Life has turned out to be so much more disappointing than I had hoped and dreamed and planned it would be.
Being awake is worse than being asleep.
We’d taken risks. We’d pursued a dream -- and we had lived that dream.
Then it all came crashing down.
My theme song for this life stage is Coldplay’s Viva la Vida:
I used to rule the world... I used to roll the dice, feel the fear in my enemy's eyes. Listen as the crowd would sing... now the old king is dead, long live the king One minute I held the key, next the walls were closed on me And I discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of sand.
In 2007 we made a dream come true. Through reading and dreaming big, planning and persistence, we’d moved to Costa Rica with our four children under the age of four.
We were ‘living the dream’ as we called it, renting a large, beautiful home in a tropical foreign country, visiting beaches and waterfalls, having grand adventures, and 'living it up'.
Then in 2008, it came crashing down around us.
We lost our investments in the stock market. We lost our real estate. We lost our income. Seeing that our only option was to return to the States for a job, we sold whatever we had of value (like my husband's $2000 mountain bike) to buy plane tickets for our family of seven.
Moving in with my mother-in-law, a stranger took pity and gave us the deposit money to get into our own three-bedroom apartment.
Going from living in a 6500 sq. foot mansion in Costa Rica to living on the second floor of an apartment building was devastating for me... but the kids called our new home the ‘castle’. The mansion was just ‘the big house’.
My husband, Greg, got a job as a server in a restaurant. We were broke. Dead broke. And on top of our own personal degradation, we had to deal with humiliating encounters with those who ‘told us so’.
“Welcome back to reality,” they'd say.
"Life sucks, and then you die", is what they told me. Plus, that’s how most people live. Why did we think we were any different?
Maybe they were right. Maybe we were crazy to have big dreams and to try and break out of the ‘mold’ cast by society.
It went on this way for months, a depressing feeling that achieving dreams was an impossible task and that we were crazy to try.
The only problem was that the dreams didn’t go away.
We still really wanted to travel full-time with our children. We really wanted to live abroad. But how? I didn’t see any way it could happen.
And so my despondency continued, and I questioned whether success was reserved for the elite, lucky few.
Why did some people seem to achieve everything they wanted, while others would persist year after year facing obstacle after obstacle, struggling and surviving, barely getting by but never thriving?
And was that destined to be our fate, too? A fate we just had to accept?
If life was meant to be so dreary, then why did I have such big, ambitious dreams? Were they there just to torment me?
The months dragged on and I wondered if I should just accept what IS, be grateful for my 'lot', 'bloom where I'm planted' -- because there was no real way to turn dreams into reality.
We had tried, really tried... and all we had to show for it is being broke and broken.
Then, finally, I started reading again. I hadn’t read a good book for months. Now I picked up Success Principles by Jack Canfield.
Reading through the pages suddenly someone turned on the lights, and there, previously concealed by the darkness of my despair, were the answers to the questions I’d been asking myself.
Success was not reserved for the elite few but was available to all who applied its principles. There are specific actions and steps to follow. There is a course laid out that's as sure and simple (and often as challenging) as a math problem.
But it IS a certainty.
Our dreams weren’t given to torment us but as a compass showing us the way to follow.
Yes, failure would come, as it had to us. But success would follow if we used our failure as fertilizer and ‘kept moving forward.’
Hope filled my soul once more. Determination flowed through my veins. We can achieve our dreams, and we will. Of that I was certain.
But of course, the challenges didn't end there. It was just the beginning. We continued pursuing our dreams, and with each success came more failure.
Yet every time that discouragement, disappointment, or depression would almost make us give up, go home and accept a mediocre, normal life, there was a book that would show up in our life.
We would read it, and almost magically, it would contain the guidance, direction, and inspiration that we needed to ‘keep moving forward’.
It was books that started us out on the path of dreams. It was books that led us to pursue ‘something different’. It was books that brought on success. It was books that led us through the darkness of failure.
Living the Dream in Italy, 2016
Books have molded our thinking process, altered our characters, and shaped our life into what it is today. Books have been our closest friends when no one else believed in us or the ‘beauty of our dreams’. They’ve always cheered us on, given us just the right advice, and provided inspiration and encouragement to keep dreaming.
I wish I could go back and share with you every book we’ve read and how it impacted our lives, but as Emerson said,
I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
We can’t go back, but we can go forward. Reading great books is something we continue to do, and because they have such a positive impact on our life, we want to share their messages with you, hoping that you too will be inspired to read and be changed, by them.