you take today in that direction? I dare you to move! Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you missing in your life?

Live consciously,

William

P.S. If today’s letter stirred you up, I hope that you will share it with someone who might appreciate a stirring, too. Blessed be.

A Quiet Dinner With Friends: My Fantasy Guest List

“If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.” –Steve Maraboli

Hello friend,

You know that old thought experiment where you come up with four or five people from history whom you would want to have over for a dinner party? Everyone seems to start with Jesus, and then it can go in a few different directions. Some people choose other respected people they are “supposed to” pick—Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and the like—while other people add some evil to the mix with folks like Hitler or Charles Manson. Still others go with childhood heroes or sports legends like Neil Armstrong or Wilt Chamberlain.

In any case, it is usually a group of icons from other eras that end up gathered together around our hypothetical tables. In our attempt to gather the biggest names, this game usually involves little thought about how they would actually interact once they sat down. It is enough of a fantasy just to name the names. Thinking about it for a second, I would probably fill my guest list with Jesus, Buddha, Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. I could go on and on, of course, as I love history and would be on the edge of my seat listening to folks like Frederick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, Merriweather Lewis, Harriet Tubman, and Sitting Bull, to name just a few.

Honestly, I get a little giddy just thinking about how much knowledge and wisdom I could soak up in a deep conversation with each of these individuals. I would love that! But really, I don’t have a clue how it would shake out to gather a handful of them together for a few hours over a meal. Not having much of a sense of their personalities, I am left unable to visualize the feel of the discourse. I mostly just think about wanting to talk to each individually.

So, I am changing the game! I want this dinner to suit my personality. A bigger group would work against my introversion and my desire for a genuine connection amongst the whole group. I would appreciate the intimacy more if there were only a few guests instead of, say, five (actually, I would prefer individual dinners with each person, but that’s not as fun for our game here). Let’s go with three plus me. I also want a pretty good sense of their personalities and confidence that they have social skills, because I want us to all enjoy the conversation and have things in common, like sports, a global awareness, and a desire to improve our world. With that, I am limiting it to people who are alive today and who I think would enjoy each other’s company, including me.

Okay, so: a few living humans who would make for a fun and fascinating evening of conversation. NOW it sounds like my kind of a dinner party!

I am starting with tennis champion Roger Federer. This guy just seems like a cool dude to me! For all of his athletic magnificence—he is widely considered the greatest player ever in his sport—he has a very charming class and grace about him (he has won the ATP’s Sportsmanship Award a record twelve times!). You always hear about how kind and thoughtful he is to everyone he comes into contact with. He and I both love the game of tennis and would therefore have an easy connection. Of course, he also hangs out with other international sports legends, which would no doubt provide for some scintillating stories. Another connection: he is also a Dad of young kids. I very much admire the enormous amount of charity work he does, including the millions of dollars that go to help disadvantaged children in Africa gain access to education. He just seems to be doing it all right. And he is grateful.  Roger, you are invited!

Next to Roger can sit Barack Obama. After this guy’s experiences of the last decade, I can hardly think of a more fascinating guest at my table. The stories he must have… But that is not the only reason to invite him. He seems like a genuinely cool guy to me, and grateful for his many blessings. I once saw a talk show segment with his wife, Michelle, as the guest, and the host asked what the most annoying thing about him was. She did an impression of him doing a slow, pause-filled explanation to his daughter of every aspect of some issue. It was hilarious, but it also points to what I would like about talking with him. He’s a thinker, and he seems to grasp that social issues are enormously complicated and can’t be fit into the little sound bites that our TV and Internet news outlets give us. Like my journal entries, I prefer my conversations to be a deep dive, so I would enjoy combing the intricacies of the world’s concerns with him. He also loves sports and has daughters a bit older than mine, so he could warn me and Roger of things to come.

Frankly, I am tempted to leave my little table at just the three of us—me, Roger, and Barack–as I have a hard time with who might make a comfortable fit (should we all be roughly similar in age?). Ideally, I could think of someone both worldly and philanthropic from the arts. However, I have been almost totally out of popular culture since I had kids, so I feel like I don’t know the personalities very well (though George Clooney, I think, would make any conversation enjoyable, and I would be interested to learn more about Leonardo DiCaprio’s world travels to study climate change; or perhaps Oliver Stone).

