My topics for Thanksgiving posts appear to be getting increasingly peculiar of late, or at least this one certainly is.
Ever since the age of 5 (or earlier) I have longed to have a house of my own. Some dreams change or get abandoned as a person grows older; this is certainly not one of them. All that's changed is imagining the setting or some of the features of my dream home.
In 2012 I moved from my overly flood-prone 670 square foot place to renting a condo in a much nicer neighborhood, around 1,400 square feet, finished basement, higher ceilings. It had much more potential for my unending urge to decorate than my old place, and I also had a higher income level. Trying to bring some of my imaginings to fruition in the subsequent years, for bathrooms, living room, guest bedroom (in part) consumed no small amount of my thought or my spare income.
And that got me thinking. If I put so much money and energy and passion into decorating a condo (where I couldn't even paint the walls or make more than superficial changes) what would happen to me if I actually got the house I've long longed for? God might have a very good reason indeed to not let me have what I have always wanted, if I would squander so much time and income on it. Time better spent on my life's work or other tasks that might benefit others; money certainly better spent (at least in part) on giving rather than buying more materialistic "stuff."
It proved quite a revelation for me, and has blessedly helped me not get so restless, or bitter, when the I-really-want-a-place-of-my-own bug gets strong, generally in the early spring.
This summer I downsized to a much smaller apartment with only one bedroom, and it will hopefully help me rein in the tendency to accumulate more stuff, now that I don't have entire rooms to fill up. That will be a real blessing. Yet what I've increasingly come to realize is that the whole principle in regard to limited resources of time, money, and energy hardly start and end just with owning a house.
Hence the list below. The last 20 years are cluttered with various abandoned or incompletely fulfilled dreams, along the same lines as the home ownership one. Unlike that dream, these are more attainable, and yet I refrain from fully investing in any of them. And why? The same pattern again. Too high a price in time, money, or passion, when those three attributes need to be focused on my life work in specific (being the biographer of The Defender) or my identity in general (as child of God put on earth to bring Him glory, not squandering my resources on self-indulgence).
The greatest source of frustration in regard to time, of course, is the paid job. If it were not for that, I might pursue some of these dreams and longings, might broaden and enrich my life. But the bulk of my time and energy must at present be poured down the drain at the workplace, so that I can make the money I need to feed myself, rent lodging, give sacrificially, and pursue my life's work.
These are listed (roughly) in order, starting with those that most frequently or most intensely cause me grief over not getting to invest in them. At the bottom are some I'm curious about, but don't mourn the lost opportunity very often.
Developing my skills in Vue - This is the one that gives me grief a LOT. I can barely spare the time for more than dabbling, and my work in Vue (and Poser) can hardly get past elementary amateur. Because I cannot spare the time to learn and gain enough practice, and because the software is constantly changing and improving. I will never come close to the work of those folks who use the software as part of their career, because I cannot match them, in both time and the expense of getting a more cutting-edge computer, let alone a 'farm' of them, for rendering. But making visual art, and in particular illustrations of my characters and the places in my writing, is in some regards a stronger urge even than writing, and often more fulfilling. I have so many projects I wish I could start, so many pictures left undone for years, and so much ease at thinking up more I want to do. I wish I had a time machine, just for this.
Making small movies in Vue - Tied to the above, but deserving its own bucket. I've been delighted by animated .gifs since I first saw them, and delighted by animation since I was a little kid on bus rides watching the flip-books other kids made and wishing I had the skill to do the same. Creating tiny 40k animations for LJ is my tiny outlet here, when what I'd really love to do is craft story-related 'trailers' and story ballad music videos, particularly for 'Appleby' and 'The Avalorn and the Farmer's Daughter.' I would give so much to be able to do that! But I cannot, not at present, and not in the foreseeable future. There's more I long to create beyond small movies, going back to a day in some store when I was around 10-11 years old, and the inner vision I had of something like a movie and in many ways like a screen saver. It was manifestly impossible at the time, but I'm amazed as to how close the technology has come to making it reachable even for my own income level--certainly that vision could be created by a company with greater resources. But I doubt I will ever be able to spare the time, or money, to create it myself, or the different versions I've conceived more recently. It will have to live solely in my imagination forever, it appears.
