We are inundated with messages of chasing and living the dream. The exhilarating life overseas, finding our purpose and passion or our undeniable ideal significant other. But this state of mind keeps us running toward an elusive finish line. It’s a dream within a dream. And the dream is never quite as it seems….
When I was five, my little Bessie mate and I would stand up high on his garden gate and yell ‘RED BALLOON’ as the ‘rag and bone’ man drove past in his waste collection van.
We had the words wrong but it was a total blast.
It’s one of the happiest recollections of my upbringing. And when I look back, it was always the small things; digging up worms, making up songs, building dens and playing outside with my sister and friends.
I also loved animals so much that I dreamed of becoming a vet. And, instead of having a baby, I was going to adopt a chimpanzee from the zoo. I was certain this is what I would do.
Until, on the TV, I witnessed a veterinary surgeon slicing through the skin of someone’s pet. Another had his hand up the rear end of a cow, one had a dog die and another got bitten by a crazed cat as he tried to stick a needle in its back.
And just like that my dream collapsed.
For immediately I knew I would never, nor want to, be equipped for the reality. And I also realised how insanely cruel keeping a chimpanzee for a baby would be.
It was my first lesson in life that dreams are not always as they seem. For I’d only visualised the best bits; the affection, redemption and rescuer gratification.
It’s a fundamentally flawed and fatal mistake that we still too often make.
We’re conditioned to be in a constant state of wanting, wondering and waiting for an enigmatic yet elusive place ahead. A happy-ending destination where fortune, feat and fulfilment awaits.
We believe that when we arrive we’ll stride through life with a spring. And no doubt stars will sparkle above our heads while pretty little bluebirds sing.
Yet, while it may be true we have yet to have live the best, the constant quest for something better makes little sense:
The Single Story: We look at those that seemingly have it all and make stereotypical assumptions; the rich; free, parents; fulfilled, couples; content and the successful; set-up for life. We don’t see the struggles that, in addition to the satisfying sections, are also central to the story. The worry and weariness of child rearing, the fights in long lasting love, and the demands and dedication required for great wealth. We assign a single story to situations we’d like to have. But the truth is…
The Unexpected Losses: For all the big gains in life, there are losses. Sometimes deficits directly relate, often they’re just a consequence of changing times. The dream life overseas; a loss of family stability, the successful career but simultaneous yet unexpected troubles with our friends or family, or motherhood; the loss of independence and sometimes sanity! Achieving our life’s aims also requires that we often too, quite significantly, change. Yet we imagine everything good about our present moment will remain the same. And, while the wins are often worth it, when we’re blind to future stakes we fail to see and appreciate prior states. And we also get things wrong…
The Mismatched Needs. We think we know what we want. Frequently we assume that adding extra will subtract our sadness. We fail to figure out that fulfilment is fundamentally within us, unaware everything we need is already there. And then we look at others and also inaccurately compare, because…
The Fake Realities: Social media is saturated with streams of stories of success and people supposedly ‘living the dream’. It seems no life is complete unless it’s filtered and plastered all over the screen. But the real filters are the ones we use to disguise our everyday lives. The bulk that is everything in between. The messy house, the parenting fails; bribes and empty threats, sitting around lazily in our sweats, emptying the bin, getting irritated by our partners snoring and kicking them a little harder than intended, or not, in the shin. But while we should certainly celebrate our success, glossing over the rest dulls what’s real. All we see are manipulated ‘happy endings’ and highlight reels. But…
The Happily Ever After Myth: Even happy endings end. Because the nature of life isn’t so; rather it’s a series of happy and unhappy moments that come and go. Even when our biggest dreams arrive they are only ever mere moments in time. They too will pass us by. But rather than a dismal deduction, detaching from the happy ending destination frees us to depart the speeding train of anticipation, able to wait patiently for other enjoyable rides to stop at our station. But often we’re too scared to jump because…
The Perceived Failure: Frantically focusing on the future can foster feelings of failure, leaving us feeling frustrated. We pervade our own points of view with perceived past mishaps, or fear of forthcoming failures, conversely, preventing us from progress. But failure is purely a perception. Rather it’s the passageway; the practice, progress and pleasure that should be our only measure. When we’re in it mainly for the process, we’ll still fail, but pay far less notice. Rather we’ll experience daily appreciation able to enjoy our lives free from the shackles of expectation.
Dreaming is an essential and wonderful part of life. It fills us with hope and fire to go after the things we desire.
But to be continuously invested in chasing and achieving ‘the dream’, we can overlook the joy of everything in between. The time we take to plait our child’s hair, sitting with them and really being there, laughing at silly things, sharing a knowing look with those we truly know, strolls with the sand between our toes, waking up too soon and catching a glimpse of the bright shining moon.
Standing on a gate shouting out red balloon.
For to live life only for the happy end is to yell the words wrong all along. But instead of a minor vocabulary mistake, it’s a critical error of judgement that will be forever too late to mend.
So to go after our dreams, we shouldn’t run, but tiptoe. Careful not to trample on the seemingly insignificant things as we go.
They may be the moments that matter the most.
Because we are already the living the real dream, you know.
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