It occurred to me a few weeks ago as I was tumbling through the pages of The Alchemist that somewhere in the past three years of parenthood I have somehow broken my inner-dreamer. She used to be a fully present, fully participatory member of my inner world and she has been silenced. The inner dreamer, the part of my me that somehow inextricably linked my heart and my mind and my carefree naivety so that I truly believed that anything I wanted could become true and spectacular reality. Up until my marriage fell apart I had this strong and powerful dream of my husband, child and I roaming the world, creating our own adventures, building our own traditions and our own stories… a dream that encapsulated so much love and joy and connection.
For much of my teen and early adult years I dreamed of being an actor. I wasn’t just dreaming it, I was doing it… I was just dreaming of being a more successful one than I was. Forever damning myself for not being big enough or good enough or acclaimed enough – instead of relishing in the fact that I was already living my dream. I had other dreams that seemed to live on in parallel worlds. The dream of the travel writer. The dream of the gypsy wanderer. The dream of the lover. And I lived those lives out too. I lived them with the full and passionate fury of a young person in love with the idea of the fantasy and so blinded by its perfection that they can’t see that what it is they are chasing, is what they are knee deep in. Too busy running to see they have already won.
By the time I stopped dreaming (without even realising it) I had dreamed my way through many cities, through many stages, through countless lovers, through adventures and cities and successes. I had dreamed my way through many chances at great happiness… chances I couldn’t see because my life was so full of opportunity and adventure that the great achievements I had made seemed insignificant against the dreams that I had for myself.
Now I find I’m knee deep in the monotony of they day to day, with cooking and tidying and getting ready to go to work and getting home and doing it all over again. Rinse and repeat. Day in and day out. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a lot of it. I like my job. I love my freelance work. I know how lucky I am to have inpsired projects to work on and creative pursuits and clients calling me and offering me work. But every week I watch as my calendar gets booked with back to back meetings and collaborations and work and volunteering gigs and all of a sudden it’s Sunday again and I don’t know where the week went. I know I did a lot of great things but I’m a daydreamer and when I don’t have the time to have quiet calm, then I don’t feel like creating much at all. I find that I’ll be elbow deep in an important meeting and I’ll all of a sudden have the urge to write, and of course I can’t… and by the time I have finished our day and come full circle and have a moment to myself – I can’t even remember what that great idea was. I’m tired and stretched and I can’t even remember what I’m doing it all for. Until of course I do. So I get up and do it all again. Not for the money. Not for the recognition. But because it’s important work (both paid and unpaid), and it needs to be done.
But what happens to your mind when you forget to get lost in your own dreams? What happens when it all becomes so serious that you find your brow furrowed for absolutely no good reason at all?
I still have dreams, of course, but they are somewhat tainted these days with a (surprisingly) heavy dose of realism and a (less-surprising) sense of great responsibility. I know dream of practical things, like a property to call our own, a stable family for my child, a strong companion to share my life, a satisfying job, being the best I can be, healing that broken heart… It’s not as if any of these things are insignificant, some of them are huge… but they aren’t filled with great fantasy. I still dream of riding motorcycles through Nepal and trekking the Himalayas and running with the bulls and changing the world… but those dreams have become but a whisper.
Maybe it’s not having all your dreams come true that brings us happiness. But instead, maybe it is the possibility that they may (come true), the joyful discovery of new dreams and finding a little meaning in the madness of it all. We all know that dreams don’t all come true. Dreams don’t tend to pan out the way we plan them to and working hard doesn’t mean it will all work out. But it’s the trying that brings us those distilled, powerful moments of true bliss. Where happiness comes in its purest of forms: Hope. Faith. Trust. Purpose.
In the event of great grief and trauma my life became serious. A serious fight to maintain my mental health so I didn’t collapse into a heap. A serious fight to find meaning and purpose in the upside down landscape that my life had become – trying to understand how to live and give and grow when my heart was aching. I was fighting in survival mode. I was fighting through healing. I was fighting my own urge to curl up into a cave to lick my wounds and never resurface.
Now it’s just a bit serious for no good reason at all. It’s not about changing what I do, perhaps, but the way that I approach it.
Maybe it’s time to let those great and wonderful dreams back in… To free myself enough to dream big and beautiful dreams… even if they are far out of reach.
I wonder if I open that door again if something truly wonderful will flood in…
Do you still have great dreams?