When Real Life Gets in the Way of Your Dreams

At this very moment, I should be on a plane to Italy.

My friend Katie Tallo (of Momentum Gathering) and I have planned this trip for six months. We were going to stay first at our friend Diana Baur’s amazing bed and breakfast in Acqui Terme in Northern Italy.

Then we were going to spend a few days on Lake Como near the border of Italy and Switzerland.

Needless to say, we were beyond excited. Both of us had our luggage packed, flights booked, car rented, accommodations arranged.

Loose ends had been tied up at home and at work, someone was scheduled to pick up the mail, and my ride to the airport was set.

Then the unexpected happened.

Yesterday morning, the day before we are supposed to fly away, my teenage son became quite ill. (Nothing life-threatening, and he’s OK.) We were at the doctor’s office most of yesterday and had to spend some time at the hospital yesterday afternoon and evening.

By midday yesterday, I was in a muddle of worry about him, angst about what this would do to dear Katie, my traveling companion, and confusion about whether or not the situation merited my staying or going.

As women often do in these situations, I phoned a friend. I called my best friend Jeanne who knows me so well and who will speak her mind with love. I asked her what to do. She took a deep breath and said this: “Italy will always be there. Your son needs you right now and you should stay.”

Sometimes when you’ve had a bold dream, you’ve chased it, and made it happen, the idea of anything disrupting that dream is hard to fathom. In the midst of all of the upheaval yesterday, I just couldn’t grasp that Italy was evaporating in front of my eyes.

I needed someone I trusted to blow the cold air of reality in my face. I needed to be reminded that real life sometimes must trump your dreams.

This morning I awakened early to prepare for a doctor’s appointment with my son. My full suitcase was gaping open in front of me, everything neatly folded and packed away. A wave of disappointment and sadness washed over me. I wasn’t going. Katie wasn’t going. We have to let Italy go this week.

On the way home from the doctor’s appointment, my son turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m so sorry about messing up your trip.” Without hesitating to think, I responded, “There is no place in the world I’d rather be than with you right now. I can go to Italy any time.”

The expression on his face was worth a thousand trips to Italy. I will never forget that moment and his look of love and relief, and perhaps it will remain in his primordial teenage brain as well.

Sometimes real life can trump your dreams, and sometimes it can provide you a gift far greater than any dream you can imagine. Italy will always be there . . .

73 thoughts on “When Real Life Gets in the Way of Your Dreams”

  1. …and I’ll be here to greet you with two glasses of wine! Give your boy a hug and yourself one too, darling. Life throws these curve balls but who knows — next time might be when the poppies are blooming, the grass is iridescent green and the grape leaves are just unfurling. Another kind of magic, that’s all. xoxo

  2. I’m so sorry to hear this, Barrie. You’re so right that Italy will be waiting for you when you’re able to get there – it will be the perfect moment and the exact right timing when you do end up going. Kudos to you for being open to rearranging your plans to be there for your son. He will remember this forever. Sending lots of healing hugs to you both.

  3. Barrie, this post is bringing me tears. Relating to how life is right in front of us. To how you felt torn. To how you felt when you told your son “there’s no place you’d rather be.” And, to how he felt in that moment.

    Here’s to wishing you many more days of living both of your dreams, far away and right in front of you (hugs) ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you so much dear Marci. I think most mothers can relate to being torn in these situations. Having kids makes life unpredictable, but I am learning to embrace this unpredictability and find the good in it.

  4. Hi Barrie – you are so lucky to have such a caring and loving friend as Jeanne, sounds like she is there whenever life throws a curve ball! (And, Jeanne is my middle name – spelling and all!)
    How disappointing to miss out on a trip of a lifetime, especially when you are all packed and planned. But experiences like that wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful without the people we experience them with, and I think you did the right thing to stay with your son. I’m sure your decision is something he’ll never forget.

    • Thank you so much Amanda. I think I made the right decision too, and yes, Jeanne is a wonderful friend. I am so blessed to have her in my life and can always count on her wise and reasonable insights. The name “Jeanne” must be available only to kind and lovely women. ๐Ÿ™‚ You both wear it well.

  5. Hi Barrie,

    Beautiful and touching post!

    I love these lines – “The expression on his face was worth a thousand trips to Italy. I will never forget that moment and his look of love and relief….”

    There can be nothing more rewarding to see such an expression on your child’s face, which makes you realize your worth in their eyes. And I agree with what Jeanne suggested, that things can wait, and yes, your priorities are what you need to decide upon.

    Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It was so very rewarding Harleena. At that moment I felt a flood of relief and lightness, knowing that I’d done exactly the right thing. Thank you for your kind comments.

