About 90 years ago, my great-grandfather brought my great-grandmother from a small farm town to The Big City.
And then he promptly left.
Started a new family with another woman.
And was never heard from again.
My grandmother was eight-years-old.
I don’t know if my great-grandmother had dreams beyond getting herself out of a terrible situation. She preached hard work and perseverance. She got herself a job and then built herself a business. But I wonder if she dreamed.
Dreams are soft.
And people of my great-grandmother’s ilk were proudly hard.
“She’s tough!” “She’s hard!” “She doesn’t let things get to her!”
What a terrible way to have to go through life.
Tough, hard, impenetrable.
Dreaming is vulnerable. It’s showing yourself, who you are, what you believe, what you want.
It’s uncomfortably revealing.
It says: this is who I am. I am someone who dreams of rest. I am someone who dreams of song. I am someone who dreams of riding my bike across South America. I am someone who dreams of baking the perfect pie crust. I am someone who dreams of quiet solitude.
It requires tremendous courage to dream.
To lean into the discomfort of wanting something.
I can think of many reasons why my great-grandmother might not have allowed herself dreams Namely: the heartbreak. To dream, you have to face your longing. And if your circumstances are such that the chasm between what is possible and what is, is SO great – then it can be painful to dream. The pain of disappointment, the pain of entertaining joy.
We lose the capacity to dream when we are fixed in survival mode.
In survival mode, “dreaming” devolves into wishes, fantasy, and escapism. A coping mechanism that helps us deal with the pain of reality. I call those dishonest dreams.
Honest Dreams are a manifestation of who you are. A declaration of what you believe. Not a desire to be something different. Honest Dreams are a longing to actualize what already exists inside of you.
Magic happens when you can own your hard edges, while leaning into your soft vulnerable core. I have no idea if my great-grandmother had the capacity to dream. She might have been too hard, too tough.
It is a privilege to have dreams and the courage to entertain them. A privilege I’m not sure she had.
But I hope, if you do, you exercise that privilege. Because the more self-actualized people there are in the world, the less pain we cause one another (and ourselves).
PS: Please, no more rank-ordering dreams. I’m tired of “dream bigger” or “you’re thinking too small.” First of all, your dreams don’t come from thinking. They come from your heart. Second of all, there are no big or little dreams. There is simply the direction of your desire – and it is not for someone else to judge whether or not the direction of that desire is big or small or good or bad enough.
It simply is.
The more you allow for who you are, the more you can allow for who others are. Don’t judge your dreams. But do soften enough to see them.
PPS: Kristin Hatcher and I are building a community of practice designed to help you actualize your dream projects with other people. See what others have to say about it and get on the waitlist here.