Dan Rather! Yes, the face and voice I have known since I was a kid would fill that last seat between me and Obama wonderfully! Though we were a Tom Brokaw/NBC family when I was growing up, I knew of Dan Rather and his storied career as a journalist. He was at Kennedy’s assassination and in Vietnam as a reporter, and obviously at all of the major global events as the anchor at CBS for a million years. So, he understands the world and our history. He left my radar until recent months, when I have been faithfully reading his commentary regarding politics and the necessity of tough, fair-minded journalism in our society. He is an incredibly thoughtful man, and he also seems very grateful for the voice and the platform he has been blessed with. And he seems like a fun guy to talk to, with such a wide-ranging experience, including being the parent of a daughter and a son, like me. I would like him at our table for his wisdom, his stories, and his heart.

What would I bring to the table? I hope that while being another voice sharing tales of travel and parenting, opinions on sports and global issues, and a passion for improvement with my comrades, I would also greet each guy’s unique perspective with intense curiosity and acceptance, as well as enough important questions and observations to connect us all together. That is what the evening is all about, after all: making a connection. Building a bond of humanity and common growth across a range of life experience. Oh yeah, and FUN! I think we would co-create some of that, too. This sounds like an enormously satisfying dinner to me!

How about you? What type of characters are making your guest list? Open up your journal and think about the kind of interaction you want to have with, and between, your special guests. What are your priorities? Do you just want to put three other amazing people in the room and see what happens, or do you want to pick and choose your commonalities and engineer it in a certain direction? If you have a theme or themes in mind, what are they? Do you want each character to have similar qualities, or do you think big differences would make it more interesting? How much would you like them to share things in common with you versus in common with each other? Would you prefer it to be all one gender, like my guy’s night? Do you imagine you will hold your own in the conversation and have good things to add? Would you approach this mentally more as a fan or as an equal? Okay, now write the list. Who is on there? Write about each one individually. Why do they make the list? What do they hold in common with the rest of the group? What unique perspectives can they bring? Which one do you expect to feel the closest bond with? Will one of you emerge naturally as the leader of your group? How serious will your conversation be? How much laughing will you do? What will you all take from the evening? Inspiration? Kinship? Empathy? A lighter heart? A greater sense of responsibility? Lifelong friendships? Even more to think about? Simple gratitude? It’s fun to think about! I am smiling as I write. I hope you will be, too. Leave me a reply and let me know: Who is at your fantasy dinner table?  

Soar with the eagles,

William

P.S. If you enjoyed this exercise, please share it with friends. I wish you happiness!

Free Time: Imagine the Possibilities!

DSC_0042“If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.” –Willie Nelson

Hello friend,

A week ago, I came up with a wonderful new idea to write a book about. I was so excited! Immediately I started brainstorming and working on an outline. Next I had to do some hard bargaining with myself as to whether I am willing to temporarily suspend the other project I am working hard on now, a project that means so much to me. But this new idea is time-sensitive and must be addressed now. As I started to buy into the new project more and more and got to the point of committing to write the book, it suddenly struck me: How am I every going to find the time to do this?

 Sneaking in a few tired minutes of writing at the end of a full day of work and kids is not the way to take a deep dive into a topic, not to mention finding the artistic inspiration to make it all come out right (trust me, I’ve tried it many times!). I need several hours in a row of focused work for days and days on end. Hmmm. Those hours don’t seem to exist in my upcoming calendar of events. If I want to sleep at all, I simply don’t have the time.

This is when my escapist fantasies begin. These daydreams typically come in bunches over several days—usually a few different times per year–when I get really excited to take on a new project and then am hit with the reality of my schedule. Usually these fantasies take the form of me winning the lottery and never having a care about money again. That, of course, means I would never have to hold a job ever again. That, for me, would be absolute BLISS.

I always thought this extreme anti-job thing I had was that I simply didn’t like working. I mean, hey, who likes working, right? I just thought I had an extreme case of it. I have marveled about this many times in my journal, wondering how I got so spoiled. Lately, though, I have realized something about myself. I realized that, more than anything else, I just don’t like to work for someone else. I don’t like my work polluted by other people’s agendas, and I don’t like to be told what to do and when (and certainly not how). Simply put, I have never, EVER wanted to hold a job. That is, until the day I realized I just wanted to be my own boss.