  6. I just stumbled upon your blog, read your post and was quite moved. In my work I meet many grown ups who recall feeling abandoned by their parents, often as kids they were left to fend for themselves when they needed their parents most. It leaves a lifelong mark on them as they grow up. I imagine you already know this, but you’ve given your son a great gift, one he is sure to remember forever. And, you’ve given me a great gift too because somehow your story has helped heal a place in my heart. Thank you so much for sharing and may you find your way to Italy (or someplace better) soon.

    • Hi Amy,
      I’m so glad you found your way here and hope you will return. I would never want any of my children to have that feeling. I hope I am wise enough to discern when they need me most. (That’s why I have great friends to help me when I need it!) I am so glad this post has touched you in a healing way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Thank you for the example of doing in life what truly matters most. Your son is lucky to have you, Barrie. I trust that moment in the car, those precious words still warm in his heart, will be there a lifetime.

  8. Hi Barrie,

    Wow, what an incredibly difficult decision to make — I’m still wrestling with the idea in my head. I have a huge trip coming up in two weeks, and if something like that came up, I don’t even know what I would do. I guess I hope I would have the courage to do the right thing, and to be as graceful and accepting of it as you. Thank for sharing your story.

    I hope you and Katie will reschedule your trip!

    • Hi Adrienne,
      Believe me, every part of my being was hoping it would work for me to go! But when your child is hurting, there’s no way you can leave and feel good about it. I couldn’t have enjoyed the trip for worry and concern about him. You would make the same decision. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hi Barrie

    Well done for finding ways to stay connected to your priorities and the bigger picture, it’s not always easy.

    As a Mother, I can really relate to this. Since having my son 2 years ago there have been many many change of plans LOL! I keep a list of my values where I can see them regularly which helps me to remember, and live from, one of my main values of ‘family first’ at times like this.

    Worrying about your son might have ruined your trip, so I’m sure when you eventually go it will be when you’ll be able to fully enjoy it.


    • Hi Lola,
      With a two-year-old, you probably can’t make too many plans at all! They need you for everything at that age. When they get to be teenagers, they act like they don’t need you. But I’ve discovered how much they really do! Yes, I agree that defining your values helps focus priorities in times of crisis and confusion. Thank you so much for your supportive comments.

  10. A great example for how when we perceive something as a sacrifice, it can turn into a tremendous blessing. What a great story!

    When you do make it to Italy, your experience will be enhanced many-fold by the decision you made. Right on Barrie :-).

    All the best,


    • Thank you so much Jon. I think it will be a far sweeter trip when we get there! We are hoping to go in the Spring. Thank you for your support. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. When a car accident left my nephew critically injured and my niece dead, priorities became very clear, very quickly. People and relationships trump everything. I have tried to remember this when confronted with difficult decisions. You may regret missing the Italy trip but you will never regret choosing your son and his needs over the trip.

    • Oh Gail, I am so sorry for your loss and this tragedy in your family. Yes, family does trump everything, and you are right, I won’t regret my decision. Thank you.

  12. I am so very blessed to have you as a close friend and can’t wait (but will) to make our way to Italy when the time is right. I wouldn’t want to travel there with anyone else. Much love to you and your son, xo Katie

    • Ah Katie. You have been the most patient and loving of friends. Yes, yes, yes — we will go!! And I know we will have a glass of wine with Diana and remark on how this is the perfect time to be there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Everything happens for a reason. That expression never seems to fail to be true. Perhaps this was meant to bring you and your son closer, which is a wonderful thing when they are teens.

    I know you and Katie are disappointed, but it will all come together as Diana said and be perfect when the time is right.

    All the best,

    • Barbara, it has already brought me and my son closer. You are so right. Teens do spend a lot of time pushing you away, but there has truly been a seismic shift in the last few days! I will enjoy it while I can.

  14. Hello, first of all, I am glad to hear you son is now doing better. My 19-yr-old son has had stomach and intestinal issues this past year, requiring 9 hospitalizations. I can so relate to your description of angst, almost like you’re feeling his pain, right? Stressful, to say the least! As my father used to say, “Family first.” You made the right decision. Though it sounds like you had a wonderful trip planned, you can always visit Italy in the future. Take care and positive thoughts for your son.

