There was nothing especially noteworthy about the dream. I was married and we had a couple of children. I’ve had variations of this dream for years. It always takes place at a home which I don’t actually know, although the house differs at times.
For almost seven years, it was always the same woman when I had such dreams, at least in the ones in which I recognized someone. At other times, I couldn’t say who she had been. But it was always either this particular woman or a generic unknown woman. Until last weekend.
For the first time in a long time, the wife in my dream was a woman I used to know pretty well. Marie was a tall and beautiful Czech woman who lives in Prague. She was still in grad school when I first met her online years ago. She was smart and we had similar values.
I still remember the first time she called me on the phone as she rode a train home from her university. I was attracted to her and she was attracted to me.
But we never pursued a relationship. She didn’t want to leave Europe and I didn’t want to leave the U.S. We sometimes joked about living in the middle of the Atlantic, but each of us was unwilling to consider a change.
Even when she came to New York City for a vacation one time, I decided not to meet her — because I was scared of falling for someone who was going to be impractical for me.
I don’t know what made me dream about Marie last week. She hadn’t been on my mind. We haven’t even exchanged emails for four or five years. I don’t harbor any residual romantic interest, but she still popped up in this dream anyway.
The dream left me wondering whether both of us had been pretty pigheaded years ago.
Almost seven years ago, I fell in love with another woman, the one about whom I used to dream a lot. Over the preceding decade, I had been engaged to be married a couple of times, but I had backed out of each. There had been at least a couple of others who were interesting but didn’t work out for one reason or another. So I made myself a promise when I fell in love that time.
I promised myself that if this woman and I didn’t end up together, it wouldn’t be because of me. I would be willing to agree to anything that was necessary. I think I had gotten mature enough to understand that having the right partner was more important than any of the things which I had allowed to stand in the way of previous relationships.
I realized quickly that if I married this woman, I would have to move to where she lived. It’s a very cold place with a climate I detest. But she asked me to move there — and I agreed. I wasn’t going to say “no” to anything — because I believed at the time that she was worth pretty much any sacrifice.
Things didn’t work out, but it wasn’t because I let something such as location get in the way. It was devastating to lose her, but I did all that was possible — so I don’t have to regret any of my decisions.
In light of that attitude which I took regarding that woman, I started wondering last week what might have happened if I had taken the same attitude when I met Marie. I was then unwilling to consider moving to Prague. Today, it seems as though such a move would be a small price to pay — if I found the right woman there.
In a lot of ways, I’m just as attached to my comfort zone as anybody else is. Although I grew up moving all over the South — since my father was transferred a lot — I’ve been in Birmingham for most of my adult life.
When I drive through downtown, I see the hospital where I was born. I sometimes notice the building where my father worked for the first few years of my life. I can visit the first house where I ever lived. I work not far from the second house in which I lived — where a little boy across the street taught me to tie my shoes.
I know the hills and mountains. I know the streets and highways. I know the local shops and brands that are available nowhere else. I know this place — and I’m comfortable here.
But I understand my priorities today. I also know what I see as the dangerous direction of this country. I expect social and economic collapse at some point. And I know that most places here aren’t going to be safe when that happens.
Mostly, I know that I can be happy living anywhere if I can have love from the right woman and an opportunity to have the family I’ve needed.
Prague would have been fine. Somewhere in Canada would have been fine. Ecuador would be fine, too. Estonia would be just as good. As would Portugal or the Bahamas or a dozen other places. I understand now that my location isn’t nearly as important as whoever I’m with. I haven’t always been mature enough to know that.
I read a book a long time ago that argued that the secret to getting anything you wanted was to have an absolute willingness to do whatever was required to get it. This writer argued that whatever you were not willing to do — move somewhere else, wait for something to happen, accept a loss of a lesser important thing, etc. — would almost inevitably come up as a requirement.
If you were not willing to do a thing, that would be the thing which fate would inevitably demand, whereas that thing probably wouldn’t ever come up if you were willing to say “yes” to everything demanded of you to win what you wanted.
The argument is overly simplistic, of course. Not everything is going to be possible. I’m never going to be an NBA basketball player or a NASA astronaut or a thousand other things, no matter what I might be willing to do.
But the general principle seems useful. If you know what your priorities are — and if you make the right family relationship your goal — you can typically have what you want as long as you are willing to do anything that might be required.
And if you’re willing to let other factors veto the love you seek, those other factors are going to get into the way every time. You’re going to lose the love that you know you need.
Maybe I lost the real love of my life when I wasn’t willing to move to Prague. Maybe I lost love when I’ve allowed other issues to get into the way. I really don’t know.
The only thing about which I’m certain now is that I know what my priorities are — and I know it’s smart to follow my heart, whether it leads me to Prague or Detroit or Belgrade or any of the other places where I’ve always assumed I didn’t want to live.