Having my own (real) garden - I've wanted a 'real' garden nearly as long as I've wanted a house. A place where I could do more than grow some annuals in pots. Where I could try growing some food, and learn about perennials through experience, delight in my love of plants...and if possible grow a burnet rose, thanks to writing The Great Wave. There are so many species I love, and others I'd like to try a hand at, if I had more space and variety of lighting/microclimates to work with...and don't even get me started on trees!
Getting back into music - I often tell myself that while living alone gives me some measure of privacy of sight, I would need to either rent or buy a house to attain privacy of sound. That is something I really want. And one of the reasons I keenly desire it is so that the musical side of myself could get expressed again. It would be nice to knock the rust off my clarinet skills after around 20 years of separation. It would be so fun to dabble with learning other instruments--I haven't forgotten those gorgeous South American panpipes I researched after finding Geren's song years back. Let alone whatever other instruments catch my attention, or the freedom to just have singing, whistling, and loud music a part of daily life again. But not when I rent and have neighbors on the other side of thin walls. That part must simply remain largely suppressed, save at church or sometimes in the car.
Indoor gardening - In part I enjoy growing plants indoors because I can't have a proper outdoor garden as a renter, in part because I love plants in general. But neither have I forgotten the man's house I saw on my first garden tour with my mom years ago, and what he did inside (with the help of good big windows and skylights) was stunning. (Almost like part of a Vale in a Mercedes Lackey book.) No skylights for me while I rent, but I'd love to make another run at more indoor plants now that I'm catless, a better terrarium than my first attempt, or trying my hand at growing orchids in a terrarium. I'd also love to grow ivy and lots of streptocarpus again, if I only lived in a place that was cool enough.
Aquarium gardening - My desire to have a garden either outdoors or in isn't limited to terrestrial plants. I'd love to have a big aquarium full of plants with maybe a betta or two...if I could do it right, and spare the money, and knew that I wasn't going to be moving again for a while.
Sewing - Sewing is rather a love/hate with me. I have no patience whatsoever with hand-sewing. Hate. every. darn. stitch. of. it. But machine sewing is not so unbearably slow...yet it does involve relearning how to use a machine again, taking classes, maintenance, expenses of time and money for any fabric and projects. And my interests are of course not practical. I'd love to make t'DoL's banner--been wanting that since college years. And representations of his wings with iridescent-style fabric to hang on a wall... And now that I see the marvelous array of fabrics out there, I'd love to make custom bedding, curtains, or other home decor, because there's so much more control with color when I'm not limited to the (unappealing) short list of varieties available at most stores. And don't get me started on quilting! Such a gorgeous craft but I need a time machine to even think about going there...
Hyarmi plushies - Tied to the above, if not necessarily requiring a sewing machine. I've wanted for many years to try to make a hyarmi plushie, probably half life-sized, and at least somewhat articulated/poseable. It would be so wonderful to have huggable versions of Hened and Hu-Hov! I know it would be far past my limited skill to attempted a patterned hyarmi like Hileko/Heruvael/Hu-Harek/Haliuk, but...I love Harai and Hu-Harra and they're solid colored, and I quite fell in love with Hullek while writing the first Triune novel and he's solid colored too... Yet it would be a huge investment of time and probably a lot of failed attempts before I got something halfway decent, time I simply cannot spare. Tempting as well to maybe someday commission this...but that's probably approaching a four-figure expense I also cannot spare.
Kayaking - I would love to do more with kayaking, as a great way to get out and get exercise that complements hiking and biking. But between cost, licensing, the limitations of my tiny ancient car, and the time needed, this one has been set aside again.
Cross-stitching - I quite enjoyed cross-stitching in my high school and college years. Especially the steps I took toward making my own images and the potential to do illustrations of my characters. But it's a very slow art, and that time can't be found while I pursue my life's work and slave away at the meaningless full time job.
Snowshoeing - I've been itching to buy and learn snowshoeing for years. Maybe some winter it will happen, but so far God keeps slamming the door on this one.
Costume-related projects - My 'proof of insanity' project pieces have been carted around for over a decade now, but I will probably never have the spare hundreds of dollars and hundred hours it would take to finish it. How many times would I get to use it anyway?
3D Printing/Models - I haven't let myself do more than think about getting into this, because the technology is still so young and expensive, and I know it doesn't work with Poser models. But I would love to learn 3D printing of some sort so I could make figures of hyarmi, etc. Of course, even dabbling could easily devour massive quantities of time/money if I let it.