I want to work—I’m dying to work—on my own projects on my terms. I want to choose the things I take on and how the work is performed. For those conditions, I am willing to work hard every day until my life ends. I don’t need retirement because I love what I choose to do.

So, it turns out I am not as lazy as I thought. Spoiled maybe, but not lazy. What a relief!

But that still doesn’t solve my problem. I work my current job because it brings in just enough money—combining with my wife’s income–to keep my household running and allows me to be here for my kids whenever they are here. It is a busy lifestyle, but our arrangement manages to just keep the bills paid and all of us happy and grateful for the time together.

But still pent-up and wishing for more.

More time and more money would be ideal, of course. That is where my usual fantasies of winning the lottery come in. But this week, as my soul was stirred up into a frenzy by this new book idea and my eagerness to dive into the writing of it, I realized something different about the tone of my fantasy hypotheticals.

The pleas suddenly became much less greedy, much more sensible. Instead of “If only I had 500 million dollars, I could really do what I want!” my visions have been more like, “If only I could keep my simple, paltry income but not have to put in the time to do the job and commute, I could do enough of what I want to keep me fulfilled.”

Maybe I thought that if my request wasn’t so gigantic, the wish-granters—there is a local branch of the Wizard of Oz in every town, right?—might somehow find a way for me. I am not asking to be rid of my usual financial balancing act and the tension that comes whenever I spend money. I will happily carry those burdens if only I am granted the TIME.

Yes, TIME is what I am really after. I just want those hours that I spend from the moment I leave for work to the moment I arrive back at home. If I could have those hours, along with my current income, I would not ask the wish-granters for any more wishes (I say now).

What would I do with the hours? WORK! My work. I would spend every one of them writing. In the short-term, I would write the book whose idea is burning in me right now. In the long-term, I have many other things I want to write, too, including more of these weekly letters to you. Believe me, I could keep myself occupied with the many ideas that inspire me to help make the world a better place.

I feel like the painter who has the perfect painting in mind and his paints and brushes ready to go, but he is waiting for his canvas to arrive. Waiting impatiently.

Every artist needs a patron. I started saying that when I was a young actor, having first realized how much energy it takes to create and perform one’s art consistently well. I experienced how that energy and inspiration can get muted in the drudgery of making a living doing something that is not your passion for most of the day simply to get a small window of time to pursue that passion. I am convinced that most of the world’s great art has gone unproduced due to the world’s artists lacking the requisite time and energy to create. Because I dare flatter myself by calling what I do a type of “Art,” I feel this pain. I ache for that time and energy. And thus my fantasies.

Those obligation-free hours are so alluring to my imagination. Of course, there are a million ways to use them. I know it would be wonderful to use the time to read all of the books I have on my list and take up all the hobbies I have ever aspired to. I can see myself easily passing the day between guitar practice, yoga, and some Hemingway in my hammock. It is a vision that warms my heart.

It wouldn’t last, though. What drives me is the writing. Trying to string together words that will make a difference in people’s lives. I can’t make it very long without returning to that.

So yeah, at the end of the day, if you let me keep my current income but allowed me to quit working, what would I do? I would work! (MY way.)

How about you? What would you do if you were guaranteed your income without the time commitment? Open up your journal and imagine this amazing opportunity. How would you use it? Maybe this essentially becomes a question of what you prioritize at this point in your life, not just what you like to do. Is there something that you highly value but that you have not had time to devote to with your current schedule? Is it something that you can see yourself making a habit of and keeping in your life long-term? Would you use the time to cultivate a hobby or rather something that would become a new career for you? How widely would you spread your wings? How much would you simply kick back and take life easier than you have been? Would you intentionally have no agenda at all for a while? How long do you think you could go without any job before you became either bored or stir crazy? Is this even a deal that you would take? Perhaps you would prefer to keep doing your current job, whether for social reasons or connections and opportunities to keep climbing the career ladder in your field and building a bigger income than you have now? Whatever your choice, I hope that the things you prioritize—the things you might fill your newfound window of time with—are things that will leave you feeling fulfilled. I would love to hear what you choose. Leave me a reply and let me know: How would you fill the time that is truly free?

