Between Truth and Dreams
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. –Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
So two ways of looking at a dream here:
–Either it happens for you or it doesn't. If it does, great; if not, resign yourself and go drive a bus. Or...
–Live your truth by turning the resolution way up on those thoughts/ memories/beliefs you find favorable, and way down on those you don't.
Q: Pretty much everyone embodies some blend of both when it comes to the relationship between immediate life and distant aspirations, but which do you lean toward most? Which leaning do you consider to be wiser, more mature? How have you learned to negotiate the distance between everyday life and dreams? (07.16.16)
While I wouldn't dare to say it was more mature/wise, I do lean more towards living my own truth. I'm a bit stubborn-hearted when I want something, but I'm also realistic. Some of my biggest dreams have come true already, honestly. (Being in a happy marriage, having children, having a book, a literary agent...) What a blessing it is for me to be able to say that! I realize that. Realizing that and recognizing that is also a dream of mine—being present and content.
I believe in work. Lots of work. Working to get better, working at listening, working at learning. I also believe in rest, although resting is much harder for me.
The space between everyday life and the dreams I'm after? That's where I work and rest. I like to feel as if I'm actively working on things, so I actively work on things. Sounds simple I know...but like with writing...I write. I write a lot. I write and write and write and rewrite because I dream of being a novelist...a writer with lots of books. And the way there is via the work. I'm super self-monitoring...so I do think of these things often...and I don't like to waste time.
If I want something, I examine it from all sides. I try to. I dig deep and make sure it's a Real Feeling, a Real Thing. But I also know that it's not always up to me. I firmly believe in a good and gracious God who is sovereign and I trust Him which may feel restricting in theory to some, but to me...it makes me feel free.
Honorably painted acrylic
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It’s stock-still here.
As soon as it’s bone-dry,
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around dappled, succulent
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I'm an English teacher—but I am also discovering how challenging it can be to explain to someone what we mean in American English when we write with our woulds and coulds and shoulds and all of the other vagaries of our highly complex grammar. It's good for me to chase this dream because I'm learning, and there it is, the key to dreams. The dreams help me grow and change, and that is what healthy organisms do within their ecosystem.
In the past several weeks, I have been working with an Iranian man to translate American/English poetry to Persian. This is not a dream I would ever have envisioned. It happened because we ran into each other in a poetry forum online. What followed it up, though, could only be described as synchronicity. I was accepted to the Sewanee Writer's Conference, and this year there are three translation workshops available. I see this for what it is, an opportunity, and I lean into the dream. I say, "I will translate poetry," although I don't speak or write any foreign languages.
I consistently dream of publishing books of poetry, of traveling around and reading to audiences of any size in bookstores, especially independent bookstores. I dream of meeting other poets, musicians, and artists. I dream of being known for who I am with all of my quirks and foibles and being forgiven and loved on a regular basis by beautiful people who understand that poetry delivers us to and from ourselves.
More importantly, however, I do the writing. I wake up early and put the pen to the paper or fingers to the keyboard and get the words going because I am making the dream happen. What I'm finding about dreams is that they grow and change with whatever I'm putting my energy toward. I live with my dreams, I nurture and cherish them. I also give them some freedom, and they take me to unexpected places.
This reminds me of what Richard Bausch said about writing a novel, "It's a little like riding a dream horse, who keeps changing under you as you go." I lean toward staying on that dream horse forever, focusing on the thoughts and beliefs that help me stay on and galloping away from the ones that are a danger to my dream. Like many writers, I live in my head, so often (maybe always!) I watch everyday life from afar. I can come out when I want to or need to, but the truth is my whole self is living in another place, that dream space. And it's wonderful in there. We humans are so big. I think writers can be competent and joyful in our daily lives, enjoying love and food and friends and all the best life has to offer, and also live this whole other dream life with our stories and characters. I feel so lucky to be built this way.
