I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. If you believe the internets, instagram gurus and that meme your grandma keeps posting, your dream is just one “let’s do this thang” moment of clarity away. It would be nice if words set against filtered sunsets were true.
But much of the time, they’re not.
And, right now, if you're anything like me, your dream is probably stupid.
I used to want to be a country music star. I’d twang my way to the Grand Ole Opry and other less countrified stars would write my name into their songs to get more nashville cred. Singing from a stage in sequins and heavy eyeliner was my dream. But my voice is just alright, great for funeral solos and church service. I’ve never really wanted to live more than a few hundred miles from family, so Nashville was out. And I just couldn’t seem to take the time to learn to play an instrument or read music or understand the composition of a song because, you know, sleeping.
Nashville Meg was a stupid dream because it had nothing to do with what I’ve been given and I wasn’t willing to work to fill in the blanks. I didn’t really want it.
For a long time, I thought I’d grown out of foolish dreams. But then I took a long hard look at where I put my aspirations and time. I was still dreaming..it was just in a series of pinterest sized boxes instead of big, grand storyboards. As we get older, so many of us think we’ve matured past the big dreams that take up time and money and energy. But really, we keep dreaming...we just do it on a much smaller, less ...well…inspired scale.
“When I was a kid I used to want to be a princess that could build robots that killed dragons. Man. Isn’t that ridiculous? I mean, the kind of thinking I used to put my energy into is hilarious. Hey, can I smell your cupcake? I’m off sugar for the next 282 days because I saw an article that said I’ll look like a Victoria’s Secret Model by the time I’m done. Do you mind if I do crunches while we talk?”
Oh, yeah. That's a MUCH more rational dream.
Adulthood is not a time to abandon dreams, it is a time to honor them. But first, we need to figure out what the heck is worth inhabiting our dream space. We need to clear out the stupid to make room for the golden.
Get rid of the dreams that distract. Whether we are talking a perfect reign of domestic goddessness, the chance to dance with N’Sync on stage (am I the only one that wants this?) or absolute and complete mastery of your craft, it is time to abandon the impossible.
The beautiful thing about abandoning the impossible is that in doing so, you generally realize it is also the unnecessary and even unwanted. Who wants a Stepford wife when you can have a real live woman that laughs about the spaghetti sauce on the floor or the dirty babies dancing in a puddle? Dancing with N’Sync sounds nice, until you realize that JC Chasez would be up there right along Justin Timberlake. And complete mastery of your ever-loving craft? Can you imagine the tedium that would follow? What are we without our desire and ability to move ever upward?
These impossible dreams are poor stand-ins for the real thing. They keep you dreaming rather than achieving and they negate the real value of your efforts. You are worth more than the inflated paper on which they are printed. Get rid of them.
Stop dreaming other people’s dreams. Let HER cultivate her IG following. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. Let HIM drive the car with the price tag of two vacations and a new roof. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. Let THEM eat #whole30nodonutsnomatterhowmuchyouwantone. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. If those things are really part of your dreamscape, great! Make them your own. Emulation can only take any of us so far. And every once in awhile, take a step back to make sure they are still making you happy.
True happiness is a deeper and more abiding experience than any of us are willing to admit most of the time. Let’s start seeking that kind of joy and let’s stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Figure out the stuff of which lovely, lovely you is made. Listen, YOU are worth getting to know. Remember that awful movie Runaway Bride? Julia Roberts plays a hardware store owner (riiiiigghhht) in upstate NY who has spent the last several years leaving a half dozen men at the altar on their wedding day. This is breaking news, so, of course, Richard Gere shows up to investigate the story.
Why Richard? Why is she breaking hearts? Answer! Our Julia has never taken the time to know who she truly is - she’s always just conformed to be like the person she is with at the time. How do we know this? Well, her horrendous pick of wedding dresses for one. But also, because in every relationship, she’s ordered her eggs just the way her partner did. Girlfriend didn’t even know how she liked to eat eggs! And if you don’t know that, you don’t know nothing. Fast forward to the “find herself” montage, where she eats 25 different preparations of eggs to figure out what the heaven she likes. ( I think it ended up being eggs benedict? Which is not much better than not knowing in the first place. Yeck.)
You know what kind of eggs I’ve been eating? My kids cold, leftover scrambled eggs. Both literally and metaphorically. And it’s enough. We can each wake up 30 minutes earlier, go to sleep 20 minutes later or run away from home/work long enough to take some time to figure out who we are and what we want. Read. Pray. Meditate. Talk to yourself in the mirror. Get in there.
Who are you? What makes you happy? What are you doing when you feel the most fulfilled? Are you with your children? Are you creating? Career making? Cooking? Writing? Giving parking tickets? A mixture of a few things in different ratios?
Answer those questions and you’ll be closer to discovering what your souls been dreaming than you’ve ever been.
When you’ve gotten to know yourself - to appreciate the hopes of your soul - even seemingly small dreams hold a great and sparkling weight. So often, my most held dream is simply the act of a day lived well. Children loved, husband kissed, a good book read. So often, somewhere between the apparent smallness of my dream and the fulness it lends to my heart, I glimpse something grander. Beauty begets beauty and dreams beget dreams. As you move through the grace of your day to day hopes, you will be given insights and understanding of the bigger aspirations that make up the locomotion of your soul. Write them down as they come and visit them from time to time like the good friends they are.
Once you’ve found something that lights your fire, don’t forget to stoke it. You want to write a cookbook? Then cook. You want to create a loving family? Then love. You want to build a new life? Start living. You want to be on the world’s stage? Don’t wait for anyone to invite you up, build the damn stage yourself. So often we look at the groundwork of our dreams as the preliminaries, but it is really the frame upon which all the trimming rests. Without it there is nothing but a heap of good intentions. So honor it, respect it and sweat like hell on its behalf. It will repay the favor. Tenfold.
Here’s the thing about your stupid dreams - the ones that are safe because they keep you from trying for what you really want - they’re a dime a dozen. Anyone can come up them and most of us have. You weren’t sent here to be predictable and cautious. You were sent here to be YOU. And YOU is so, so good.
Dream bigger. Dream bolder. Color outside the pinterest sized boxes. Fill up the storyboard of your life.