Think big,

William

P.S. If this letter had you re-thinking about what you really prioritize at this point in your life, pass it on. A little clarity could do us all some good!

Using Facebook As Match.com For Friendships: Searching for Real Human Interaction in the Digital Age

DSC_0518“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.–A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh  

Hello friend,

I have a new fantasy woman in my life. She’s super smart, creative, and funny. The way she strings her words together makes my mind light up and my face smile. She comes from a wonderful family and puts great value there, just like I do. Oh, and did I mention that she is also totally beautiful? I can comfortably say she is out of my league. But what the heck, I am going for it! She has all the makings of a true gem, a diamond in the rough. Women like this don’t come along every day. I must stick my neck out and risk the rejection. I have to take the chance!

Sure, I am happily married. So why is this woman living in my head and making me excited to reach out and talk to her? What do I want from her? The answer is simple: Friendship. I want her to be my friend. Well, more precisely, I want to find out if she could be a true friend. I want to connect with her—actually speak to her, even if on the phone—and see if she is actually as cool and deep and inspiring as she seems to be from our few brief online exchanges and a long history as childhood acquaintances. I feel like I have a good sense of her, but I realize that you never really know from a few emails or Facebook comments. Maybe we take that skeleton and fill in all of the rest of the heart and soul and guts with our own minds, romanticizing (or demonizing) the people we have these familiar-yet-distant online relationships with, making them into whomever we want or need them to be. I am aware of that very real possibility in this case, and that is why I am determined to find out.

It requires a social risk, though. In this digital age, we are all used to having relationships that are very friendly but that are also at arms’ length. Facebook, Instagram, and the like have allowed us to connect with new people and reconnect with our old classmates and co-workers. We like and comment on each other’s posts and, in the process, we build and/or keep good feelings toward one another. It’s a great deal. I love it!

As a relative newbie to social media—I’ve been on Facebook for a year-and-a-half and just opened an Instagram account but have no idea what to do with it—I have been amazed at how much I have enjoyed learning what my old elementary and high school classmates are doing. Because I am a terrible friend and haven’t kept up well with anyone from any phase of my life, I was very skeptical about Facebook going into it. I couldn’t imagine why someone would send me a Friend Request if we aren’t actual, current friends, and entering into these relationships seemed really awkward to me, even phony. I was completely out of my water. Much to my surprise, however, it turns out that I LOVE reading about my old schoolmates and seeing their photos. It has helped me to stay better connected to the few people who I still considered to be my friends—even if we had neglected each other for too long—and it has given me a new window into the lives of people I didn’t know well enough, some of whom I still had very fond impressions of.

That brings me to the people like my new fantasy woman. I wrote to you a while back about “The Facebook ‘Friends’ You Wish Were Your Real Friends,” mentioning a handful of people from my (mostly distant) past—some of whom I did not know very well even when I “knew” them–whose Facebook posts I love and who seem like the kind of people I would love to gather in the same room with to see if we might save the world together. Just like the title of that post says, I wish they were my real friends. Well, at least I wish my ideas of them were my real friends. This is where I think social media can be at its finest. Perhaps this thing called Facebook—or Twitter or Instagram or whatever else I know nothing about—is like a global friendship screening system. We can become “friends” with hundreds of people on there, and hopefully from those hundreds we find a special few who make it onto to our wish list.

The question is: What do you do about these people? Do you keep them at the necessary arms’ length distance of a social media relationship, enjoying their posts and occasionally sharing a good-hearted comment exchange, maybe even a private message? OR, do you take a social risk and ask to meet up with one of them—either in person or on the phone—to just talk. You know, the way humans used to do it.

We are increasingly and rapidly losing our social skills in this digital age, which makes it feel awkward and dangerous to make that step of inviting an actual engagement with another person, a real conversation. But that also makes it so much more important that we make this connection. We need more genuine human interaction. Conversations from the heart. Diving deep into another’s life story. A look at the world through their eyes, walking that proverbial mile in their shoes.

I know I need it. I lack that connection in my life. I am cut off. I usually write it off to my introversion, hiding behind my insecurity and my love of solitude to justify why I don’t open up or reach out. Historically, I have tended to see myself as the oddball, though, the only one who stands alone. Lately, however, I have been seeing it—and feeling it—in others all around me, wherever adults happen to gather. I watch the parents on the soccer sidelines and at the bus stop. I am not the only one who shies away. It feels distant and awkward between almost everyone. It’s like we don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. It is a great disconnect.

