It began with a small spark of inspiration one random afternoon. I don't know how the idea came about... We'd been discussing moving back to Maryland later this year, the timing of it, the logistics, the practicalities. The finances... how much could we afford? The lifestyle... how much house and yard do we want? The commute... What town do we want to live in? It was all very matter of fact, but then one moment later, the smallest germ of an idea began to form in my mind.
This little idea stayed there, and it grew, and before I knew it, it had become a full-fledged dream. Or rather, a Dream. The big kind. The kind where it's a little scary if you dwell in the "how" for any time at all. The kind that makes your eyes sparkle and your heart flutter and the corners of your mouth ever so slightly spread into a quiet, secret smile. The kind I haven't had in a long time.
This post isn't going to be about what the Dream is, because it's still a little too precious to me to share in the cold, harsh light of day. No, in fact, that's part of what I want to talk about today... that first, scary step when you whisper the words to someone else. That opening of your heart at one of its most vulnerable moments, that moment when you let someone else in on your secret longing.
Sometimes I wish I was a big, bold, extroverted creative artist. You know her. She's the woman who wears fabulously flamboyant clothing and red lipstick on a Tuesday morning. She can come up with seven ideas for things to do this weekend without even thinking. She floats from one creative venture to another, and tries anything and everything under the sun just to see how the experience feels. She wouldn't have any trouble telling someone her Dream. She doesn't need anyone's approval or buy-in, she forges ahead and makes things happen for herself. In the doing, she finds out what works and what doesn't. She doesn't pre-think every little thing, she just tries. And more often than not, she succeeds. And she always learns.
Me? I'm very safe. I know what I can do. I take tiny steps toward stretch goals. I dream small. I need to know how the money's going to work out. I need to know what it will look like, feel like, how long it will take. So when this new Dream showed up, it surprised me. It's little foreign to me, but I really enjoyed nurturing it quietly in my mind.
Then the day came when I needed to talk to someone else about it. Because Dreams are things that we can't do alone. They impact the people we live with, the people we love. We need other people to make the Dream happen.
This Giving Up Of Myself
I brought up the conversation with my husband. It was a hard thing, this giving up of myself. As I spoke, I felt like a small bit of myself had been pulled away from me, and now it wasn't really mine anymore. I felt vulnerable and I expected judgment. I expected him to poo-poo the idea, to tell me no, that it didn't fit into what he wants in his life.
What really happened? Truthfully I don't know. I can't remember his words. But I can tell you how I felt during the conversation. I felt what I expected to feel. I felt like he thought the Dream was silly, impractical, too far out of "normal" to be something he would buy into. I don't remember what he said, but I can remember how I shrank back into myself and set the Dream on a shelf far back in the corner of my mind.
Don't be mad at my husband. It's not his fault I put my Dream to bed, it's mine. I'm responsible for my Dream. I'm the one who has to feed it, give it light, give it air, allow it to grow and breathe. No one else can do that for me. I'm pretty sure now that it was my fear, not his reaction, that made me shrink back and hide the Dream away. Luckily, I didn't fully close the door. It was just dormant, quietly waiting for another chance to come out into the open.
That chance came one night at dinner this week. My daughter is home from college and was talking about her plans for this summer and her plans for her career. One thing led to another and she was telling us how she'd love to own a small acreage farm and raise chickens and goats have an organic garden and make music and art and be a freelance writer and host artist retreats and -- whew! She's a big Dreamer! During that conversation, my husband mentioned to her what I had told him a few months ago about my Dream, and he suggested that my daughter and I could go in together on our project. He had a lilt in his tone that made me uncomfortable.
"Don't mock me," I said. "You're mocking me."
He quickly denied it, and said he was intrigued by my Dream and wondered why I hadn't talked more about it lately.
What? Was he serious? How could I have so totally misread the situation?
The floodgates opened in that moment. The three of us began brainstorming and bantering and building idea upon idea. My daughter was the active encourager in the conversation. She showed me how to give life to an idea and let the possibilities fly. Since that dinner, I've had more conversations one-on-one with my daughter about it, I've done some research on my own, and last night I brought it up again with my husband to see if he really thought the idea has legs for us, for our life together. To my delight, he did, and it does. We agreed that it does make sense for me to move forward and pursue my Dream. I couldn't be happier!
