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Life as a House

It is hard to give up dreams held so long. It is hard being “stuck.”

Building my own house has been a lifelong dream for me. It goes back longer than any of my other dreams. It began when I was about 8, probably when I first learned that my grandfather had designed his house (see “A glimpse into the life of Abraham Harder“). I have drawn many house plans over the years. As I matured and became interested in energy efficiency and seismic safety the designs became more mature. I almost got one design built ­– for my parents ­– but they ended up building a customized “kit” house. It has now been years since my last drawings.

It is hard to continue designing my dreams when it looks like they are unlikely to come to fruition. It is hard to give up dreams held so long. It is hard being “stuck.”

My wife spends a lot of time with Beca Lewis (see, One of Beca’s tenets is that it is the qualities of dreams that are most important. You may not achieve the actual dream, but if you pursue the qualities in it that are important to you, you may find yourself satisfied with different dreams, new dreams – a “shift” in perspective. So, on a recent long drive to Utah to visit my daughter’s family, my wife suggested I make a list of qualities that building my house represents for me, and putting that list in the order of importance. It is difficult for me to get to the deep feelings, but eventually we had an ordered list of ten qualities (for me) of building a house: Creativity, accomplishment, adventure, beauty, personal, exciting, intellectually stimulating, satisfaction, application of knowledge, hands-on.

After I finished the list, I realized that these are all also “life qualities” for me. These are qualities that could be on my list for my “dream job” or my desire to make a difference in our world. And, I immediately remembered back to the movie I saw many years ago “Life as a House.” The movie was about many things, but what stands out for me now, is one man’s desire to accomplish a dream, even though he is not going to be able to enjoy the fruit of that dream. In the end, he left it to his son to finish the house and give it away to a stranger. (If that piques your interest, rent the movie; it is available on Amazon and Netflix.)

Will I leave my dreams for someone else to finish? Or will they even care? Sometimes, when I speak of my dreams and frustrations, my son says he will carry them on. I remind him that these are my dreams, and don’t need to be his. I write and speak of things that matter. What other dreams can matter to me enough to supplant this dream? I get satisfaction and see beauty traveling to new or old places. I get intellectual stimulation and apply knowledge researching and writing the articles you may see on this website. But, creativity and accomplishment are at the top of the list. And for me, accomplishment means finishing something that is important – that matters to me. There are so many things that for various reasons have gone unfinished in my life. They don’t all matter that much, but the need for accomplishment is there – and it matters to me.

Looking back now, I realize that “peace,” “hope” and “joy” are not on that list, although I would put them on a list of “life qualities.”

Peace is a difficult quality for me. As a person who needs to be active, to achieve, to accomplish, in order to be satisfied, it is hard to be at peace with myself. Before my life is over, I hope that I can achieve the peace that comes with satisfaction that what I accomplished was sufficient.

Picture of house model from:×760.png