Stained glass - I love stained glass, and even took a Community Ed class for this. I'd love to do more--t'DoL's wings or feathers, at least. But in taking the class I learned I'd need a (expensive) glass grinder, a lot of pricey supplies, hours of practice...and a place to work that would be closed off so I wouldn't risk harm to my cats. Hence why this one is shelved. At Aldamar I had no way to close off the basement and make it a proper workroom. Now in Gondmar I have no pets to protect, but no place for a workroom at all.
Learning Mosaic tile - This keeps getting delayed because I'm always behind on more important projects. And it's probably only on the list in the first place because I can't pursue stained glass at present. But I'd love to do a little learning and make a few things with mosaic tile, if the time, money, and a decent workspace ever present themselves.
Remote control helicopter/quadcopter - I've wanted to fly since I was three years old, so a remote control flying contraption seemed both fun and a way to learn elements of flight. Years back I bought a remote control helicopter...and it never got out of the box. Ended up giving it away for a church garage sale. Just couldn't justify the amount of time it would take, and the learning curve, or the expense of getting one of those amazing quadcopters they have now, when I'm bound to do a fair bit of crashing in the beginning. I'd want to hook a camera on that thing...cue more time and expense that I just can't spare.
Horses - Probably over a decade ago, the Community Ed catalog offered a class to learn about taking care of horses in a stable. It was pricey, I didn't have the money, but I would have loved to do it. The class was never offered again (when I DID have the money). But learning more about horses, or even having some miniature horses at that imaginary dream home in my head, is something I've long wanted. Partially ulterior motive--I can write cats and dogs because I've known some of them, but I don't feel comfortable writing horses when I've never had a relationship with one. Only know bits through books and movies, and much of that is probably written by people like me who don't personally know any/many horses!
Archery - Archery at summer camp, eons ago, was great fun. Getting my own bow was something I toyed with decades back. But where would I practice and what would I do with it? There's a class on archery for women offered in the county where I currently live, but it's always during the hottest period of the summer, in the afternoon, the hottest time of the day. And my mild interest is not strong enough to subject my seasonally-depressive carcass to that level of affliction!
Pondering these losses, and working through these frustrations, has been good for me. Below is a little of what I've learned, or what I'm still trying to fully grasp.
1) Sympathy for the whole 'midlife' crisis
Considering I've passed the age of 40, and somewhere between 40 and 50 brings the halfway mark (or more) for most people. It's easier for me, now, to empathize with how some people start to feel that time is running out, or that they've thrown so much of their potential away. I can understand that fear and frustration, yet not let it overwhelm me.
A wise man once said:
To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist. - Cardinal Suhard
Mind, I have a very long way to go before my life embodies that statement! But I truly want it to. I want my faith to be more than just words but the core of my identity, impacting every single aspect of my life. So...
2) I must have a 'war' perspective
Life is short and time is limited. I wasn't born to just live some self-indulgent, self-absorbed, materialistic, happiness-obsessed "American Dream" life. When so many others struggle with treatable disease, hunger, poor drinking water, terrorist threats, persecution, slavery, little education, and a decaying environment? There isn't much I can do to "make the world a better place," being a very insignificant person lacking any sort of political power, influence, or great wealth. However, since I believe God has given everyone gifts, and since ignoring a problem never cures it, I choose to focus on the small gifts and resources I do possess. Focus my energy on what I think is my strongest calling, and focus my giving on the issues which are my passion, trusting that others will support equally worthy causes that don't stir me as deeply. Because giving $20 to 500 different good organizations per year really doesn't do as much as giving much more to much fewer.
3) I must rest in my conviction that treasure laid up in heaven will be the worth any sacrifice here.
The true life, the "real" life is the one that starts beyond the grave. Then, and only then, can I really fulfill my potential. Then, and only then, will I be done warring with a body that has a decrepit memory, issues with various types of depression, low energy level, the growing aches and pains of age, the annoyance of the female hormonal cycle, and so forth. Done warring with entropy, or loneliness, or pain. Or, for that matter, doubt, skewed perception, self-deception, and the monsters inside me. Here is an opportunity, by setting aside those dreams and not getting bitter about it, to truly live out my faith in regards to what lies ahead.
And there it is: the blessing I've gained by pondering unfulfilled dreams.