Thursday, October 4, 2012

Birds singing in the sycamore tree

I am afraid to dream. I believe I am. This isn't to say I don't have goals or hopes or plans. These I have. But dreams. I'm not so sure.

Dreams are different from goals. A goal is "I will lose 20 pounds." A dream is "when I lose those 20 pounds, I will be discovered and become the world's first over-35 super model!" I'm pretty good at goals. I can make the plans, make a list of things to get done, start crossing those off. But dreams often require a bit of faith, a bit of hope, a bit of counting on chance. Dreams need you to be able to picture a new way of looking at your life. I'm not so good at those things.

I view myself as a practical person. Maybe it's my anxiety, maybe it's because, at heart, I am a scientist, but I when I make plans, I'm not comfortable with taking chances. It's not a bad thing: I have a steady job, a 401K, the sorts of things a responsible adult should have. But I don't really have dreams. When I try to dream, I see where it can go wrong. I see that I might need someone or something to come through that I can't control. And so I hesitate, afraid to commit to a dream.

On a recent episode of "Treme," someone criticized New Orleans, saying that it was nothing but "drunks and dreamers." And with that, I understood why I love New Orleans. When I visit New Orleans, I get to see the dreamers. I hear the stories of how they just packed a bag and moved there, or came to visit and just never left. Maybe it didn't turn out like they planned, but for a moment, they had the courage to give in to a dream. I think to myself, "I could never do that." I wonder what it would be like to believe in what could be over what current was. Is that enough? It seems to be.

Here's the funny thing: I have given into a dream. And it was the best thing that ever happen to me. So, why am I afraid to dream now?

I want bravery. I want bravery so that I can dream. I admire the dreamers because they have a bravery that I can only hope to have. One day, I may give into a dream, and you might shake your head at that crazy thing I just did. But don't worry; I'll still have my 401K.


Vaguery said...

It's an interesting thing, that nominal dreaming. As somebody who's got at least as much of the what-ifs and constant backups symptoms you describe, the times I've been sucked into dreamland are the times when life just reached in and yanked.

All I'm saying is, there feels to me like a third way, a more common one: dreamers, in my experience, "dream" often as not ex post facto. I know I do. "Well sheeit, carefully plotted goal X is no longer even feasible. Throw some dice and see what's next." I started a company, one of the dreamiest bad ideas in the world, when twenty years' planning got flushed.

That's the Sciencey thing to do, I think really. Look at a regular old dream. You're waking up, you got some random wave action going on in yer brain, and as you come up your brain slaps whatever old story-telling wrapper around it so you can make sense of it, and it's really only at the time you're "awake" you were "really" dreaming about mountain lions in an ice cream shop.

That's how I see the life-choice dream thing, too: "Well, look here; I'm in New Orleans for some reason again, and I love it. How the heck did this come about an Nth time?" And there's a dream, ex post facto. Maybe all my vacation habits over the decades are "telling me something"?

If it forks, and feels right, and doesn't seem too outrageous in the moment or the hindsight: it's a dream. If it doesn't work, or it's freaky, or it makes you sad: it's a rut. Funny thing about it is, a little dichotomy now and then can be liberating :)

Geoff Schutt said...

Because you are able to recognize dreamers and also the validity of their dreams (even more important), I suspect you have dreams that your subconscious is keeping safe for you, to protect and keep them. These will be revealed when there's no turning back, and you have to pursue them -- and then you'll be able to say, I had it in me all along. Wow! Bravery, yes. Need some of that. Courage, whatever. But the capacity to see dreams (to appreciate and understand the "why") is even more essential. The treasure map will become clear, one "X" at a time. Forward movement -- is everything. Even "wanting" or desire is forward movement. I, for one, believe in you. And in your dreams.