The Jar: Learning to be with myself in all decisions, hopes, and dreams

The other morning I was engaging in my get ready routine, which consists mostly of wondering how many things I can do at the same time before the last second possible I can leave for work. I’m sure this process will complicate someday when I have kids but even as is, it usually looks like me brushing my teeth while packing my lunch, while starting a load of laundry, while feeding the cats, while talking to the dog. So somewhere in this process, I went to make my bed and backed up into my nightstand resulting in a large crash sounding like multiple pieces of glass falling to the floor.

Before turning around, nervous at the expense of what had broke, I contemplated what was behind on that stand, listing off items in my head: perfume bottles, odds and ends of jewelry, a watch – I thought. My brain didn’t even recollect what had actually shattered because it had been that pushed back in my mind. That forgotten. That was until I turned to see what had crumbled.

A white jar, with a big blue heart and black printed words. The front had said “Prayers” and around it, there were other words like “peace” “harmony” “love” “joy” “dreams” and more. Last I had remembered it was empty, or maybe it was holding the lone pieces of jewelry that had missing parts.

I tried to remember the most recent time I had actually used it for its purpose. Tried to remember what the last note was that I had actually scribbled and plopped inside of it. On my 12th birthday, my Mom gave the jar to me. I can remember the gift pretty specifically because it came with one of those memorable and serious talks. My dad is a conservative Catholic, at least in his head, but I can’t tell you the last time he went to church – and my mom, well she’s more spiritual and also not a churchgoer. As a kid they encouraged me to talk to God consistently – but mostly I think they were actually trying to teach me self-reflection and morality.

So my mom presented me this jar right before I entered my teens most likely because she knew It would be important, or maybe she had witnessed some already interesting behaviors. She told me to put my prayers in it and to think about what I wanted for my future. She also urged me to think about how to make those dreams happen for myself, and to promise to look back on those things in the jar as time passed so I could see how things had changed, or be thankful for the hopes that had come true.

Ever since, the jar has always held a lot of importance to me – pretty evident given that 14 years later I stood barefoot on a pine floor, toothbrush still in mouth, undoubtedly awestruck. Now, in all honesty, I still can’t remember the last time I actually put a wish in that jar, but in that very moment I couldn’t help but feel as though this was the end of an era; a transition into a different phase of life. And no, I’m not about to tell you that this was the fanciest gift or the only gift I ever received from my mother because I had the luxury and privilege of never going without in life. My mother has bought me crazy gifts and expensive gifts and trips and at the risk of sounding spoiled this jar was probably 10 bucks from a random shop somewhere but that’s kind of what made it so important.

My mom had actually gifted the hopes of her dreams for me through this jar so that I could plan my own dreams for myself. I remember once scrawling down a boys name in junior high – I definitely remember putting in the title of my first book – and I know for sure I tossed all of the college names I was debating at age 18. I put some sad moments inside when I didn’t understand people’s meanness or actions. I also put the names of a sick friend and my childhood dog when he fell ill. The crazy part is, as hard as my memory can try, I don’t remember ever throwing them away because in my head I don’t think I really did.

Last post I mentioned that I was at the beginning stages of listening to Bob Goss’ “Everybody Always” and one of the things that I have really latched onto is his idea of being WITH people. Goss says that if Jesus could put one thing out there to describe himself to humans of today, it wouldn’t be a fancy statement or a huge passage from the Bible it would actually just be the word “with”. The concept of always being ‘with’ us. But this idea of being “with” goes deeper and it has a more central intent as well to all people, not just Christians.

I think my mom gave me this jar so that she could show I was never alone. But it wasn’t to prove or insinuate that there is a God who is a wish granter, it was to show that me, myself, and I, was the only one that had to live with my wishes, my actions, and my plans. I had to be “with” myself always, and know that I was the one living with these decisions and no one else. Write the wish, the prayer, the hope, the dream, and drop it in to let it sit and think on it.  After time had passed, check the jar to laugh or cry over what I had once wanted and learn from it, reflect on it, live by it.

It’s important to have faith and friends and family and feel unalone, but at the end of the day, we all essentially are just that. We write our hopes and dreams down and either toss them in the jar or tear them up and allow others to dictate these pieces of us. We either fight to make them happen or let them fade away and lose the battle to ourselves.

I hadn’t forgotten many of the things that I had placed in the prayer jar and well let’s be honest they’ve all turned out different than I’d hoped. But if I started a course and set out after a dream, later with hindsight and reflection I would know what got me there and what was meant to pass me.

It is easy to realize that even though the jar is broken I’m happy that I’ve learned this process well, as I sit and reflect once more. I’ve chased dreams, re-realized dreams, and understood why I’ve been forced to wave goodbye to dreams from a sidewalk or driveway. It’s funny that maybe it took the jar breaking for me to remember and to realize how important it is to never stop the practice of scribbling down prayers and thinking on them, but also to share that idea with everyone else.

Next time you’re stuck on what’s next, next time you’re hoping so hard for something, next time you’re wishing life was different, write it down. Maybe you don’t have a jar, or a cup, or a box, but stick it on your mirror, put it on your nightstand, or even in your favorite book and allow yourself to go back to it to visit whenever you’d like. Visit your dreams any time you’d like, and as they get closer or farther away, don’t forget to consider why, and then repeat the process.

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