One of the great difficulties of my adult life is reconciling the reality of success with the feeling of success.
We are by no means a runaway success story, at least not in the ways I dreamed of being when I was in my teens. We are not millionaires. We are not famous. However, we are settled in a home we love, partnered together in a meaningful marriage, and doing a job we love. In all of the ways that truly matter, we are indeed wildly successful.
I Dream of Winning
Many celebrities have tried to tell the rest of us that success is not what it seems. When we dream about what it means to live a victorious life, it is not just the circumstances we are dreaming about. Much more than that, it is the emotion we imagine. How it will feel to succeed. How it will feel to be settled. How it will feel to live a purpose-filled life.
Our emotions are our front lines. And so we often imagine (or remember) our experiences through the emotions that accompanied them. This is helpful in a lot of ways. But it does not tell the complete story.
When people dream about winning the lottery, they are really imagining what it will feel like to stand in their dream home and not have to worry about money. Our reality rarely meets expectations, and this is especially true when it comes to our emotions. They are a bit unpredictable. So it is virtually impossible for that lottery winner to predict what standing in that dream home will actually feel like. Further, standing in that home for the first time is a moment. Life is life; it is much fuller and much more complex than the moments we imagine.
So, dreaming about winning at life is never the same as experiencing it. And that gap between how we feel about something and how we thought we would feel about it is something we have to reconcile with careful attention.
I had this image come to mind when planning out this blog. Imagine you are on the front lines of a war. You are in a strange place, fighting against an enemy. Now, suppose you make some progress and move the line a few miles into enemy territory. It may be difficult to feel the difference. Why? Because the front is the front. You will often have to remind yourself of the progress made.
The same is true in our daily lives. There are battles we will always be fighting: loneliness and uncertainty, just to name a few. When we make progress, taking steps forward, what we are really doing is establishing a new line. A new front. But as long as we are alive and imperfect, the battle will continue. The enemy (and our defenses) might adapt, but there will always be at least some sense of worry or uncertainty in our lives.
When we imagine our progress, we imagine it being definitive. We think winning the lottery is the end of money problems. Or that getting married is the end of loneliness.
If we are not careful, we forget the ground we have made. We take for granted the progress. Because the front still feels like the front.
Sometimes I have to force myself to look out our front window and choose to remember how far we have come, to allow myself to contemplate with gratitude the victories along the way. The joy we get to experience. Exactly how much we have discovered in the way of victorious living.
There are days when life feels boring. There are days when it feels overwhelming, stifling, and worrisome. All of these are realities of the front lines. But none of the swirling emotion negates the fact that I am in the midst of living a victorious life.