Dreamer…Those who know me best know this is a title that has often been attributed to me over the years. In high school I ran in a group of Nerd girls called The Vixens. Whenever a member was added to the group, they all huddled together and brainstormed a Japanese name uniquely for her personality. We had Ami, Aki, Yumi…and I was Nozomi. In Kanji, the translation of Nozomi derives as wish, hope, or desire.
A few years later at our Center for the Arts party for departing Vocal Department seniors, we had a superlatives ceremony. My classmates all voted to create an original award just for me — “Weirdest Dreamer.” Although it was not intended to be complimentary, I rather enjoyed the title, and I still have that little plastic trophy.
Suffice it to say, despite heartbreak and emotional trauma, repeated unemployment, and spending the last three years fighting an exhausting physical and emotional battle with late stage Lyme Disease and Bartonella, I’ve lived with unbreakable optimism, a belief in the transformative resiliency of the human spirit, and devout faith that there is purpose in everything… There is always a way, always a light in the darkness.
Reading all of this may cause you to question the title of this blog. The thing is, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my life and the lives of the people I love and I have come to realize many things. Dreaming is great…until it’s not.
Fantasy is Addictive
One thing that I have in common with my fellow creatives is that I have a propensity to daydream and fantasize. I could — and have — done it for hours. Turn on a good playlistand I can get lost for literally days living in a fantasy world woven from the magic of my mind.
It feels beyond amazing to tap into that deep state of visualizing all the things you long for coming true, going just the way you envision, everything falling into place, mountains moving, hearts turning, walls crumbling…
The problem is, you start to delude yourself into thinking you see signs of vision fulfilled. In someone like me, imagination is a powerful tonic. The line between reality and fantasy gets blurred because of the emotions channeled into the daydream. To think of yourself ascending into a reality that you’ve created with your mind…that’s a high like no other. The problem is that it’s not real. Fantasy is not reality.
Indulging in living in a constant fantasy-land, daydreaming, having endless fictional or hypothetical conversations, resolving problems we cannot cope with in the concrete world…it’s a toxic method of self-soothing by running away. It is escapism. It is tempting and addictive for me to retreat into this world because in the confines of my imagination everything falls into place the way I wish it would.
The fact remains that fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality. We cannot live in a daydream no matter how enticing it may be. When engaging in real life takes a back seat to spending time in an internal fantasy world, it becomes a dangerous thing. I’ve gotten myself lost in a fantasy world more times than I can count over the years and I have to say that although the rush of it is indeed beyond compare, waking up to reality is inevitable, painful, and intensely jarring.
Dreaming isn’t Living
But Angela…what about the transformative power of the imagination? What about visualization? That which you focus on becomes your reality! Imaginative thought is the foundation of creative innovation!
I’ve seen far too many people misunderstand visualization and manifestation theory. I apply these things primarily from a therapeutic psychological perspective…but again as a Christian I understand that aligning my heart, soul, mind, and life with the will and purpose of God by surrendering my hopes and dreams to him is exactly what brings about the manifestation of his promises and unlocks his miraculous design.
I have learned — and am still learning — that nothing will manifest if it is against God’s will and timing. We are not the authors of our own stories. Attempting to rewrite the script results in a cycle of pain and conflict: times of trial that teach us he loves us too much to allow us to grasp for things or people that are not good for us.
I have come to realize that life is more like a “choose your own adventure” book. God has written a script for each path we choose to walk down, and there are set check-points that he has designed for us to reach on each path. The length of time it takes to get there and the amount of pain we endure on the journey is largely up to us.
Whether or not we always see the path we’re meant to walk clearly, the fact remains that when we retreat into our own fantasy-world, we accomplish nothing. You can’t build anything isolated in your head.
Without a Practical Foundation Your Dreams Fall Apart
My cousin Stacy recently wrote about how the advice to follow your heart is a lie. One quote that stuck with me is, “follow your heart, but take your brain with you.” So many people confuse following your heart with following what is right for your life.
The thing is, what we imagine and daydream about is fiction! Even when our dreams come to fruition, it is literally never the way we have always fantasized about it. I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who can say that it is! There is a depth of wisdom and discernment that must be applied to life.
We need to balance the delicate line that differentiates following our passions and core desires versus following our hearts.
Emotion Mind, Reasonable Mind, and Wise mind. This is the foundation of all mindfulness.
Emotion mind is usually where people are when they’re “following their hearts.” They chase a career, a relationship with someone, or a project with nothing backing them but their emotional impulses. Emotions are subjective, and do not hold the full picture of reality.
Reasonable mind is basically taking on the Vulcan perspective of all logic, no emotions. Again, this is a flawed partial lens through which to view life and make decisions, for we are emotional beings.
Wise mind is the balance between emotion mind and reasonable mind — it is the healthy cohesion of these very necessary parts of ourselves.
In my journey from hopeless head-in-the-clouds-dreamer to where I am today, learning about these things has given me a clearer perspective on dreaming, passion, and following my heart. I recognize that although I gain a high from embracing the seductive dance of immersive daydreaming, I have never been able to put these dreams into action or achieve any of the goals birthed from this time of fantasy.
The truth is I’ve been afraid to leave the safe haven of my imagination. As I have gone through the fire of Lyme I find I am left with nothing but my mind…and the words that dance within it. I rekindled the spark within me…ignited a long-dormant lifelong love-affair with words. As I heal I know I need to step into the real world.
Just as love spoken but not acted upon is a lie, life is not lived in the mind — it is lived in action… in community.
The Quest to Live Differently
So have I given up on dreaming? Yes. I no longer want to dream…I want to live. What good is dreaming if it gets shattered during a half-cocked endeavor, remains an unfulfilled fantasy, or dies in the graveyard of buried hopes and dreams?
I don’t want to only dream about a world where art, passion, emotional intimacy, lifelong friendship and understanding are the norm. I don’t want to simply dream about a time when my words are no longer confined to a document on my laptop or a notebook on a shelf, waiting, aching to be read.
I don’t want to chase after people and passions with unrestrained deluded expectation. I don’t want to lead a life where the things and activities that inspire me and fill me with joy exist purely in my imagination.
I don’t intend to dream about these things at all. Instead of dreaming, I learn. I build. I work. I reach out to connect and relate, share and communicate. I plan, experiment, and take calculated steps forwards. Instead of dreaming I step up and take action.
I strive to live a life of balanced passion, deep purpose, and patient measured work with like-minded people to bring these dreams to life. I don’t want to dream anymore. I don’t want to hide anymore. Now I get to live in the real world…
Join the conversation:
What unfulfilled dreams do you have? How have you learned to overcome your fear of failure? What steps do you take today?