(Originally posted on May 27. 2013)
Hey, it’s okay. It’s allowed. If you’ve given up on the idea, perhaps it’s time to try again. Go ahead and dream your dreams. It’s good for you and fun too.
Recently, as I was writing my Family Matters story, I found myself deep in the “dreaming” business. The story follows three generations of the Padgett family as they struggle to find the elusive place where their individual, sometimes conflicting visions of the future can blend into a common dream. It is clear from the beginning that not everyone will get everything they want. In the course of their seeking there is bound to be discord and the need for compromise. Sounds a lot like real life, doesn’t it?
For two hundred seventy pages the frustrated Padgett grandparents, the family’s October element, deal with radically differing visions of what retirement ought to be, while their daughter tries her best to save a relationship torn apart by another set of conflicting dreams. Meanwhile the granddaughter, longing for a return to the laissez-faire freedom of her Los Angeles roots, struggles to imagine a future for herself in small-town Tanner. At every turn it seems that someone’s dream is in danger of being stepped on.
I call them “dreams”---those enticing hints of the future we long to have for ourselves. If we nurture them properly and allow them to play out, those idealized visions can help us be the person we want to be and live the life we want to live. I suppose most folks understand how important dreams are. In the beginning, when we first set out to find our place in the world, what else did we have but dreams? But now the question is---is there a place for dreaming in our October Years, when it sometimes feels like we are used up and out of possibilities? If someone is taking a poll on the subject, put me down as a loud “Yes.”
Like you perhaps, I’ve had a few ill-defined “want to’s” bouncing around in my head for as long as I can remember. But it was only a few years ago, during what I like to think of as the September of my life, that I found the nerve and motivation to double down on my personal “dream thing”---telling stories about my Tanner friends and their October dreams.
Each of us grows up with a uniquely personal vision of what-can-be for us. Sometimes that vision is hazy, hard to make out. Sometimes it is as clear as daylight. And even as we shape those images they are also shaping us. We are both the cause and the result of our dreams. After all, we spend a lifetime painting our own personal mind-picture of the person we are. Though we rarely allow anyone else to see the whole of that intimate portrait our dreams, the ones that remind us of “who we want to be,” are constantly at work on that mental canvas---redrawing, refining, and clarifying the “me” we view through the lens of our personal dreams.
We October types have been at this long enough to realize that integrating the mental images which our dreams produce with the untidy facts of real life can be difficult at any age. Perhaps you remember how hard that was as a teenager. I do. How could I have ever entertained those silly pie-in-the-sky fantasies---of doing the things I dreamed of doing, of becoming this or that, of some special “her” liking the likes of me? You think I’d have learned my lesson back then.
Yet here I am, late in life, still playing those silly mind games---of October dreaming and telling my stories. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one trying to live out my “want-tos.” In the face of October reality the “why” we keep dreaming may be found in boredom, isolation, and frustration---or perhaps disappointment with our earlier efforts. Whatever the reason most of us are inclined to wander back to that familiar mind space from time to time---telling ourselves that we ought to know better---yet still seeking the undeniable comfort of our dreams.
Of course, along the way there will be detours and disappointment, times when we step back to ask ourselves why we have not become the person we had hoped to be. Yet in the face of those shortcomings we keep dreaming---because we must. That was true in our formative years, in adulthood, and now in our October Years. As always we are a work-in-process---constantly bumping heads with reality, even as we continue to lean on what I call dreams.
In Family Matters the Padgett family is forced to face their dreams---the ones that are pulling them in very different directions. (That happens sometimes, doesn’t it?) In the course of their journey there are moments when the common ground they seek appears to be out of reach. But they are first and foremost a family. Their individual dreams require a recognition of that “familyness,” even when it means reshaping their own motivating visions. For them, just as it is for you and me, it is all about the often frustrating blend of family, dreams, and compromise.