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.

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Dreams and Dreams Lost in La-La Land.

Los Angeles has been the city of stars, city of dreams, for over 150 years.

This past Spring, I saw the movie La La Land, and began this post. Nearly 3 months have elapsed – life gets in the way, as it does in the movie. The movie hearkens back to the days of the great musicals. (By now, most people who want to see this movie have already done so. Regardless, I will try to avoid any spoilers.)

Those of a certain age remember those days. Those outside of Los Angeles may not realize that la-la land has a dual meaning (Merriam-Webster):

1. The mental state of someone who is not aware of what is really happening.
2. A nickname for Los Angeles, California.

Ah, Los Angeles, my hometown, the city that is as well known by its initials as its official name – shortened from its original name from its founding in 1781: “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula” (in English, “The town of our lady the Queen of the Angels of the River Porciúncula”).

La-La Land’s dual (and now triple, without the dash) meaning could not be more apt. Los Angeles has been the City of Stars, city of dreams – often broken dreams – for over well over 150 years. Even before the film industry began here, there was oil wealth to be had and before that gold. Gold was found in 1842 in Placerita Canyon, just north of Los Angeles (Placerita means “little placer” after placer gold deposits found in the canyon) years before the discovery at Sutter’s Mill precipitated the California Gold Rush. People came, people still come to search for fulfillment of their dreams.

The main characters in the movie La La Land are Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone). Mia dreams of becoming a movie star. Sebastian dreams of owning a jazz club. Near the end of the movie is a fantasy/dream scene. Whose dream was it? At first it seemed it was Mia’s dream. By the end of the fantasy sequence, it seemed it was Sebastian’s dream. As I left the theater, I realized it was really the audience’s dream – all those romantic dreamers who want happily ever after, with all dreams realized for all persons involved. At that point in the story, there was no way for everyone to have all their dreams, past and present, realized. Yes, we are all dreamers. Life is not fair, it is real, and as I tell my kids you can’t always get what you want.

Featured Image: Poster from City of Stars

City of Stars, by Justin Hurwitz, sung by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, sung by The Rolling Stones