Life is not a dress rehearsal

Life that's waitingMy Dad has a saying he’s adopted as I’ve gotten older, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” He encourages us to live full, engaged lives…to do our best. I remind myself of this reality on a regular basis. But it’s so easy to get tripped up along the way…sometimes I wonder if that’s what I’ve mastered…the misstep.

At an early age we begin asking children what they want to be when they grow up. As parents, we have our own dreams for our children which are most likely merely continuations of our own dreams. To have a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandchildren…our dreams, not necessarily our theirs.

The reality is that life rarely works out like we think it will. Ok, never. I’ll be bold and say never.

Life is messy. The so called “path” we travel down looks more like a game of Chutes and Ladders. You move forward, go back, slide down, unexpectedly move up…throw in a few more twists and turns…now you have a picture of what life is truly like.

So, if it’s not a dress rehearsal, what is the “play” we’re in? What if we complicate our outlook by holding on so tightly to the picture of what we thought life would look like that we can’t see the one that’s right in front of us? Or we continue to show up for a version of our life that is no longer working?


We likely know when our lives are off track. If we don’t consciously know it, our bodies will begin to tell us. Stress compounds, aches, pains…for me, it’s my gut that talks to me. I can literally feel the stress “in the pit of my stomach.” You might have headaches, lose sleep, the disconnect makes itself known to our bodies faster than to our conscious minds. Pay attention.

Midlife has been the time when I’ve begun to see the disconnects. Realized that I’ve been stuck in dress rehearsal for too long. Which, on the one hand, keeps me safe…but I’m not fully engaged either. What makes me sad is knowing there are many others who are on the same trajectory.

Showing up for real life instead of a dress rehearsal requires us to let go of the disconnect. The dream that is not the reality of our life. The vision of how we thought life would be. There’s a grieving that comes along with that. Letting go. Grieving whatever the loss is for you, because it’s different for each of us.

When you shift your perspective, see where you’re holding on to a dream that no longer serves you, or that’s changed, you can show up for the life you’re creating today. What you’re letting go wasn’t wasted, it shaped you into who you are today, but you’ve outgrown it. When you show up for your life today, show up fully. Embrace the opportunities, the realities open to you once you let go and begin gazing upon what’s unfolding before your eyes. It’s our journey friends, you’re not alone.

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