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Living the Nightmare


It’s gotten to be a catchy response to the mundane question of “How are you?”: “Living the dream!” Generally, it is offered sincerely but sometimes the words are laced with sarcasm. A regular pizza delivery guy in my former town would always toss the phrase at me with a bit of a sneer on his face while forking over my pie. One could imagine his internal follow-up of, “Yeah, right!”

In reality, we all go through living the nightmare to some degree in addition to living the dream. We’re unexpectedly laid off from a job. We drive down a one-way street the wrong way. We can’t swerve quickly enough to avoid hitting the deer. We discover our spouse’s infidelity. We slip and break a hip. A trusted friend turns on us. Despite our wise guidance and parental protection, a child implodes under the power of addiction. An unanticipated health issue results in a mountain of medical bills. We show up at the wrong location for a distant cousin’s funeral. The plain truth is that we’re living the nightmare. Wide awake.

Imagine that you’re in a conversation and you think you understand what others are talking about but days or weeks later you realize you didn’t have a clue. What’s worse, you wake up to the fact that, because you didn’t track accurately in the conversation, you missed the boat on a wonderful opportunity that all the others in the conversation are currently enjoying. And there’s no way to back track and catch the boat. That ship has sailed. Living the nightmare. Wider awake.

We often say that the school of hard knocks provides the best education. It’s just that we’d prefer a kinder, gentler means of learning. We really would rather be living in a dreamy state of bliss than a riding a bumpy road of hit-or-miss. A wise lesson to be gained goes like this:

A seeker after the truth asked a saint, “How did you become holy?” The response: “Two words. Right choices.” The seeker was curious: “How does one learn to choose rightly?” The response: “One word. Growth.” Now the seeker was excited: “How does one grow?” The response: “Two words. Wrong choices.”

So, it may well be that we only appreciate falling into a dreamy state of bliss once we’ve navigated the bumpy road of hit-or-miss. And it may well be that living through the nightmares teaches us valuable lessons we would not have otherwise learned. So, as we grow, perhaps we will not wince so much at the bumps in the road. It could be said that, whether living the dream or the nightmare, the secret to living is to keep breathing. Ready now? In. Out. In. Out…

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