I have a dream problem, at least from what TBB can see.
She knows how important her dreams are to her. Planes and cars, travel and caring, these are the things that keep her inner spark alive as she toils as the leader of a ship’s engineering department, usually stuck in a floating tin-can with her co-workers doing important but un-glamourous work.
A TED Talk by Bel Pesce on “Five Ways To Kill Your Dreams” caught her as going to the heart of my dream challenges.
It is an earnest six minutes, packed with good, common-sense advice on how to keep your dreams alive by not weighing them down with frustration, despair and resignation. For many people, the lessons are good reminders to how to keep working to keep dreams coming.
Ms. Pesce’s talk does what it says on the tin, encouraging people to value and nurture their dreams.
What it doesn’t do, though, is discuss the challenge of what you do if your dreams are already moribund, embalmed, desiccated and dead.
Once your dreams are dead, how can you get new ones or make the old ones live again?
TBB is right. I have a dream problem. No visions of possibilities dance in my head, no flickers of delight dance on my horizon. I have no dreams to animate me, to tickle me forward, to offer me something to chase and animate my life. As I asked of my sister, how does one hold onto hope if their dreams are dried up?
There are many reasons that my dreams are dead, all laid out in text in vivid true detail. They have been squeezed flat between emotionally detached parents, the challenges of trans expression, the pursuit of knowledge over the pursuit of vitality, by age and so on.
Don’t part with your illusions.
When they are gone you may still exist
but you have ceased to live.
— Mark Twain
We don’t mourn for what we had and lost.
We mourn for losing what we dreamed of having
even if that was just one more day with a loved one.
Mourning is always for the loss of our dreams,
and not for the loss of our realities.
— Callan Williams, 1998
You only really love someone
when you love their dreams,
love the possibilities inherent in them.
— Callan Williams, 1997
Purging desire — squashing dreams — is a key part of the practice for many spiritual paths. Aesthetic denial, focusing on service rather than pursuit of dreams becomes the goal, allowing a certain clarity that cannot come when needs swamp the ego.
The kind of knowledge this path brings, the same path that leads to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Roman Catholic tradition, is rather bloodless though, with the zest of human vitality replaced with conscientious discipline.
I understand why TBB wants me to find a path to avoid killing my dreams. Finding a path that can create new dreams, incubating them in the cold, far away from childhood exuberance, though, well, that is a much more challenging task.
It’s not that I don’t have dreams, it’s the fact that I don’t see my dreams as possible for me. Part of that is because of the limited time, resources, exuberance and health that I have left, but another part of that is based in the lessons I have learned about what is possible for someone like me in this world.
I know, for example, that however much I dream of being a 21 year old female that isn’t ever going to happen for me in this lifetime. I need to have the serenity to accept that water under the bridge is gone and there is no going back to it. Only going forward is possible.
By the time one gets to my age, one is pretty well cooked, possibilities having already been firmed up into realities.
It is probably true that there are more possibilities out there than I can allow myself to imagine, but a lifetime of self-policing leaves one over constrained, defensive and penurious. I am cold and dry, risk averse and dried to a husk.
TBB is right. Letting your dreams die has costs. There are good reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Dreams keep us vibrant, keep us engaged in the journey, stop us from getting stale and frustrated, keep us from wasting away.
Keeping too many dreams alive, though, not focusing while thinking that dreams are all that matters is also a problem, as Ms. Pesce notes. We do have to find a balance between dreams and pragmatism, between desire and reality, between wild and tame.
It would be fun to have dreams I can believe in, dreams that animate my desires and give me hope for a good, satisfying, better and even joyous future. Not having those dreams is a problem for me and my engagement with a challenging, costly world.
And I thank Sabrina for understanding that challenge.