I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. When I was a little girl, I played outside every day until dinnertime. I’d find different places to explore and hide — in my backyard under the canopy of a small tree, on the hill behind my house, or in the old barn with my collie, horses, and cows.
Sometimes, I would take my dolls and “play house” mostly, imagining what it would be like to have my own home, cook, and be a mommy to my baby one day. As for how I would achieve those dreams, my child and adolescent brain weren’t quite sure. But it was definitely fun to think about the possibilities.
When my mother left my father, brother, and me when I was 14, it became harder to dream, to envision how my life would be one day. I had no idea what stability looked like anymore, and the frequency with which I made changes in my life reflected that. I quit cheerleading, I began hanging out with all the other lost and hurt kids, and I developed an eating disorder.
After high school, I changed colleges four times and my major even more than that before deciding to commit to becoming a registered dietitian. I was finally on a forward-moving path, despite all of the setbacks I had encountered.
But as I heard Joel Osteen repeat time and time again, God doesn’t set us back by allowing us to fail. No, the hardships we face are actually setups for what will come next in our lives, including realizing the dreams we once had and maybe forgot about with all of the noise and distractions whirling around us in the chaos. Once I changed my major to nutrition, I knew I was on a path toward success.
At 24, I graduated from Loma Linda University and got a great job right out of the gate. I began earning a high enough salary to take care of myself, which included renting a beautiful apartment in a hi-rise in Redondo Beach.
While shopping for furniture for my new home, I came across a small poster with a quote from Harold Gray, the cartoonist who created “Little Orphan Annie,” which read, “The world is for those who make their dreams come true.” I purchased it, framed it, and hung it in my bathroom, where I could see it every morning as I got ready for work. It became my mantra.
The quote made me think more deeply about what, who, and where I wanted to be — a person who was independent, successful with high morals, and had integrity. To that end, I relocated to my favorite town San Diego, where I felt I would have even more opportunities, both professionally and personally.
Once I moved, I began to date. Because I was in a positive place in my life, feeling confident and successful, I attracted men who were also successful and exuded confidence. My childhood dream to have a family was once again at the forefront of my mind. I allowed this dream’s new, prominent position because I had already fulfilled my other dreams — a career I loved, financial independence, good mental and physical health, and a great place to live. I was finally ready for a husband and child.
In a cute pink suit, I arrived on St. Patrick’s Day to a blind date with a 34-year old good-looking, funny, smart, and successful businessman who was well-dressed in a designer blazer and crisp button-down shirt. I was 29, and only five years older than me, this attractive man named Jim, who I was attracted to just as he was to me, checked every box I had in my search. We married two-and-a-half years later and soon after had a son. My dream for a family had been fulfilled.
After seven years, the marriage I dreamt of was no longer my dream. Tarnished by my husband’s workaholic tendencies and verbal abuse of me, I knew I needed to leave my marriage, which I did. I suffered through an intense divorce and custody battle to pursue a new, different dream, one of a peaceful relationship with another man I hoped to one day meet.
I did eventually meet that man, and we married as well. Tom fit my new dream. He was nice and kind, and his faith was important to him. But as I discovered, he was an alcoholic. Seven years after leaving my first husband almost to the day, I found myself embroiled in another messy divorce to pursue yet another dream. This time, it wasn’t the single dream of a new husband that I wanted to pursue. Instead, it was a series of other dreams I had for myself apart from a romantic relationship.
During the seven years that followed, I followed my dreams to deepen and strengthen the relationship I had with my son and start a business helping women like me who had experienced trauma, including that from a divorce. I realized much of what I envisioned. I also dreamt of recording an album of the music I wrote and developing a two-and-a-half-acre property I purchased to host events and retreats related to my business. I had begun to lay those plans, too.
So when I met Steve at the end of that seven-year period, I wasn’t looking for a relationship at all. It’s also what made the relationship that ensued so unique. As it turned out, Steve had an unbelievable talent — he could tap into the dreams I had and turn them into a reality. Together we wrote, performed, and recorded music and developed the land I bought, complete with physical structures, beautiful plantings, and a wooden stage where we, along with our guests, could dance under the stars.
But, as I learned during our relationship, Steve was an addict, admittedly so. As much as I tried to help him, in the end, I couldn’t. He had to want it for himself, and he didn’t. Not yet. Seven years after it began, I told him our relationship was no longer aligned with my dream and ended it. That was a few weeks ago. As I began to distance myself from him, I said to myself, “Here I am again, about to suffer through another breakup,” because that was what I expected.
This time, however, I realized it was different and began to see a pattern. When my first husband and I divorced, the experience rocked me to my core. It took its toll on me emotionally, physically, and mentally. My recovery was long and hard.
When I ended my second marriage, the same feelings resurfaced, though, looking back, not as intensely. What I didn’t realize at the time was the healing I had done after my first divorce prepared me to recover from my second. Although I was disappointed my marriage didn’t work out, and I was affected by its drama-filled end, I left it with a look to the present, if not the future.
When I ended my relationship with Steve, I had perspective. I had years behind me that illustrated how every “setback” I experienced was, in reality, a setup for what was to come. I grew stronger from every relationship I had and reaped some sort of gift from each of them, gifts that included a wonderful son, a successful company, a deeper connection with myself, and a strong faith in God.
The effect was that when my most recent relationship ended, and although I was reminiscent of the good times we shared, I was looking forward to what would come next. I understood what the Bible says about how God wants to take us from glory to glory. Throughout all my trials and tribulations, I had always remained faithful to God, and I could finally see that God had a plan for me. I may not know the details, but I do know it’s there.
True to form, a few days after my breakup, I met a friend of mine for dinner. Recounting the last days of my relationship with her, she mentioned she had a friend, a man she would like to introduce me to. My friend described him as intelligent, funny, kind, successful in his endeavors, and looking to meet someone like me. She thought we’d be a great match.
My inner voice told me to say yes, so I agreed to meet him. Not because I thought he might be The One. But because knowing what I know now, God takes His time helping us make our dreams come true. And good things will come to those who wait, including me.
I’ve long since lost my little framed quote from Harold Grey, yet my mantra still whispers to me often, “The world is for those who make their dreams come true.” And like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, I am looking forward to seeing what my next chapter holds.
If you would like to learn more about how to improve your life through an approach of feeding the whole person: body, soul, and spirit, contact me today.
Tonyah Dee has studied the Bible and wisdom traditions of the world for the last 30 years and teaches about finding ways to increase inner strength, stability, and confidence through practicing spiritual disciplines and healthy habits daily. Tonyah is a nutritionist, registered dietitian (R.D.), and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Loma Linda University. She also holds certifications in Christ-centered life coaching, equine therapy, and meditation. Tonyah has been published in Scary Mommy, MSN, The Mighty, Mantra Wellness, CoveyClub, Thrive Global. Follow Tonyah on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and Medium.