I'd Forgotten My Audience
I've realized that I'd made a mistake in how I approached sharing this Dream of mine. I'd forgotten my audience, and what kind of personality they have. I didn't describe things very clearly, and didn't remember that I was talking to someone who has a different perspective. So my husband's reaction didn't fit what I wanted to hear at that moment, and I was hurt and I retreated.
See, my husband is a doer. So when a new, bold idea is put to him, he immediately starts thinking about the "how". And that immediately turns to a discussion of the expected roadblocks and speed bumps, the practicalities, and how to get around them. And in my ears, that sounds an awful lot like "All the Reasons Why Your Dream Won't Work!" And that makes me stop, put my dream on the back of the shelf, and return to more normal, known things in my life. But he wasn't judging me, he didn't think it was silly. He was simply extending the Dream into an action plan, premature as that may have been in my mind. He was trying to be helpful, in thinking through how we could make the plan work. He wanted to identify the roadblocks so that we could find a way around them.
My daughter, on the other hand, is a dreamer. She has a talent for coming up with ideas and growing them and extending them and building them. She doesn't let reality get in her way. "You could do this. And then you could do that. And that could lead to that. Oh, what about this?" She isn't afraid of risk. She operates on blind faith. She believes in the random walk through the Universe. She believes in learning every day through experience. When I talk to her about my Dream, I feel invigorated, limitless, and free.
Coming fresh out of these conversations this week, it's really clear to me that I have the beginnings of a Dream Team here. I need a group of people who will serve specific roles for me as I pursue my Dream. My Personal Board of Directors, if you will, for this Dream of mine.
My Dream Team
A Dreamer - someone who doesn't care about boundaries, limits, fears, convention, what's normal or expected. Someone I can bounce ideas off of, extend from one idea to another, explore all the possibilities and set a grand vision. Someone who won't let me settle for a smaller, easier version of the Dream. For me, this is my daughter.
A Clarifier - someone who will ask questions and help me understand what parts of this Dream are important, and what parts are just ancillary. Someone to help refine all the brainstormed ideas into a clear vision and purpose. I can count on my friend Lori for this.
A Processor or Troubleshooter - someone who will think through step by step what needs to be done. Someone who can break things down into chunks, identify potential roadblocks and find solutions to them. My husband fits this role perfectly.
An Expert - someone who has experience in the subject matter related to the Dream, someone who knows the ins and outs and what might be involved, might have a unique perspective, and who isn't too close to me. Someone who isn't emotionally invested in me as a friend, so can give me unfiltered feedback on the idea and help me see things clearly. I have a few people in mind that I can go to for this.
A team of Cheerleaders - people who will encourage me and make me feel that I can do this. These people can be counted on to smile and nod and clap their hands and be there for me when I'm feeling discouraged. I have several family members and friends in my life that will be perfect in this role.
Who Won't Be On My Dream Team?
Sadly, I know that there are people in my life who will not be helpful in the pursuit of my Dream. I'll need to limit my interaction with these types of people regarding my idea in order to keep them from stealing my energy and slowing my progress.
The Naysayer - you know, the one who only has negative or cynical things to say about everything in life.
The Gossip - this person can drag me in to worrying about what someone else will think, what the neighbors might say, what convention would have me do.
The Jealous Dreamer - this is the most dangerous person of all, the one who for whatever reason has already given up on his or her personal dreams, and doesn't want me to realize my dream either. This person is a Dream Killer of the worst kind.
Who's On Your Dream Team?
Do you have a big Dream too? Is there something in the back of your mind that you've been putting off, because it's impractical, or it's not "normal", or it's risky or scary? Well, I can't tell you whether or not now is the right time to pull that idea out into the sun an let it grow. You're the only one who knows that. But if now is the time? Then be sure to find yourself a Dream Team! Figure out who in your life can serve in the roles of the Dreamer, the Clarifier, the Processor, the Connector, the Expert, and the Cheerleaders. And think carefully about telling your Processor about your dream before you've chatted it over with your Dreamer. Trust me, you'll be so much more likely to keep the Dream out in the open!
Won't you please leave a comment to tell us about your Dream Team? Or about your Dream? I'd love to hear from you!