I'm "living my dream."
Whenever I see Kelly Nolan, the waitress, bartender, order-taker, concierge, mother, wife and friend, food runner and busboy at the Foggy Notions tavern and bar in my town, I ask her how she is, and she almost always says "living my dream," with a big smile. She has one of the most wonderful smiles, it comes from the radiant spirit inside of her.
I try to photograph that smile every week, it has become important to me. I feel like Andrew Wyeth drawn to paint his neighbor "Christina" for so many years. I've read that artists and photographers do that, they return again and again to favorite subjects.
I was thinking about the phrase "living my dream," it is often used by hard-working people who work hard as a tongue-in-cheek reference to work, which at times can be anything but a dream. Kelly probably means it ironically – there is nothing too visibly glamorous about her hard work – yet I think there is also truth to it.
She has friends, family, comfort, work, community and peace of mind, great riches, so many people all over the world can only dream of them.
I take the phrase seriously, in part because I am living the dream. I think the goal of my journey is to discover mysself as consciousness, not just a powerless physical being. I think that is why I am drawn to Kelly, she personifies the idea of consciousness, she is gracious, accepting and comfortable with herself. She has many good and loving friends. The spirit lives within her.
James Joyce wrote in Ulysses that "if you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, not a door." The challenges and difficulties and suffering of life that we all encounter – every one of us – can be looked at as offering the possibility of transformation, they can all be seen as opening gates rather than closing doors.
We will all suffer in life, and we will all die. Disappointments often come as a shock to people like me, but I have learned they are as inevitable as breathing and that they are also opportunities, every one of them. Every awful thing that has ever happened to me has led to a good thing, waiting just inside the closet.
"There is always danger at the threshold," wrote one mystic. "Leave the temporal body and let the spirit enter."
Ten years ago, I was living a lie. Today, I am living a dream.
There are still many dangers at the threshold, but I see them as gates that open, not as doors that close. In November, our world changed, and I chose to see this as the opportunity of a lifetime, not the end of the world. I still see it that way, more than ever.
I am living my dream. I have found love, community, creativity, purpose, friendship. I am understanding the ancient call to righteous deeds of good. My photographs can sometimes be my art. I love my work more and more, and I get to do it every day. I am living in nature and surrounded by animals, magical helpers every one, guiding me on my journey.
For all of my life, I dreamed of finding these things and now I am living them.
The great analyst Carl Jung wrote that there are four psychological functions that link us to the outer world: sensation, thinking, feeling and intuition. Sensation, he wrote, is the function that tells us that something exists; thinking, the function that tells us what it is; feeling, the function that evaluates its worth to us; and intuition, the function that enables us to to estimate the possibilities of any object or situation.
These functions help me to look both outward and inward, they tell me that I am alive and pursuing my dream, the great challenge of knowing who I am.
When someone asks me how I am from now on, I hope I remember to smile like Kelly does and say "I'm living the dream."