How do you know the person you care for really loves you? How do you know the things you enjoy are tangible items that "truly" exist? Well, the short answer is, we don't. To simply try and understand the very nature of reality is in and of itself very similar to trying to find the beginning of a perfect circle.
"But Gabriel, what the Hell does reality have to do with dreams?"
It's quite simple, Dear Reader. What if I told you there was no difference between your waking life and your imagined life? What if I told you that your waking life may simply be an extended imagined life that you have yet to wake from? Of course, this is all theory and speculation though... right? Maybe. Maybe not.
"But what about the prompt, Gabriel! Whether or not reality is real is beside the point. The real point is which do YOU rely on? Which do YOU think is more mature/wise/intelligent to rely on?"
To be honest, I rely on my dreams. Is it the most wise? Probably not. Is it the most prudent? Most definitely not. As a matter of fact, it'd probably be better for me to simply accept the position that I was born into and see everyday, as opposed to trying to dream up some new reality for myself. But, if everyone were to think that way, what would our society look like today? What would you tell young black children who never got the dream of MLK because MLK chose not to dream it? What would you tell the Founding Fathers? The same men and women who dreamed of a government that was made for them by them, such that they could no longer rely on those dreams as their realities?
It's stupid, childish, and completely immature of people to try and make their dreams real. But, I appreciate them for taking that L. I love myself for taking that L.
Negotiating the space between everyday life and dreams is not all that hard if you know what you are striving for. I studied and now work in a field that complements my goals to write. I choose to get up an hour before the kids and use that time to research markets that pertain to my goal. I try to be dedicated and persistent. All decisions are made to lead towards the things I want most.
I lean towards the philosophy that dreams can be worked at like any other goal. First you must understand what it is that what you want. Then you prepare, plan and equip yourself with the tools and skills you will need to achieve it. Be present. Place yourself in situations where opportunities are forthcoming. Be sure to celebrate even small successes as you would large ones.
Always remember that a dream is not some far off prize that is unattainable, it is a destination that you need to work to reach.
But finally, I would say that no matter what, we should all try to dream bigger than we dare to achieve. Is that mature or wise? Does it set me up for failure? I am not sure but I do know that I am happier when pursuing my dreams.
I believe that to give up on one’s dreams is to give up on the pursuit of life. Male, female, or other, without a dream there is no opportunity for the furthering of self.
I’ve always believed myself to be on the realistic, ‘right-in front-of-me’ sort of viewpoint. For a long time, I associated long-term goals and dreams as a kind of forced optimism, and hated being asked what my literal (and figurative) dreams were.
Which is why writing exists in such a strange space—even I can’t determine how it lives. I think most writers have aspirations with regard to the practice, whether it’s publication, awards, and so on. Do I ultimately want to be recognized or known for my work? Yeah, that’d be great. But writing is a dreamlike process—we often have the words on paper or a computer document, so it’s there but unfulfilled, until it takes on another form.
I think the areas in which our current life and future or someday life aren’t divided by so-called gaps, chronological markers or waking moments... it’d be unwise to apply that idea to our writing life. Sure, it’d be nice to one day win that Pulitzer and have a few books published, but for now I’m happy to write with those dreams in the back of my mind.
image (top): After the Hurricane, Winslow Homer, 1899
Let your dreams have the louder voice
I was talking on the phone to my niece just two days ago about this very subject. It came to me then that one has to decide, in life, what the vantage point is of one's fundamental belief system. Do you view life as a beneficent experience wherein everything along your life's path works ultimately to your benefit, or do you live in fear, batten down the hatches, and try to trick the hand of fate, which conspires against you? Our fundamental premises guide us through life and dictate everything from attitude to perception. I think negotiating the space between dreams and reality ultimately becomes the search for integration. We can live with both, but it does occur to me to let your dreams have the louder voice. If one can do this, then everything becomes a step towards the dream's aim.
—Claire Fullerton, author of Dancing to an Irish Reel