Note: this was written at the very end of a difficult time of Extreme Emotions, after my first week visiting my parents in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
This much is true for me.
Sometimes all you can do is hold on
And when I say “sometimes” I mean, days, weeks, months, even years.
Yes. Years. Some years all you can do is hold on.
Without a plan. Without even any trust, for trust is a muscle and it grows slowly.
Some years all you can do is hold on. Breathe. Practice. Stay as present as you can, processing as much as you can and not more. Being as kind to yourself as your meagre hold on reality can allow.
Because sometimes life can be hard for a long, long time.
Sometimes all you can do is hold on, and no practice or technique will get you anywhere. Perhaps because, against all human understanding, you are not meant to “get” anywhere. Yes, I know, try explaining that to other humans.
It’s not that the techniques don’t “work”. They do, that is, they allow you to keep the pain, grief, frustration, anger, confusion, the whole thing moving through you. But clarity doesn’t always show up afterwards.
Sometimes you have no idea where you’re going, or what to do. And those times of not knowing can last a really long time.
And there’s no word in the English language to describe those times.
There are times when life says “nope”
There are times when life says “nope”. Did you even know this was a thing? I didn’t.
Like all Western people, I thought everything that happened to me was up to me. I was taught that I’m the master of my own destiny.
It was only when I failed, consistently, to make things “happen” for me, that I realised: there are times when life says “nope”.
That’s it, that’s all I hear, over and over again, whenever I dare to dream my dreams and wonder how, perhaps, sort of, maybe, someday make them come true.
Life says “nope”.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
There’s a quote in “The Sound of Music”: when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.
Some times life closes every possible door. And every possible window, for good measure.
And there’s nothing. Nothing but closed off opportunities.
And then there’s just me… Sitting there, wondering… What is the point of dreaming.
An emotional side and an intellectual side to the question
The question “what is the point in dreaming” is complex, so for the sake of clarity, I will say that it has two sides: an emotional one and an intellectual one.
The emotional one, like all emotions, is messy and challenging to work with. It requires tons of acknowledgement, presence, loving kindness. Allowing the question to just be, allowing yourself to be in the question. Not trying to answer it, because you can’t anyway, just being there.
“What is the point of dreaming?”. Giving yourself love in that trying time, because that’s the only thing you can do. In rises the question again: “What is the point of dreaming?”. Tears, and yet more tears. What is the point of dreaming, over and over again, the question is part despair, part hope. But it cannot be answered while in the emotional state.
Nothing can be answered while crying unconsolably on the floor, and “What is the point of dreaming” is no exception. When crying, apply self-love, and hold on.
There’s not much that can be done, and these times will come, so it’s best to learn how to be in them.
There comes that question again: “What is the point of dreaming?”. More tears, more self-love. And a break, every now and then, because it’s exhausting to feel so much.
After all that, perhaps, maybe, you will arrive at a sort of answer. There’s no guarantee, though.
The answer may not even matter, in the end.
But for education’s sake, I shall tell you what I found out about the intellectual side to the question “what is the point of dreaming”.
The question might sting, and maybe it doesn’t even matter
Especially at this time, when all of the self-help world is running around like a spinning top, asking themselves, over and over again, “how they can have their best year yet”, and “how they can achieve all of their dreams”, the question, “what is the point of dreaming” might sting especially so, since you might have to face, like I have, the harsh cold reality of staring at another year gone by when none of the dreams came even remotely true, nor gave any indication of ever coming true. Ever.
Life can be hard like that, and there’s no guarantee that dreaming, or working towards those dreams, for that matter, will get you anything.
So why bother.
After a whole year of failing, spectacularly, on each possible level, to make any of my dreams come true (with the exception of one), and having to face the question “what is the point of dreaming” on a permanent basis, forever working with the emotional bloodbath of being in that question, the answer appears to have finally taken shape.
Though it began feeling unimportant. Like this: who cares about what the point of dreaming is, it doesn’t matter.