    • Hi Sandy,
      Oh, I am so sorry to hear about the difficulties your son has experienced. Yes, it is like you can feel their pain — and you want to take it away from them. Thank you so much for your support and positive thoughts. They really help, I promise! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Two years ago my husband died after a long illness. That was July. In November, my son called and asked if he could come home to live for a few years while he searched for a second career. At first my heart sank. I was planning to start with travel plans I had postponed for the past five years. My son returned home and needed counseling. So travel funds went for counseling and personal support. My son is now on his feet, holds two jobs and is on his way to a better life. My heart goes out to you and your friend. We never know what’s next. But your description of your son’s gratitude brought instant tears. You and your friend will have a wonderful trip made better by the memory of a tough decision to cancel the first one and stay with your son when he needed you. Last October I spent two weeks roaming Ireland and experienced an epiphany of realizations about life that would have been lost to me had I left to travel sooner.
    Best to you and your friend!

    • Liz, thank you so much for sharing that story. It helps put things in perspective. Sometimes we just have to “go with the flow” and not resist what is happening, even if it appears to be in conflict with our plans. So far, one of the best things to come from this experience is feeling the kind support of all of my online friends like you! Thank you.

  16. Barrie, I am sending you hugs. My own teen son has been in hospital this year and he needed all of his family close. I’ve come to realize just how precious time with teens is. They seem to be growing up so fast, and they seem so independent.. but then something happens and you realize how much you need each other and how short time is before they will be grown and not living with you any more. As you say, Italy will still be there.

    • Thank you Alison. You are so right — they seem to zoom out of your life after they reach about 15. The moments of re-connection are wonderful, even if it takes a bad experience to foster those moments. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes, it is Sandra. Although I must admit that Italy had to be wrenched from my grasp! ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, once you realize what needs to be done, letting go isn’t so hard.

  17. My heart goes out to you – what a tough situation to find yourself in! But of course you made the right decision and I’m so glad you were rewarded by that wonderful look on your son’s face. It’s true that everything happens for a reason, and I’m confident that your next opportunity to visit Italy will be even more exciting and full of potential.

    • Thank you so much Sarah. I think it will be an amazing trip when we go. Thank you for your supportive words. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Wow, thank you Alex. You are a friend indeed. I’m so glad we have connected in cyberworld. Thank you always for your kind comments, tweets, and encouragement.

    • Wow, how nice of you to show your feelings like this online.. I respect your comment deeply Alex. And Barrie Davenport, good luck with your son ofcourse. Keep on sharing with us.

  18. Too bad to miss out on what seemed like a great trip. Family comes first, and what I would say to you since mine are in their twenties and thirties is to just enjoy your time with your kids while they are home. Once they leave they nest, they have their own lives and it’s never quite the same. But still…. too bad!

    • You are right Cathy. I have one child already out of the nest, and she is so independent (except when she needs money!). In spite of the occasional disruptions and problems, kids at home make life far more interesting!

  19. Hi Barrie,
    Great real Life posting. Your “dream” of Italy is still alive, just postponed.
    Your real Life dream(your family) is also well and truly alive. Correct decision in my book…..enjoy Italy when the timing is right.
    be good to yourself

    • Thank you David. It’s nice to hear the support and reinforcement. As every day goes by, I feel like I couldn’t have done anything differently.

  20. This site is great! It will help to the person who deserve peace in his/her life. I really enjoy the content of this site. Thanks

  21. Dear Barrie,

    Its so comforting and inspiring to find you making a wonderful choice that gives life and joy….what more can we ask ? The happiness and love that radiates on the faces of those who mean a lot to us…I thank you for sharing this with us……
    Hope in all our decisions we make the right choice which brings peace love and harmony around us…life will continue to fill us with many more surprises ….

    • Dear, dear Sophia,
      Thank you so much. Yes, always making the kindest and most loving choices for the highest good of all involved. That is the way to decide. Sometimes it’s hard, but it is a good guidepost. Thank you for your kind words.

    • My Dear Barrie,

      warm greetings to you. i just happen to feel restless today as i happen to read some allegation against a collegue of mine. it has been circulating and i feel sad…the way people are reacting to him. i asked the concerned authority to give a fair hearing to his voice before we take a decision. how could i help this collegue, i do not have the facts or evidence. we need to be compassionate, at the same time we are concerned about the reputation of this organisation . Basically i feel on humanitarian ground that we do not reject him, but give him another chance to transform..but persons those who who know him properly feel having him will be a crisis…how could i reach out to this collegue. i am so speechless when i see him struggling. he has his family to face , a young wife and new born baby.

  22. Thank you for sharing! Reading this I could feel a lot of emotions and feelings going through my body. I’ve experienced similar things, having planned and longed for something and then “life happens” and turns everything upside down.

    Being reminded that these kind of things can happen to us all is a good for me. Your story tells us that it’s important to find “the voice” (in your case your best friend) that helps us stay focused on what’s important in our lives.

