Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dreams May Be Sweet, But They're Not Dessert

“Tell me another dream,” I’ve been saying to my husband as matter of recent routine on our semi-regular evening walks around the neighborhood.

He’s come to expect the question, as he’s astute and, as I’ve mentioned, the query has become predictable.

Now, my husband isn’t big into walking, and it’s not too hard to imagine that big-picture life assessment might be taxing at the end of a long day. Nonetheless, he seems to not-so-secretly enjoy the regular scrutiny. It was, loosely, his idea.

One evening on a mid-summer beach walk—a longer-duration after dinner excursion that often invites contemplation—my husband told me he was reading about the importance of writing down dreams, an idea of which he seemed enamored. Considering the state of his blog, which hasn’t been updated in almost a year—I filed the actual writing down in the “not likely” category and decided to give him a hand by helping him articulate his thoughts.

So I ask, now, about his dreams on every walk. I ask because it’s important. I ask because I know how easy it is for dreams to simply get lost in the everyday shuffle, and I just can’t let that happen. After all, dreams aren’t the desserts of life—improbably sweet concoctions on which we usually pass for reasons of good judgment and practicality. Dreams are the meat-and-potatoes (or veggie burger and salad, if you prefer) substance of our time here on the planet. They nourish us to the very core, give us the energy to slog through the mundane—they are our lifeblood. And they are absolutely anything but optional.

Too often, we act as though valuing our dreams means stuffing them in metaphoric deep storage—bringing them out, every so often, to admire in their untouched splendor. But our passions aren’t collector’s items, treasured all the more in an unblemished state. Which is a good thing, as most of my relics resemble Grey Teddy—my threadbare, love-worn, childhood companion who I’m told was originally of golden hue. But I have no memories of Golden Teddy. The bear I’ve always known sports a distinguished coat of weathered grey, which is just fine with me. I am determined, then, for my dreams to become the Grey Teddy of my existence: hardy, rough-and-tumble specimens marked with character earned through hard hours, rough play, and the occasional scar from a helmet-less wild ride.

But transforming a dream from artifact to adventure is a serious, time-consuming undertaking (see ‘hard hours” above), which invites consideration of the humanitarian value of our personal goals—is it selfish to invest ourselves in our dreams? As a Christian, I find this question of utmost importance, as my beliefs tend toward viewing wasted life as tragic, and, really, spiritual conviction aside, does anyone want to discover that they spent their life chasing the wrong things? After all, not every dream comes true. Perhaps most don’t—at least not in the way we expect.

I’m tempted to adopt the enjoy-the-journey philosophy which maintains that the actual achievement of goals is immaterial as long as there’s joy in the pursuit, but I’m not so sure if I can truly embrace that thinking. Oh, I know there’s truth in that approach, but somehow the up-front admission of possible failure ruins it for me. I prefer the mindset of Doc Brown of Back to the Future fame, as epitomized in his 1955 reaction to meeting 1985 Marty McFly fresh off the time machine: “Knowing that I invented something that works gives me something to shoot for!” In many ways, I’d love to have even a still frame of myself cracking into a fresh box of hardbound copies of my future bestseller hot off the press from my publisher (that moment, as Julia Child observes upon doing the same in Julie and Julia, in which “anything is possible”), or dropping anchor on a houseboat off the coast of Nova Scotia or, ironically, Cape Disappointment. Those snapshots, would, indeed, give me something for which to aim and provide validation of my current efforts.

In real life, none of us get to glimpse the results of our efforts during our murky days of striving, but what if we acted as though we had? How would the knowledge that our dreams were destined for success change the way we live now? My guess is that we’d work harder and play longer. We’d experiment without reservation. We’d push through the tough spots. We’d embrace optimism and avoid discouragement. In short, we’d actually live the way we should anyway.

My plan is to live like I’ve seen the snapshot. To chase after my dreams with expectation. To believe that God gave the interests, hopes, and aspirations I have for reasons that are both a gift and a responsibility. To trust that unless I’m specifically issued some new passions, my job is to invest in the ones I currently have, and leave the results to Him.

And my husband? So far we’ve got some land, a made from scratch house, and a few experiments in self-sustainability, aka “getting off the grid.” There’s a few quasi-political thoughts in there, and possibly a career change. How all that meshes with me writing from a houseboat is a little blurry in the still frame, but that’s OK.

And what about you, Reader? Tell me one of your dreams-blurry or not, it’s a picture I’d love to see.


Elizabeth said...

I love talking about my dreams and hearing about other people's. I think they tell a lot about what's going on in our hearts and minds most days. Our real hopes and dreams are often masked by our everyday lives.

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

Hi, true--real life pretty much concealed my dreams today, which was heavy on burned bread, searches for random missing stuff,and back-to-school paperwork and decidedly light on writing. Thanks for stopping by :)


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