This great disconnect–whether it is spreading like a virus for the modern age or I am just noticing it more–is precisely why I believe in not just making that “Turning a ‘Friend’ into a FRIEND” list but also in doing something about it. Suggesting a meeting or a phone conversation. Actually finding out if you have a fantasy figure created mostly in your head—as I do—or a potential dear friend for life. That is what I decided to do this week. My fantasy woman and I exchanged a couple of messages on a topic, and I was so enthralled with her ideas that I asked her if we could set up a phone call so I could hear more of her thoughts and her life story. I felt weird asking it. After all, in the arms’ length world, each of us has some romantic image of a soulful, creative genius on the other end of the screen. Maybe finally speaking will burst both of our bubbles. Maybe it will just be great catching up but left as a one-shot deal.

But maybe not. Maybe we are destined to teach each other great lessons or collaborate on a world-changing project. Maybe we will be the best of friends. Whatever it is, the social risk seems worth it. A true human connection is something you can’t put a price on. If it happens, I just won the jackpot. If it doesn’t, well, it’s just another day without it. We haven’t had the call yet, but I assure you that the excitement I feel in anticipation is well worth any letdown I will feel if it doesn’t work out. I am that hungry for a connection of my soul.

How about you? How hungry are you for a deep friendship? Open up your journal and think about your online relationships. Which ‘friends’ would you like to make your true friends? What is it about them that resonates with you? What draws you in? Do you have a little dialogue going with them already, whether through comments on each other’s posts or private messages? How much of a social risk would it be for you to propose a meeting or phone conversation to get to know each other better? What do you think they would say? What do you have to gain from reaching out? I understand the other side is the pain of rejection, but answer me this: what do you have to gain from doing nothing? Which gain is more valuable to you: a true, deep friendship or a more superficial but always positive online relationship? How authentic do you think most people’s social media personas are? Do you think you have an accurate read on your friend list from their posts and comments? Is it possible to have a deep relationship with someone online only? Have you ever pursued a relationship because of social media content? Do you have that one fantasy friend who you are just sure that you are meant to be besties with? What keeps you from making that connection happen? Leave me a reply and let me know: Who is your social media fantasy, and what are you going to do about it? 

Love is worth a risk,

William

P.S. If this speaks to you, please share.  You never know who it might connect you with!

The ONE That Got Away?

DSC_0227“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” –C.G. Jung

Hello friend,

This is a ghost story.

Where do I begin? When I was 21 and just in the early stages of my acting/exploring the world/discovering myself period, I met an amazing young woman named Alex. And I mean young. She was 18, but, somehow, instead of spending her last few months of high school hanging around her schoolmates and partying, she was working out and hanging out with a bunch of twenties-and-thirtysomethings, including me. We were friends at first, as I was casually dating someone else at the time. When that fling ended and she and I continued to spend time together, I grew to realize that there was something deep and magical about her.

She was not at all like the other women I knew. For one, she was incredibly intelligent. She was fiercely independent. She was one of those “old souls” that made it seem completely natural for her to be good friends with a fortyish guy I knew. There was some pain there, too. She also had an intriguing combination of honesty and distance. She protected herself, even as she was vulnerable. It was a tricky combination to unlock, to say the least. But I admired her greatly, anyway. She oozed potential. I sensed that I would one day hear news of her curing cancer or leading a team of Doctors Without Borders that saved an entire ravaged province in Africa. I was impressed in advance.

The thing about that kind of potential when it intersects with precisely her age in a lifetime is that there is no track record. No history of “Oh, this is how you are and what you do, so I know exactly what you will be doing five years from now, too.” Real grown-up relationships often end with each party knowing just what to expect of the other’s future. There is enough film on them to know their tendencies. But when you are 18 and loaded with talent and depth, there is simply no limit. You can write your own ticket. It is like when space travel first became a real possibility. With no history and with potential to burn, it is bottled PROMISE. It is a degree of HOPE that leaves you breathless. It is, in a word, exciting.

