On Broken Dreams, Raging Rapids and the Calm

I’m terribly behind in my thoughts. It’s not that I’m not having them. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Every time I sit down to write one thing, I end up starting 10 thoughts, but nothing finished. It makes me feel a bit manic. Crazy. Insane. What I should say is that I’m terribly behind in completing my thoughts.

Two weeks ago, while running on what can only be described as a miraculous trail in Bend, Oregon, I came upon some rushing rapids. I stopped in my tracks. These weren’t Class 5 Rapids or anything of the sort. But they were rapids nonetheless. Aside from the obvious emotional symbolism that rapids might represent, for me they remind me of something far more tangible: The death of a friend.

It’s been more than 20 years since I got the call that Linda had died in a rafting accident. I was a counselor at camp, one of my favorite places on earth, when I hurried to the pay phone to take a call from my friend David. I was excited to hear from him. So I thought. He told me that Linda was rafting down the American River, when the other raft in her party capsized. While helping her friends who had fallen into the water, her own raft capsized. Her foot got caught between rocks underwater. I’ve been afraid of rafting ever since. And whenever I see rapids – whether they are raging or not – I think of Linda.

After that run, my family and I went out to a fantastic sushi dinner. I chatted up the server and learned that he went to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston as a percussionist. I perked up. Are you in a band now? Where do you gig? What kind of stuff do you play? I didn’t give him any chances to answer the questions, I just kept firing. K-Man, our server is a musician! K-Man loves music and professes to wanting to become a rock star (and Taekwondo Sensei). The server finally answered. I don’t play anymore. That dream died. The starving musician thing wasn’t for me. Like the rapids stopped my run, this comment stopped the conversation.

I’m really good with talking to people about their dreams and (I think) even helping make them happen. I’m not so good when I’m told that someone voluntarily has let his dream die. And, though I didn’t know this server from Adam, I felt badly for him. In retrospect, my reaction was incredibly judgmental. The dude was ridiculously good at his job. His new dream may be to someday open up his own restaurant. That may have been his true calling. I didn’t ask because I got so sidetracked. The question was there for the taking, What’s the new dream? I dropped the ball.

The next day, I ran the same path and thought of the server and found such strength in his resolve. He wanted something different for himself and wasn’t afraid to admit it. He spent a life going down one path and realized that it was the wrong path. All that time and investment in music. I also thought more about Linda. She was so full of life. She was one of those people who lit up a room with her very presence. Her death changed the world because her life would have.

I’ve been thinking about these two people – Linda and this server – for the last two weeks. What is the connection? I suppose there didn’t have to be one, but, somehow, I felt like there was. And until I found it – I wouldn’t be able to complete a thought. Or a blog post.

I found the connection while hanging out with my son. I realized that while I’ve fought the urge to be the kind of dad who pushes sports on my kid (though, yes, I love that he enjoys playing all kinds of different sports), I have this tendency to push him to BIG DREAM. I want him to know (at not-quite seven!) that he wants to be a rock star. And, I not only want him to know it, but to want it. Need it. I want him to beg to practice the piano. If it’s not the rock star thing, it’s to be a Black Belt. But, not only say he wants to be a Black Belt, but to beg to go to the Dojo and practice. You get the idea. I want him to have a dream. I’ve fantasized about him someday saying to some reporter somewhere, I just knew this was what I was going to do.

He’s only six and three quarters. I need to let him find and push his own dreams. I will be aware of them and support them, but I want them to be his. I need to get over the fact that whenever he changes course, I feel like I failed in some way. I get frustrated by it. Did I support him enough? I even did this with the server at the restaurant, which is ridiculous. I felt badly because he decided he didn’t want to drum anymore? It’s obvious that I’m projecting my own insecurities and feelings of a personal cowardice on my son and the server. It’s easier to talk the game than actually play it. And, I’m the king of supporting the dreams, but when it comes to taking the big risks, I’ve fallen short (by my own estimation).

I suspect that Linda would be pissed at me if she knew that I refused to go rafting because of her death. She lived. She would have wanted me to do the same. I dedicated this year to experiences. It’s high time I got into a raft and took on some rapids. There’s an obvious metaphor here, right? Make it through those rapids and what is on the other side? Calm waters. Serenity. And, I imagine, a sense of accomplishment.

Broken dreams can lead to new and improved dreams, which can bring peace and calm. Maybe we just have to be brave enough to make the changes and run the rapids.

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