Dreams And Hopes

“It is okay to dream and have hope.”

Affirmations are wonderful things, when I believe that they are true and possible. But I don’t always believe that. I don’t always trust that it is okay to dream and have hope.  Sometimes, I want guarantees, to be able to see into the future, to KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that my dreams will come true, and only then am I able to have hope.

I blame fairy tales.  I always loved the stories that turned out well in the end, when good succeeds and evil is vanquished. Those stories of beautiful girls, who suffered and struggled and remained good throughout until that goodness was rewarded with blissful happiness – they spoke to my own suffering. I believed that if I was just good enough for long enough, life would suddenly hand me everything that I’d ever wanted, because I deserved it. I had suffered long enough.

I know, intellectually, that this is not how the world works. But within me is an inner child who never grew up and doesn’t give a shit about intellect. She wants her fairy tale and SHE WANTS IT NOW.

And I would give it to her, but I don’t know how…and even if I did, I might not give it to her anyway, because I don’t believe I deserve it. That’s where I find myself these days, still longing for the fairy tale, but telling myself “no” because it doesn’t exist and I don’t deserve it anyway because I’m a bad person.

So when is it okay to start dreaming? To have hope?

I’m in a relationship, my fourth in the last decade. For someone who didn’t date at all in high school and very rarely in college, I’m amazed at my track record as an adult. I’ve been married twice, lived with someone, and now I’m dating…and beginning to wonder what the future holds for this relationship. In other words, dreaming and having hope.

But it’s clear that relationships are challenging for me. Not finding people to love; I’ve been gifted with kind, loving, thoughtful, intelligent partners. But maintaining healthy relationships has been a struggle, and the end of each relationship layers critical and negative messages on top of my fragile core: I’m a failure, I can’t do relationships, and anyone who is with me is simply going to get hurt. Each layer weighs heavily on the others, and there are times when my back is bent and my shoulders ache under the strain.

This pain is a constant reminder that I am bad at relationships, which often translates to simply being a bad person. A bad person like me shouldn’t get another chance at happiness. I shouldn’t get to love and be loved in return. I shouldn’t have happiness and joy because I’ve caused pain.

So I look to the future, and I’m terrified.

But this morning I had a moment when I asked myself a question: what if I let go of all of it? I imagined opening my hands, palms facing the sky. I thought about letting go of figuring out what comes next, watching my fears take flight and soar from my palms into the sky. I felt the tension in my fingers ease as I uncurled them from old messages and beliefs that keep me tethered to earth, unable to dream.

I thought about receiving, too; receiving all of the gifts that are possible beyond the fringes of today and tomorrow and next week and next month. I imagined blessings falling into my open hands and all around me on the ground. I realized that in order to receive, I have to let go, but by letting go I make space to receive, and in that space my terror and fear is replaced by calm and joy.

I closed my hands, dropped them to my sides, and exhaled. And I felt better.

But my contentment was short-lived as I faced an unseen foe in my quest to dream and have hope: my lifelong inability to speak up for myself. I forgot about the willingness to share my dreams and hopes with another person as openly and honestly as possible, and almost immediately my lips clamped shut and everything I meant to say went right to my head. This is not a good place for a feelings-related dialogue with the voices of my past.

“Well, your dreams might have to wait,” said one voice.

“It’s best to do what the other person wants – you know that” said another.

“You’ll probably make the wrong decision anyway” said a third.

And my inner child, deep within myself, stood up as tall as she could and shouted, “NO!!!”

“No! I’m not waiting any longer!”

“No! I want to do what I want to do!”

“No! We’re good at making decisions!”

It was my responsibility to speak up for her, and for myself, and eventually…I did.  I shared my feelings and dreams and hopes with my significant other.  And nobody died.

Life is not a fairy tale.  I know this for sure.  But this is the real work for me, I think, in regards to my personal growth.  Not just to believe “it’s okay to dream and have hope,” but to also believe it’s okay to open my mouth and tell my truth, even if it feels scary and messy and silly and stupid.  That in speaking up, I break free from old patterns and beliefs and launch myself joyfully toward something new and incredible.  And I protect my inner child self so she feels free to dream big.

Hands open…palms up…I’m ready.

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