They called him the cloud wrangler, and I never needed to ask why. One thing he taught me, with his cool grey eyes that lifted frequently to scan the horizons – dreams change as we do. Or as he put it so mildly, “Rainbows move.”
Some dreams we outgrow. Some seem to outgrow us. Some shift based on our conditions and environment. Some seem based on those around us, the dreams we discover were never really ours to begin with – but the desires of others, and the end result of a people-pleasing way. Such dreams dissolve in extreme heat and the light of day, be it summer sun or stage-lit spotlight.
At that point we’re left to question and discover, what are my dreams now? Not the ones others want me to have, the ones I’ve been taught to think are necessary, the ones that spell SUCCESS. But what are *my* dreams – the ones from deep down inside? The ones that may only come out at night, when it gets quiet enough for that still, small voice to be heard.
I recall the words that came once in a group meditation: It’s ok to have small dreams, too. And the palpable relief of the woman across the room when she heard those words. Finally! Permission to be herself, to dream her own dreams. We don’t all have to want to be a star, to be a slugger, a singer, a stock market bell ringer. We don’t have to run the big top, top the next chart, chart the next waters. How many have we seen do that and still remain empty inside, because that wasn’t the hole they were really trying to fill?
Today, I will remember my dreams. I’m living several of them right now. A pen that somehow feels just perfect as it scrawls across a blue-lined pad. The joy of a well-turned word. A glass of ice water in reach as I listen to summer cicadas sing. Stretching indolently by my side, a fuzzy character, almost as high maintenance as I, and the beautiful thoughts of a beautiful soul awaiting my attention.
Yes, today I will remember those simple dreams, and I will honor them. After all, I am now living a downright normal life. Sitting here in yoga pants, hair trimmed beneath my ears – two big no-nos in my childhood world. I attended no church of any kind this morning, or any other day this week. I can jump in Charley and go to a parade or a car show or a fly-in or a tractor pull (hey, this IS Missouri) and I will blend right in.
Sound silly? Well, for 18 years, those were my biggest dreams – to just be NORMAL. To look like everyone else. To dress like everyone else. To do what normal people did, and to enjoy the heck out of these forbidden freedoms, far away from the breath-constricting rules and regulations of the cult-like setting in which I grew. Today, at the grand ol’ age of 41, I am more free than I have ever been in my life. Free from that world, and increasingly free from the self- and socially imposed prisons that seem to be the norm of mainstream adulthood.
But let’s face it – superficial as those desires may sound (and would later prove), it wasn’t just the physical I was fleeing. These were only symbols of the true freedom I sought – freedom to be myself, to think my own thoughts, to feel my own feelings, to chart my own course. True, this freedom would come at a price, with its own consequences. But as Parker Palmer so beautifully worded it, “The punishment imposed on us for claiming true self can never be worse than the punishment we impose on ourselves by failing to make that claim.”*
Yes, I had a dream. A quiet one, most of the time. Sometimes so quiet even I couldn’t hear it. And finally, after 40 years, I can look around me and realize that, in many ways, I’m there. No, it doesn’t look how I expected it would look. Doesn’t always feel how I expected it would feel. And yes, if I’m not careful, every now and then I’ll start to voluntarily put those bars up again – to start taking on the shoulds and shouldn’ts of others – who I should be, what I should do, how I should think. Their rules. Their truth. Not mine. But thankfully, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting those potholes now, and, like the poem suggests, more often than not, I simply chose to walk down another road.
Today, what are your dreams? Are you sure? Whose voices are you listening to? Are you still trying to prove something – to yourself, or any other? Are you listening? Are you listening?
The sculptor of the Crazy Horse monument, now over 66 years in the making and still barely begun, immortalized these words to remind future visitors: Never forget your dreams. And if you’re not sure what they are, and the ones on the surface feel a little shaky, start digging. There’s gold down in that darkness. You’re the only one who can find it, and you may be the only one who will recognize it when you do. And that’s ok – it’s a good thing to recognize and own your own truth.
So get to it: Start digging. You have exactly the right tools and exactly the right time – just like a seed, just like a sapling, just like a cedar. And as I was once reminded, long, long ago: It won’t take nearly as long as you think.
© 2015 Mary Batson, Front Porch Rambles
All rights reserved, especially the one to fly.
* Palmer, Parker (2000) Let Your Life Speak