You can’t change your feet

Posted by on August 13, 2012

When I was little, I loved to balance on the hump in the back of the car (before seat belt laws and child-seats), lean over the seat between my parents, and biff out songs at the top of my skinny voice, imagining myself on the radio someday.

Unfortunately, my pitch was as wobbly as a dug-out on the open sea. But I didn’t know that. So I kept singing.

I joined the choir in church. I even sang with a trio (shudder).  I can only imagine my parents, cringing and enduring the sympathetic, indulgent smiles sliding across the pews as blithely, I warbled on.

I was 12 when I realized my dreams of stardom would be an elusive thing and regretfully donned shin-high white plastic boots to become a go-go dancer for the neighbourhood garage band (cardboard gee-tars, box drums, sandpaper blocks and a cowbell). I’m not sure I did any better with the dance thing. Later I stumbled through a few dance lessons, before my clumsy feet mortified me into quitting.

A friend of mine is a professional ballet instructor and she tells me that there are many talented ballerinas; dancers who give themselves entirely to this disciplined life, but if they do not have the right feet and body type, they will never quite make it to the top.

You can’t change your feet, no matter how hard you try. (Believe me, if I could have, I would have.  My feet and I have not enjoyed a loving relationship. They were infamous in high school. Ask my friends.)

I see so many people in single-minded pursuit of a dream; and some of them always battling some obstacle or roadblock. Sometimes I watch other elements of their life dwindle away because of their commitment to This Dream. It causes me to think about the nature of the dreams we carry with us.

I’ve never been a really big dreamer, but have had many small dreams through my life…skills or talents or achievements or material things I longed for with all of my heart, but that no amount of wishing or learning or working or manipulating would bring to reality. Perhaps I gave up too easily, but often these pursuits were heartbreaking, discouraging, demoralizing, and I carried those failures forward with me.

I wonder if dreams are meant to be so heavy.

“The passionate pursuit of dreams sets your soul soaring; expectations that measure the dream’s success tie stones around your soul.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

I’m not saying that dreams are not worth fighting for — certainly the purpose of a dream is to pull us beyond our boundaries — but maybe it’s worth examining why This Dream is so damn important. I think sometimes you have to pick that old heavy rock of a Dream up, turn it over and look beneath to see what is really there. Is it money, recognition, status, power, ambition, security, envy?

Or is it someone else’s Dream?

Maybe it’s not even your own feet that want to dance. Or your voice that wants to sing.  Maybe you just want to be seen or heard. Maybe – just maybe – it’s the shape of the Dream that is all wrong.

I was sitting on the sofa one evening, watching one of those musical performances that brings an ache to every cell in your body. My old feelings of  singing-envy rose to the surface. “Why couldn’t I have a voice like that?’ I whispered as the soloist finished, tears brimming my eyes.

My husband turned to me and, in one of those inspired moments when he found exactly the right words, he said,  “You do,” he said, “but your voice is on the page.”

At times such as this, my love for him becomes too big for words.

I think that sometimes you just have to be brutally honest with yourself and admit…This Dream – as lovely as it is – is simply not what I was made for.

I think most of us have laboured for such a Dream and spent so much energy trying to achieve it, swimming against the current that is our own internal rhythm and rhyme, determined to succeed, when hidden beneath that Dream is a need no achievement or acquisition or success can ever fill.

And that in this Dream’s dismantling — in its shadow — we may find the path to an incredible destiny that has lain dormant and wasted. A destiny that we are perfectly suited for,  with all our inherent and learned talents and abilities, just waiting to be realized and recognized.

I cannot change my feet – or my voice – but I can choose how I use them to dream.


“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living,
part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”

~ Eph 1:11-12 The Message

18 Valued Thoughts on You can’t change your feet

  1. mary aalgaard

    Lovely words today. Live into YOUR dream, not someone else’s. And, maybe your singing voice is beautiful in its own right. Find your range, find your song, and sing to your heart’s content.

  2. Rhonda Bulmer

    Well, I always thought it would be pretty cool to be a drummer, but I can’t pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time. 🙂

    Do you know that Julie Andrews’ daughter said the same thing to her mom as your husband said to you? Andrews had enjoyed a legendary 40-year singing career before throat surgery a few years ago turned her into a scratchy alto. She turned to writing storybooks with her daughter instead. When she complained one day about not being able to use her voice anymore, her daughter said, “you still are, Mom. You’re just using it in a different way.”

