For me, it starts with more time in front of the TV. Not time sewing or watching movies with friends.  Nope time, usually lying down, with a blanket, and staring.  Then, daytime TV creeps in – Ellen begins to sound better than reading or taking a walk or doing the dishes.  If this isn’t curbed, soon, I’m watching TV for eight, ten hours a day. 

This is what it looks like for me to give up on my dreams.

I’ve done it twice in my life – once in San Francisco and once in Maryland – both times, I pushed my dreams away because the men I was with didn’t share them. One had dreams of his own, and mine – despite our lifetime commitment to each other – didn’t fit with his plan. The other had no dreams; he had killed them with vodka long, long ago, masking his pain and losing all hope.  But my decision to give up on my dreams, that was mine, not theirs.  I gave up. I can’t blame them.

But I recognize the pattern – it’s far too easy for me to put my dreams aside, to bury them and take up the life of someone else.  For me, this means despair.

I love supporting other people in their dreams. I love to throw my shoulder into it with them and stand behind them as they work. I love it.  This is why it’s easy for me to get subsumed in someone else’s hopes.

So I’ve had to learn balance and fortitude – the ability to put a warm hand on someone’s shoulder as they push forward on their path but not step off my path to clear theirs for them.  I’ve had to learn that clinging to my dreams is not selfishness; it’s truth. I’ve had to learn that to be healthy, to love well, I have to be true to myself.

I’ve also learned to surround myself with people who dream with me, even as they walk toward their own dreams.  I don’t have space or health enough to stave off naysayers or people who cannot make room for my dreams alongside theirs.  I wish these people well, but they don’t have space in my life anymore.

Dreaming is hard work. It’s easy for me to abandon my dreams if the people I love let me. It’s easy for me to listen to the fear and doubt in others’ voices – “You’ll never get to travel if you don’t find a “real” job.” “You can’t be a farmer; what do you know about hard work.” “You won’t be taken seriously if you’re not working in an academic institution.” It’s easy for me to hear their fears and pull them into my heart because they so closely echo my own.

Yet, I know what comes if I surrender to fear, if I let someone else’s vision of life to overlay the one I have for my own. I don’t want to sacrifice afternoons on the trails with Meander to reruns of Charmed.  I don’t want to feel my heart crinkle with sadness as I think of this dream like a fairy tale. I don’t want that despair.

I want to live this life – full, throttle wide open. Laughing.

What does it feel like when YOUR dreams get put aside?