By Anne Gagliano
I know it’s hard to believe, but that redhead who’s painted to resemble Paul Stanley of Kiss is, in fact, my husband, Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department. This picture was taken more than 20 years ago at a college “air band” contest in which Mike and some buddies participated. He rocked the heck out of that tennis racket! I know, because I was there; I took the picture. It was the ‘80s, what can I say? We thought we were cool.
Mike was and is the quintessential dreamer. As a young man, he wanted to be a rock star:
“But you were young and bold baby
Didn’t that change with a blink of your eye?
…And then they voted you least likely to succeed
I hadda tell them, baby, you
Were armed with all you’d need.
Ooh, you are the little dreamer.
Ooh, you were the little dreamer.
– Van Halen
What is a dream, exactly? It is a fond hope, a wish, a fanciful plan, a fantasy. Dreams can inspire us to greatness and give us hope for tomorrow. But dreams can also, on occasion, delude us. In looking what to purge this year to make our lives better and our families stronger and healthier, I suggest we ask ourselves this question: When do we let go of a dream? I’ve come up with four possible answers.
It is time to give up a dream when it has become unrealistic. Mike’s rock-n-roll dreams were not to be, for he simply did not have the talent. Yes, he had gumption, stage presence, and a love of music, but you actually have to be able to sing or play an instrument to be a musician.
Did you dream of marrying your high school crush? Are you, as I am, thankful to God that that dream did not come true? The reality for me was this: My crush, or love, as I thought he was, did not reciprocate my feelings. I was to him but a fleeting fancy. If this young “dream” would have come true, today it would be a nightmare, for I know how this guy turned out! And God, in His wisdom, led me to my soul mate and true love, Mike, whom I did not meet until later in life.
Often the dreams of youth are misleading, for we lack the wisdom to discern what’s right for us. Perhaps you’re hanging onto a youthful dream that you should have abandoned years ago. Time to grow up! Assess the bottom line: If the pieces don’t fit, then let it go.
It is time to give up a dream if it is causing you to be selfish. Perhaps you’re pouring an undue amount of time and resources into something that is forcing others in your life to have to sacrifice too much. A selfish dreamer can become so consumed as to neglect his responsibilities to his spouse and children. No dream should be pursued at all costs, for that cost could be your family. Selfishness never works for long in a marriage. Ask yourself if your desires are trumping everyone else’s; if the answer is yes, it may be time to let that dream go.
It is time to give up a dream if it’s causing you to be dissatisfied with or ungrateful for what you already have. This concept is especially true with your dreams for your children. We all want our children to succeed and to find their way in life. But sometimes our dreams for our kids are not their dreams for themselves. They may pursue interests or careers that we don’t approve of or agree with. Their talents may not lie within the realms we wish them to. If we parents cling too tightly to our own expectations, our children may then sense our disappointment in them, which can be quite hurtful.
In pursuing the “ideal” for ourselves or our spouse or our kids, we can lose sight of the here and now and miss out on so much. Enjoy your family just as they are; don’t always be looking for achievement or perfection. Family is supposed to provide shelter from the pressures of the world, and home is to be a place where you are loved no matter what. John Lennon once said in his song Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In other words, our prideful plans and dreams for tomorrow can rob us of the joys of real life today.
It is time to give up a dream if it’s causing you to be bitter. This concept is powerfully portrayed in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, a downtrodden small-town man with dreams of seeing the world. George took on a career he did not want out of loyalty to a beloved father. He married his sweetheart and together they had four precious children. Because of his kind and generous nature, he never got rich. His job, his family, and his lack of financing kept him from ever leaving his small town. The culmination of these factors threatened to destroy him. Out of bitterness and despair, George declares a wish to have never been born. An angel then materializes and miraculously shows George how truly blessed he really is and has been all along. As Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz, George suddenly realizes, “There’s no place like home!”
Love, loyalty, family, and generosity make men like George Bailey “the richest men in town.” Are you, like George was, beginning to view your family and higher principles as obstacles blocking your path to success? If so, it’s time to pick another goal, one that includes your values and your loved ones. The sweetest dream of all is to have a loving family; don’t ever lose sight of that fact.