    • Deborah Carr

      Rhonda, I didn’t know that (both about your dream of drumming and Julie Andrews). You amaze me with the knowledge you hold in your head, even if you can’t pat your tummy while accessing it.

  3. carol steel

    Sometimes even though the dream calls us again and again, it can take nearly a lifetime to hear it or to recognize its voice within us. A beautifully written piece, Deborah.

  4. Tabor

    How important to accept the failure of a dream and to see whether that is our truth. I guess the lucky ones dream so much they are bound to have one or two dreams not come true.

    • Deborah Carr

      Tabor…Unfortunately, I think most of my dreams have always been those quick, superficial ones grasped in passing – quite often adopted from someone else. It’s so easy to pick up another’s dream and make it your own (Tuscany is one of these!). But I am now learning to look for the deep, abiding ones, fully explored, examined and named.

  5. Gwen Buchanan

    Hi Deborah, Oh feet.. Mine have always been too big!

    and yes creative energies can be displayed and pursued in many directions. sometimes they are very hard to turn away from even though it will take the precious TIME away from other valued activities… but I think all in all they reflect and bloom in our other creative fields and make them richer… we see more and deeper with this varied experience.. and the world looks like an oyster, just waiting to be revealed.
    Everything leads somewhere. Cheers my dear.

  6. leslie

    Good words, and true. God means to help us fulfill our true selves, our true purposes. He is the dream-weaver. (And I loved the part about the shin high go-go boots.) 🙂

    p.s. Thanks for checking in on me and mine… and for your prayers.

  7. Diane photographs ...

    That is a really well woven thought process on the topic of dreams. And you got it so right too. I didn’t swim against the current for very long — reality was simply too powerful for me to expend the energy in the wrong place. But that darn dream of mine showed up in the open sea one day, right out of the blue. And I managed to throw out the rescue rope to reel it in. But not always does the original dream come to fruition. Your dear husband certainly is wise and loving — I have to agree with him, your voice truly is on the page. And does that page ever sing.

    • Deborah Carr

      Diane, I think we keep swimming against the current out of habit when we are too distracted to give it much thought. Perhaps each dream really needs to be talked to, asked questions. I trust that your reflective, open nature allowed that dream to float to the surface, just at the precisely right time.

  8. Emily B

    Such an interesting post, Deborah. I think about this, too. Both my husband and I grew up in a generation that was told constantly to follow our dreams, and yes, I do believe this was a good message at its heart, but I’ve also seen people get incredibly discouraged when those dreams don’t come into fruition, and even some who neglect family in order to continue their dream’s pursuance. A fine line one treads in this area, huh? In any case, I don’t know your singing voice, but your husband’s sweet words ring true in this post. We all have something special to give the world; sometimes it just takes a broader perspective to find it.

  9. ernestine

    This post brought back memories.
    In high school I loved modern dance and was the lead in a special program.
    I have always loved to sing.
    But I really never thought this was where life was taking me.
    Married young and thought this marriage and 4 children would always be my life.
    Big change 22 years later.
    Marriage over and 2 children in college, one in high school and my 1st grader.
    When the last child left home
    I began a life of creating homes and gardens
    and with the addition of a computer 5 years ago
    I write a journal and use a camera.
    My last 20 years of joy
    I never would have imagined at the age of 20.

    • Deborah Carr

      Ernestine, back in school, you were sharing your talents with the audience in the chairs front of you…now you share with much larger audience, scattered near and far.

  10. Victoria Cummings

    This is a very thought provoking post, Deborah. I have spent a couple of days contemplating what you said. And then, I wrote a post about it on my blog. You’ve started a very interesting conversation. I was reminded of a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

  11. Lorie

    Such beautiful thoughts…I so enjoyed reading this post. I’m a first-time visitor, having stumbled here after reading Victoria’s post. Oh, I’ve felt the demise of so many dreams in my life, and still at 52, don’t know my purpose I too, dreamed of being a singer, I dreamed of being a beautiful and willowy, graceful dancer, but my body isn’t inclined to grace…and then, a horse trainer, where I’d communicate and achieve wonderful accomplishments seemingly by magic with horses. But, that too has not come to fruition. I’ve dreamed of being a mother, but no children have come. But I still dream…just smaller, more private dreams today. Who knows where my talent lies, I hope someday God will reveal His will for my life, or at least allow me to pause long enough, or listen long enough to allow me to see it. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone, and I still have much to be thankful for.

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