It was during my short time of knowing Alex that I was given my very first journal by a common acquaintance. I was only writing about once a week then and quite briefly, but I am now completely enthralled as I look back on those initial entries. Even when I was dating someone else, I never failed to mention how fascinating and wonderful my friend Alex was. Eventually those entries come to the spot where there was only her in my thoughts, and we were a couple. A combustible mix of two characters protecting their hearts but still caring fiercely about the other, all the while knowing that we were headed in two very different directions. We were a classic case of two star-crossed lovers. Neither Time nor Destiny was on our side. I wanted to be a movie star and anywhere bigger and brighter than where we were, and she would be heading off to college before long and curing the world of its ills. It was a love that could not be.

I had my future of stardom on my mind and jumped at the first chance to leave town. So, instead of spending a Summer of Love with her, I put the fortress around my heart and said goodbye. I told myself that the writing was on the wall for us anyway, that we had a good handful of weeks and that a few more months was not going to change the end of the story. I chose the head over the heart. Or, rather, I chose my dreams of stardom over a possible love story. She even came to visit me for a day that Summer, and I had a very hard time letting her in. At first, I kept her at a real distance because I could not let it go on. It was only later, shortly before she left, that I realized—after all of our protecting ourselves early in our relationship and my firm resolve that we must cut the cord completely, no long-term relationships—that I really, truly loved her. I finally let myself feel that, if only briefly. It was like putting a giant weight down. I loved someone amazing. Someone who was going to set the world on fire with her brilliance. For a magic moment, I let my guard down and allowed that bottled PROMISE to enter my heart and carve its initials there.

And then she was gone. That was it. Never to be heard from again. We didn’t keep in touch. I kept on chasing my dreams across the country and across oceans. And she……….??? I have no answers. I have a million questions and even more visions of what she might have been doing all these years—the people she has touched, the wonderful places she has visited, the diseases she has cured—but they are only visions. Apparitions. She has truly become a ghost for me.

I don’t know why I never took pains to keep up with her or track her down. I never thought we would ever be together again—romantically speaking–so I wasn’t pining in that way. But that POTENTIAL. That bottled PROMISE. That HOPE. To simply follow her life story seems like reason enough for me to have kept connected, even once in a blue moon. But no. Nothing. Not a call. Not a letter. Nothing. I cannot explain my actions.

What I am left with is a ghost. An apparition of who she is. A vision of what she has done. And even a “what if” about an epic love story that might have been if our paths had crossed in a different place and time. It is the kind of stuff that an imagination can go wild with, or that can turn a sane mind insane. There is so much to dream about, so many holes to fill, both in the story and in the heart. Lots of wondering.

It has taken on a life of its own, I suppose, as the years have piled on top of one another. The ghost becomes the thing, perhaps a bigger thing than there ever was in the physical world. I had but a few months to know her and even less to love her. And now, on the other side of the scale from those few months is 21 YEARS! Years of myth-building and monument-making. Based on what? My belief in her potential. In her inner beauty and future greatness. She is immortalized for me the way James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are for others. Dying young does that to you. We only remember the best and imagine what might have been. That is my Alex. Bottled PROMISE. Forever a ghost, made sacred by potential and the sands of time.

Until now.

Yes, earlier this week, I was doing a work assignment of trying to connect to old acquaintances by sending friend requests on Facebook. I was only thinking of people from the last few years. When I finished the task, which had me feeling nostalgic for old friends, I decided to see if anyone existed from my past lives. I searched a few people from the old acting days in California without much luck. Then it hit me: my ghost! Why had I never thought of it before? Honestly, it took me a minute to get up the nerve to type her name. I just wasn’t prepared to see her, as she had existed only in my mind for over 20 years. And then, there she was. Photographic evidence of a real person. I was completely sucked in, of course, checking out her posts of her dog and her recent wedding. But I was also unnerved by it. Worlds were colliding, and it was a bit overwhelming.

I could not bring myself to send her a friend request. It was like it would be an invasion of something that existed magically in another dimension. Making us real adults that had moved on would violate that sacred space. Only later in the evening, when I reminded myself that she was a big piece of me somehow and that this is my one life and that I would actually love to hear her life story someday, did I go back and send her that request. I couldn’t tell if I had just ruined the whole thing or not, but the ghost was now actually haunting me. It occupied my mind and kept me always on edge when I turned on my phone or computer, ever wondering if my request would be answered. After a day had passed, I felt a little relieved that she hadn’t accepted it. Maybe I was a ghost in her life, too, and she preferred me that way. She was going to protect the sanctity of our otherworldly arrangement. I appreciated that.

