what dreams are made of

I write poems for people. At parks, cafés, craft shows, art markets, and even sometimes (rather creepily) on the bus.

I fell into this accidentally. Initially, I held resistance to the idea. I thought people would hate it, or that it would be too much pressure to write on the spot.

But then I gave it a try and found that I love being able to share myself and connect with others in this way. I love the look on people’s faces when the words give them the space to feel heard, or seen, even if just for one moment.

Despite my love for this endeavor, it still surprised me when, at a pop-up craft show, someone I met said to me that I am “living the dream.”

I’ve gone through phases where it felt like the life I wanted to live was falling into place, quite effortlessly. And in those fleeting moments I was quick to forget the years of hard work I put in, prior to the eventual flash of a free-fall.

It was easier to credit a mystical power operating behind the scenes.

In my experience, when things stopped falling into place, or it turned out the magic-seeming happenings all served part of hard fought, higher lessons I needed to face, I felt distraught and discouraged.

This was perhaps the hardest part. The initial leap was scary, sure, but the crawl that came afterward was a thousand times more exhausting. I felt like I was drowning, most days. Until it suddenly dawned that I had been swimming all along.

Despite my resolve to keep moving forward, stroke by stroke,  it still feels like I’m a ways away from any kind of dream life. So when someone else saw me living my (or maybe, even, his) dream, it caught me off guard.

There are common misconceptions I think many of us hold, about what living a dream means, and how it should or should not feel.

Because messages tend to appear in less straightforward ways, and often in patterns, one of the people who has taught me most about chasing dreams, my father, recently sent me a poem I wrote for English class, about this subject, when I was 12.

dream poem.jpg

Reading this I laughed. I remember stretching myself to come up with this idea.

I was never terribly interested in school. It felt too rigid for me.

And I somehow doubt that 12-year-old-me had a ton of experience, with dreams.

Or maybe she was just too busy living in a dreamland to accept the reality of what chasing her dreams meant.

Because you see, now I don’t believe a dream is like a scarf, at all, really. But I think this is an illusion many of us face. We grow up with an idealistic version of reality, where one day we will wake up with birds singing and the sun shining and everything as it should be.

We cannot wait to return to the dreamlike place our minds spin without end, of a life where everything feels perfect and effortless.

In reality, a dream doesn’t keep me warm, although perhaps it does offer the slightest glimmer of hope-filled light, in the cold, dark winter.

Dreams in their true nature meet us with a rush of wide-eyed awakening.

Once we take the leap into chilly water, the presence of our dreams, looming ever nearer, leaves us shaken, and stirred.

A dream will bring you right up against yourself.

As soon as we seek out the comfortable dream—you know, the one that seems to fall into place, well, that is when we can rest assured we’re in for a nightmare. Or in the very least, a rude awakening.

Dreams should not feel comfortable.

From comfort, breeds complacency. And stagnation is the opposite of growth.

Growth comes from screaming muscles and tear-drawn eyes. From staring fear head on in a face first dive, allowing the panic to erupt in my chest before I move through the sensation, anyway. I have no other choice.

When we have a dream that calls for the chasing, there doesn’t appear to be an alternate plan.

Years ago I committed to living from heart over head. This has not been easy, rather it has been stock-full of lessons I needed, for whatever reason, to face. Writing poetry in parks has served a small piece in the puzzled picture of this deeper commitment to myself. Which I guess explains why I didn’t initially see it as “living my dream” – the real dream has roots that run further than I can tangibly comprehend. And despite having the poetry-writing opportunity, that I am grateful I have been called to pursue, truth be told, there are still other factors in my life that I am waiting to “fall into place.”

I doubt this will ever cease to be the case.

Sometimes we spend years climbing a hill, for a once-in-a-lifetime view, only to realize, once we get to the top, there’s another hill calling us by name, down the road.

A dream is always a relative experience from the vantage point of current standing. Hence my surprise when it appeared, in someone else’s eyes, that I was living mine.

Perhaps so, from where he stands. In my mind, I’m forever still chasing the deeper meaning of the dream.

In this chase, we shed every unnecessary layer, including those composed of the things, both physical and intangible, we may or may not have grown up with. Because the true testament to how badly we want something is what we are willing to give up.

We let go of everything that does not align with our dreams, and then some. For in the end, the whole point is not, actually, the dream, itself. What we have been seeking all along is appreciation for the chase.

So, as the finish line nears in sight, we realize we long ago gave up our dream to begin with.

It was never about fulfilling yet another goal or achievement. It has always been about the journey.

Because the one similarity, I would say, between my 12-year-old, idyllic version of a scarf-dream, and what I understand of dreams today, is this: I firmly believe dreams are meant to be held (or, tied) loosely.

See where they fly, on their own.

A dream wrapped too tight chokes the words from my mouth.

A wish want with fervor contains no solid roots.

And we all need a grounded place to find nourishment. The substance that turns dreams into reality stems from Earth.

So we watch, as our dreams sprout and change shape and form. The textured body, once wisp-like, becomes hot lava. And then another day, it appears as a smattering of color unlike any we’ve seen before.

This new dream, in its assortment of shapes and sizes so different from that which we previously imagined, may even frighten us, a bit.

That is also, as it should be.

So for all you other dream-chasers who feel discouraged and worn down on the path, know that you are not alone. And when it gets exhausting, or even terrifying: good. Let’s together commit to continue moving forward.

I find, the closer I get, to any particular dream, the more urgently I want to run, or even to fly, away.

Fight or flight is real and it does not dissipate with time. The phantom appears, stronger, than before.

But, so am I.

And, I am ready. For my ever shapeshifting dream and its infinity of outpours.

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