I want to talk about dreams. And all the crazy little unintentional things that get in the way of those dreams. Being a parent is an amazing gift: it provides a constant flow of perspective and reflection. We get to see the world, and ourselves, through these little people who are seemingly so innocent... and are yet packed with some sort of simple and infinite wisdom.
But first, shadows.
My mind had been reeling last week. Reeling. Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. And of course, it wasn't just them, it was ever other kindred, every other inspirational and unique often disillusioned soul, that bubbled up at the mention of suicide... and there have been too many. I know I'm supposed to gloss right over these events, like they didn't happen, and keep on vibing high. But I'm one of those weird ducks that likes to feel things and understand them. Also, allowing empathy in, allowing myself to relate, connect, understand... helps me to hone and fortify my own tool son mental health. Hardship is inevitable and obstacles riddle our lives. It's certain. But with the right tools: perspective, mindset, finding gratitude, self-care, and authentic conversation with friends and family... we can navigate through. And these are essential, ESSENTIAL tools for any human being. I do worry sometimes, for those that push these lessons away, in favor of constant and disconnected joy. The lessons, the growth, that hardship can bring, are what help us to evolve and mature. Without facing our challenges, we stay stagnant. Nothing changes. So, I never shy away from life and what it can teach me, because I most certainly don't know what the hell I'm doing, much of the time. But I'm here. And I want to be here, which is a far cry from my rocky mindset in adolescence.
What happens, often, for those that live in the funhouse that is anxiety and/or depression... is that emotional events can become contagious. And I personally have spent years learning to manage that. To be able to separate from that. To know that others can go through hard things or even be overrun by their pain, their demons, and that I can still be okay. That I can stand my ground, stay centered, and let the storm blow around me, but not through me. What's mine always finds me; it must. But i don't have to take on the pain of others. It's called boundary-setting and it's vital for those in the personal or spiritual growth game. But it took me years of inner work.
I used to think that I absorbed people's feelings, that it was some sort of a gift or curse. But it was just something else to blame, really. Truthfully, it's all mental. And it's easy, it's so damned easy for an anxious mind to fall into the traps set by social media pages and gimmicks and conspiracies, and so on. But the truth is this: you control your mind. For better or worse. It all begins and ends with your thoughts and perceptions. It all depends upon our interpretation of life's events. Sometimes, though, we need distance from the stormy weather.
I was away this weekend, and I had forgotten how great travel is for my well-being. The art of moving, of exiting one world and finding myself in another. Of re-creating my mental landscape, my inner world, as my outer world changes. The aesthetics, the different tastes and food choices, the music in the air, the scent of a given place. The sensory plunge into... something new. It was just down the coast in Georgia, a suburb outside of Atlanta, but it was enough to shake me around and bring me back to a better version of me. A lighter, more joyful and free version, who'd left the worrying and concerns of others back home... to let the sun warm her face and to let her family warm her heart... for a few days.
I took a trip that had been under wraps for months, as my Step-Father scrutinized and planned my mother's 70th surprise birthday party. The fun part was in traveling with my son. I'd traveled alone, quite a bit, but this was the first flight that I was sharing with my little boy. I was a bit nervous, at first, about the airport and security and crowds, and so on... but he was incredible. It was a breeze, for the most part.
While boarding our plane in New York, he high-fived one of the flight attendants and said something like, "let's do this." it was really adorable, I just can't deal with his cuteness sometimes. He's pretty darn cute. The flight was great, although we had a few bumps coming into Atlanta. My son said, "we flew right through a cloud, a big cloud, so that's why it bounced up and down, right Mom?" Of course, I agreed. It was the cloud.
After we landed and made our way out of the plane, the same flight attendant, who was standing next to the pilot/Captain of the flight, pointed down and and said something that ended with... "this little nugget, right here." My son got another high-five and an invitation to visit the cockpit. He was jumping up and down, "okay, let's go!" He sat in the Captain's seat, and was mesmerized. This was a hero, to him. A real-life pilot, flying a gi-nourmous airplane through the sky. Just like in all the cartoons, in the movies, like the toys he played with... but this was real! This was a dream coming true.
"Here you go, son," the Captian said, giving him a pin, his first "wings." He also got a card that detailed a 737 and its features and he couldn't wait to talk about airplanes with his Grandpa.
Dreams coming true. Flying through the sky. Above and through the clouds. It was a marvel, really. I am still impressed with flight. Every time. I light up, at every take-off, the same way he did... his first time. We held hands and walked off the plane.
"How do pilots become pilots, Mom?" Mm, dreams.
"Well, lots of training, hard work, the right schools, and paying attention. Pilots work hard, they have to know a lot of things to make important decisions. But they love it. And first, they dream of being pilots."
"I want to fly a spaceship, someday. I want to fly in outer-space, how do pilots get to outer-space, Mom?"
"Well, those are very special pilots, that work even harder and harder... and they're called astronauts."
"Oh, I know about astronauts, I learned about astronauts! Maybe when I grow up I can be a Captain, too, but of a spaceship!" He zoomed around the airport, on our way to baggage claim, lit up after that. He checked his shirt for his new wings, about twenty different times. He didn't want to lose them. Finally, I stowed them in my purse for safe-keeping.
Life. Such terrible nightmares and fears. Such beautiful and transcendent dreams. And really, it's both. We need both to live a fulfilling and whole life. Our pain is proof that we showed up, that we get to play, that we get knocked down. And our achievements, our successes, our wins, our dreams that come true... show that we persevere, that we rise above circumstance, that we try, that we trust, that we improve, that we hold passion inside. A well-lived life runs a spectrum of emotion. It's a trip, it's a ride, it's journey, it's an art-form... and it's worth it. It's so worth it.
Learn to manage your mind, your thoughts, and how to ride your emotions... and dream big. Always, always, keep dreaming big. That's where it starts.