It may seem like these points in our life when we are “done” with something are the dead-ends to our dreams, but sometimes in the very act of throwing up our arms in defeat and surrender, we are also throwing our arms wide open to possibilities that were once hidden to us.
I had resigned myself to realizing Italy was just not a wise option for us at this point in our life. Sure, I could push and prod and make something of it, but I wouldn’t be happy with where the end results would leave us. Deeply in debt, a savings account depleted, a sparkling time in Italy followed by months of a financial tension that would wreak havoc on our marriage and family. It just wasn’t worth it. I had to surrender to that fact.
But little did I know that there is a difference between surrendering to the impossibility of the means to a dream and surrendering to the impossibility of the dream itself. The frustration and anger that welled up inside of me after reading that email was due to the fact that I felt I was being taunted with a dream. That it was a dangling carrot in front of my heart being snatched away every time I would lunge for it.
Turns out the carrot was not really what I wanted in the first place. Or rather the dream went deeper than that. I felt entitled to the carrot and was totally missing the fact that the carrot was a clue, leading me further into myself. With the carrot out of the picture I was forced to reconsider what the vision for MY life was.
Many times in my life I have circled around to that question, “What are my biggest dreams?” Each time the answer plays out a little differently. I am VERY fond of making dream lists. I write down everything that comes to mind when I think of the word dream or desire or wish.
Sometimes the lists have been fairly consumeristic, much like a Christmas list you might put together for Santa as a kid. I want a new car. I want a pair of cowgirl boots. I want a laptop. I want a home in an urban environment. I want a trip to Italy. Sometimes the lists have been bigger overarching wishes: I want to be rich. I want to travel. I want to be in the best shape of my life. Sometimes the lists have been about who I want to become: I want to be a writer. I want to be an artist. I want to be a storyteller. I want to be a rebel. I want to be someone that inspires others to action.
When I am writing down dream lists I have learned not to edit. (I talk more about editing our dreams in another post.) Even the so-called "selfish" dreams are still inside me and they need to be documented, captured, spoken. Maybe especially the "selfish" ones. They teach me a lot about myself. They give me perspective on where I am headed or where I’d like to be heading. They give me life vision and purpose. And sometimes, they force me to dig deeper. Such was the case with Italy.
Prior to seeing the Italy email, I had not wanted to go specifically to Italy. Travel, yes. But no one location has ever really had a pull on me. In the days that followed the death of my Italy dream I started to ask myself a lot of hard questions. I started to work backwards from the death of a dream, tracing the clues.
I wanted to know exactly why I felt so betrayed, so dejected, so hopeless. Why did the big “no” that surfaced feel so threatening, so final, so harsh? And, was I really going to let that be the end of me? I mean if that was THE dream of my life smashed and shattered, what really was left to live for? I decided I could not take no for an answer. I had to research this more to find peace again.
I think when we wrestle with the validity of a dream, the death of a dream, the purity of a dream, the scope of a dream, the details of a dream, we are wrestling with ourselves (that giant that Emerson speaks of in the quote above) and who we think we are and what we think we're capable of. When I feel a dream come to life inside me and I begin to chase it, I am learning to expect a mess - some chaos I'm going to need sift through as I find my own way.
It is in the messes that we sort out the dreams and cut to the heart of what we think of ourselves. What looks like the death of one dream is often just a layer being pulled back to reveal an even deeper dream below, that is, if we’re willing to hold on long enough to go there. And much like Alice, we begin to wonder how deep the rabbit hole will take us. I would argue that the rabbit hole never stops, which is what makes life so mysterious and so satisfying and so, at times, maddening. There is ever more.