Today is Friday, February 7, 2014.
Do dreams have an expiration date? Today's photo message says no, but my experience has been a little different. Perhaps it's not so much a question of having an expiration date as it is a question of whether the dream is based on a solid assessment of reality. Whatever the case, some dreams do seem to have a point beyond which they are merely fantasies, and it becomes wasteful to put any more energy into them.
When I was a teenager, I was asked to make a collage of what my life would look like as an adult. I found a picture of a family gathered around their vehicle, an SUV. The husband was decked out in fishing gear. One child had on a band uniform and carried a tuba. One child had on a ballerina costume. One child had a baseball team uniform on. There was a dog in the picture. Basically, I wanted a family life. I assumed, somehow, that I would also become a teacher.
Fast-forward to my early twenties. I had married a Japanese guy and we were living in Japan. We had no kids. I was an English conversation teacher.
Fast-forward to my early thirties. I had found out that my Japanese husband was sterile and that I was ovulating irregularly, in any event. He had not wanted to adopt, and in frustration, we had to admit that our marriage wasn't the greatest, either. We divorced, and I moved from Osaka to Tokyo by myself, where I taught English for Berlitz Schools of Languages in Japan.
Fast-forward once again to my early forties. By this time, I had come back to the United States and had gotten my Master's Degree in Second Languages and Cultures Education. I had just started working for St. Paul Public Schools, and was in my first year of teaching English as a Second Language at the elementary level. I went to a doctor about a huge blood clot that I passed, and was told that I had a tumor that was growing pretty fast. This was in May sometime.
I didn't want surgery because I still had hopes of "meeting someone" and having a child. The doctor told me they would "watch" the tumor and I was to keep a diary of how I felt, whether I was in pain, and the start, end, and duration of my menstrual periods. I did this and compiled the notes for the doctor in the fall, sometime in November. By this time, the tumor was about half the size of a basketball. It had to come out. The doctor told me to re-read the diary I had written, and I had to admit, it showed clearly that the amount of pain I was in did not improve my "quality of life." On my forty-first birthday, in December, I had my uterus taken out and with it, two huge non-cancerous tumors. One was inside the uterus and the other was wrapped around it.
In the month leading up to the surgery, I did a lot of crying and grieving. I cried when I saw mothers and children, fathers and children, and anything to do with babies on TV. I did so much crying that I messed up my sinuses and had a huge sinus infection, which threatened to derail the surgery. By the time of the actual surgery, however, I was pretty much done crying, and I had accepted, albeit with bad grace, the fact that I was not going to have any children. I would have to give up my dream.
It wasn't as if the dream was realistic, anyway. Not only did I not have a husband or partner, I didn't even have a relationship of any kind. I certainly couldn't have afforded to adopt a child of my own, much less drive the child to ballet lessons or music lessons, like the mom in that ad I had cut out in my teens. I didn't even have a driver's license! Not to mention a car...
So I gave up on the dream, and what happened was amazing, because unbeknownst to me, I had finally released all this energy I'd been using, fruitlessly trying to keep the dream of motherhood alive. Suddenly, I felt great, and I healed from the surgery so fast that my doctor was shocked. I put all my energy into teaching, and that's where it stayed.
My dream of motherhood had an "expiration date," if you will, and that was the date of my hysterectomy. There was nothing stopping me from transferring my energy into a more achievable dream, however.
Many dreams take years to achieve, and there are often a number of setbacks along the way. Rarely do we achieve exactly what we dream of. Most people will tell you that the reality that they have manifested is different from the dream, and yet the basic goals of the dream were accomplished. Those whose dreams have taken a long time to bring to fruition are united in telling us to keep on keeping on, and that the time a person seriously considers quitting is often the moment just before victory.
Fewer people talk about reviewing our dreams once in a while to revise or scrap our dreams. Our revised dreams are usually much better than the original, much more appropriate and realistic. When we stubbornly refuse to give up on a dream that is not headed for fulfillment anytime soon, we are simply wasting our energy.
Look carefully at your dreams. How are you doing? Are you on track for achieving your dreams? Do they need a little tweaking? Has your situation changed to the point where a dream is no longer appropriate? There's no sin in closing the door on a dream that isn't working out. Release the dream and free up the energy you were using to hold it in place. Now transfer your energy to a new dream, and see what happens. :-)