    • Hi Asa,
      Yes, remember that saying, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”? Life happens to everyone, and sometimes it does interrupt or disrupt our plans. None of us are alone with that. But it is certainly nice to be reminded that it is a universal thing — and that you have kind and loving friends to support your when it does happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Wow, tough decision but one that you can now live with as having been the Best decision, and one you can be proud of.
    It brought me back to the summer exactly 10 years ago when I had to cancel my trip to Italy (funny eh) because my daughter became ill. I wasn’t sure what to do as she had become sick the week before. The doctor said I could go but I had to dig deep inside me and do what I felt was right- listen to my gut. And listen I did, to myself, which was also the best decision I made because my daugther became deathly ill the following month. (she survived, thank G-d)
    The summer after my daughter came home from the hospital (she was hospitalized for a year) we went on our dream hiking trip to the Swiss Alps. (Italy came the following summer)
    So hopefully your dreams will come to fruition at the Right Time.
    I’m glad your son is O.K.

    • Wow Harriet, that is an amazing coincidence. It is nice to hear your perspective and see that you went on to enjoy great trips and the peace of knowing you were there for your daughter. Bravo to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Hi Barrie. Sorry about your son’s illness. May he recover fast. Sometimes things happen contrary to what we wished and we may be quite disappointed at that time. However, on many occasions it becomes clear to us why it happened the way it did. It might be a few days , months or even years before it is clear to us. In your case even if it doesn’t happen I think it is more satisfying to know that you were there when your son needed you most. Imagine a situation whereby you had already left for Italy only to be informed that your son was unwell. I think it would have been more devastating and worrisome.

    • You are so right Murigi. I have already seen the blessings from my decision. And I’m so glad I’m not in Italy worrying about him or making arrangements to come back home.

  25. hey I feel this is a sad part for the child and also the a very bad experience to you on with your kid is like having a empty life . I hope for a faster healing touches to both of you. I also wish you have the pleasantness in your motherlihood.

  26. I definitely agree with all that’s been said already. To me, taking care of your son when he needed you is the highest selfless act. Thanks for sharing, Barrie.

    • Thank you Marianne. I am so blessed to have friends and support in these difficult life situations. But ultimately, we each have to make our own decisions, and I’m grateful that I made the one I did.

  27. Dear friend and wonderful mother of three, I am so sorry that you had to go through this experience! Reading your honest and open blog made me cry. I appreciate your kind words, and know that you would have done the same for me. I hear Italy is beautiful in the Spring…

    Love you!

  28. I came across your blog quite by chance and after reading it i realised that i was meant to read your story. I am not in a good relationship with my mother right now and we (her kids) have never been her no.1 priority. I have been feeling sorry for myself (terribly self-destructive emotion i know) but after reading your real life experience i realised that i need to let go of the angst and choose to be a more available mom when i do have kids of my own. Thank you so much for sharing Barrie. Im sure your kids know how blessed they are and i pray your trip to Italy happens soon.

  29. Barrie, Thank you for for sharing your experience. What a turmoil of emotions to go through at a time when you’re just looking forward to a great trip to Italy with Katie. Your friend’s advice was perfect: Italy will always be there, and your son did need you then. He will always remember what you did and appreciate it.

  30. Dear Barrie,
    (I will try to comment this in my “broken English”).
    This is life. You can never expect that everything is okay. Life comes around of “the blue” and says: Hello. Here I am. You wanted to go to Italy? Not yet.
    3 weeks ago, I had a very very important appointment, for me, for my further life.
    The evening before, an accident happenend and my right big toe was broken. Within seconds it became red, then blue, and then deep dark. I could not walk.
    I said to myself: Right, here we are, it is like always. Whenever I have the intention to do something that is good or right for me, life “comes around the corner” and sends a barricade. This time I decided to ignore it. And a wonder happenened: I met the person, who was so important for me (I could not walk), with my deep black toe, and during the meeting I felt that my toe was healing. Two days later my toe was healed, absolutely okay.
    In your special case, your son is concerned, you had to make another decision.
    All the best for your son, I hope he will be well very soon,

    • Thank you Dori. You are so right — life does present itself with all kinds of twists and turns when you least expect it. Sometimes you just have to “go with the flow.” (I understood your English perfectly!:))

  31. Hello from the Philippines! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your friend, Katie, has such a lovely heart like yours, Barrie. She must’ve been so disappointed to forego too! But you attract people with goodness in them–that is where you are truly wealthy. Thank you for your posts–I am learning so, so much. Bless you.

    • She was Janet, but we are planning the trip again for the summer. Thank you for your kind comments. Bless you too!

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