After another full day passed, however, my heart stopped when I saw that she had accepted. With the dye now cast, I knew I had to reach out and see what the conclusion to our story would be. Not wanting to sound like the crazy stalker but still needing to be honest, I sent a note to tell her that I had always held her in the highest regard and believed that, with all of her talents, she would somehow save the world. I told her that if she ever wanted to meet up and tell me her life story, I would love to hear it. And if not, I wished her all the best. It was my Truth, and I sent it with a clear mind. And then, I waited. There were a million different ways that note could land with someone who hadn’t heard from me in 21 years and with whom I had no idea where I stood in her heart or mind, so I was totally on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t sure if it was excitement or dread. Finally, this morning, the response came. And the ghost story kind of ended.

It turned out sort of the way I intuited it when my first impulse on seeing her Facebook page was to leave it at that and not send the message. It was more romantic and mysterious when it was a creation of my mind. I could wonder forever in the ethereal haze of “What if…” Now I know that she has not cured cancer—though she is a nurse—and that she has only a vague recollection of our time together. Sure, that stings the ego a little bit (or a lot). But it is also fascinating to me, a guy who loves to study the human experience and the way our minds can choose to interpret our world. I caught a glimpse of someone for a handful of weeks, when every possibility in the world was before her, and I immortalized her there. She was my James Dean. For her, it seems, I was a happy moment in her life, but like most moments, soon forgotten. We were two ships passing in the night.

And so, my 21-year fantasy comes to an end. The bubble has burst. With the reality just a few hours old, I cannot say for sure if I regret searching her name on Facebook. I felt enriched by the fantasy all these years, so grateful was I that I got a brief glimpse at Greatness before it became Greatness. That felt good, like I had a secret window that no one else ever would. And really, I did. It doesn’t, in the end, matter if she cures cancer or prevents a nuclear crisis. Like all of us mortals, she is and always will be magic and Divine. And special. We can count ourselves lucky in this lifetime if someone sees all of that in us. But that part is not up to us, as I learned by this experiment.

I learned something else, though, too. I learned that it is perhaps an even greater gift to see that magic, that beauty, that bottled PROMISE in someone else. It is like being able to see through God’s eyes. It’s amazing, truly. Maybe my Divine vision could only sustain for this long because, after my brief glimpse, the vision was only in my mind. It was a ghost, an apparition that I could beckon in its purest form at my whim. It is hard to maintain that Divine point-of-view day after day in the real world, when that person is disagreeing with you about finances or leaving wet towels on the floor. The mind’s eye is more forgiving.

So yeah, as I process this whole thing right now and my fantasy gives way to reality, I really am grateful for this ghost that was my ghost. Today’s reality check just reminds me of what I wasn’t so aware of before: that the ghost was good for me. That the Hope was a gift. That tiny window in my lifetime is a beautiful memory for me and planted a seed far greater. She isn’t the one that got away after all. No, she is the one that will stay with me forever in that Divine form, a beautiful reminder of an important lesson. This ghost story has a happy ending after all. I’m keeping her! The ghost and I will live happily ever after……The End.

How about you? Do you have a ghost that you have lived with? Open up your journal and tell your story. Who was your ghost to you? A lover? A friend? A family member? How long did your actual relationship last before it existed only in your mind? Why did it end? Do you feel badly about the way it ended? What role does potential play in this person becoming your ghost? Are you like me and wonder how this person lived her life and changed the world with her gifts? Or is it about the potential relationship you might have had, the epic love you might have shared? Do you believe that your ghost is really “the one” for you, in the romantic sense? Do you think your ghost is somewhere feeling the same way about you? Why is the person still a ghost? Have you ever tried to track him down? What is stopping you? Is it safer just to keep him in your mind, where you get to control the vision? Who is the one person in your history that you would most like to sit down with and hear their life story? Leave me a reply and let me know: Who is the ONE that got away from you?

Love heals,

William