Yet, an answer had been forming at the back of my mind. And I believe it arrived at its final shape when I read this quote by Anne Lamott, only a few days ago:
“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”
I do like Anne Lamott. And she is echoing a common sentiment found in the self-help “live your best life” world.
You know the sentiment: time’s a-ticking, go live your dreams, get to Paris already before it’s too late.
I was there nay 4 days ago. For all of 1 hour, I was in Paris, in between landing from one plane and taking off on another, on route to my city of birth to visit my parents.
The last time I found myself in Paris was 2 years ago. Once again, in between flights, and since I had 7 hours to wait, I had planned on going into Paris proper.
My Gosh, I was so excited. That was until I discovered that one wheel of my suitcase was missing, and I realised there was no way I could go into Paris and get to another airport while carrying a one-wheeled 20kgm suitcase. So I sat at the airport, too sad and grief stricken to move, for ages, before getting on a bus to the airport where my plane to London would depart from.
I have been dreaming of visiting Paris for years now. It’s a dream now buried so deep I have trouble remembering it. I wonder if I still want it.
I haven’t been able to visit Paris, even though I live in the UK. Paris is so close, there’s even a train from London, straight to it. But I’m too poor to afford it.
I’ve been living in Europe for 12 years, and I haven’t been to Paris. That’s poverty for you.
Life says “nope”. Straight in your face: Nope.
You are not going to Paris.
So yes. Paris.
Let’s just say I have more than a bit of personal experience with the pain of having dreams and not seeing them realised.
So I’m the ideal person to answer the question “What is the point of dreaming”.
What is the point of dreaming?
This is what I’ve found to be true.
Here’s the raw, gut-wrenching, bitter-cold truth.
What is the point of dreaming, when dreams refuse to come true.
What is the point of dreaming, when life closes doors and windows, not letting in even a glimmer of a possibility of a “someday, somehow”.
What is the point of dreaming if the Universe will continue to be relentless in its pursuit of “Other Plans For You That Don’t Include Your Dreams”.
You dream so you can stand tall, proud and grounded, and look at Life right in the eye and say:
“I wanted this dream. I wanted it with everything I had, I worked for it with everything I had. I wanted it and I worked for it, and I watched as life closed windows right in front of me, so as to leave me with no doubt that my dream wouldn’t happen then. I watched life close those windows, and I grieved, and grieved. I stayed present, dreaming my dream, opening my heart, and grieving the loss of not having it. I hurt and I ached every day, and I continued to dream and open my heart and watch life close more and more windows, so that I had no choice but to surrender and grieve. I will not wake up one day aged 60-nothing wanting anything, because I have wanted things, right then, right now, and life kept closing windows. If life had given me any indication, any clue at all that my dreams might happen, if life had been half as relentless in closing all the windows to my dreams, I would have done everything I could to make them a reality. I could not do more, and I could not want more. I I have done my part. I kept my heart open.
It hasn’t been for lack of wanting. God hasn’t been on my side. And I am not more powerful than God.”
You dream with an open your heart, so that you can be at peace, when the dreams don’t come true.
I dream of Paris, I keep wanting Paris, and I keep grieving when the Universe closes all chances of Paris happening. I keep opening my heart, asking if this is the right time, trying, searching, dreaming, only to be told, again and again, “no, not this time, you are not going to Paris”.
I am not going to wake up one day grieving not having been to Paris because I am doing my grieving right now.
The point of dreaming is to stay present, so that we know what happened to our dream.
If Paris never happens for me, I will know exactly why. Because I stayed present, kept dreaming and kept trying. I will know that lack of money was a legitimate reason, not a fear based assumption.
I am staying present, and staring at reality with clear eyes of truth, and I know what is standing in my way.
Sometimes life is standing in my way.
Sometimes life says “nope”.
Sometimes the Universe keeps all the doors and all the windows closed.
Sometimes all you can do is hold on.
And you stay present all the way, so you can say “I was there, I know what happened, and I’m at peace, because I gave it all I had”.
And it will be true.
Feel free to substitute “Paris” for whatever your dream is.