“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
I struggle to consolidate the differences between what I expected from life and how life has turned out. The dreams I had when I was little. The picture I’d drawn in my mind. The trajectory I’d mapped out for myself. The good old ten-year plan that I so neatly laminated. It was so perfect, in my head, but dreaming or planning is not the same as living or doing.
Sitting here, looking out at the trees being rustled by a gentle wind, I feel a little hollow. The trigger was a conversation that was random and benign. An off-handed comment. A desire, a longing, that was shared with me and now I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s something I’ve wanted but, given my life up until now, I think it’s out of reach. A long shot at best. Utterly improbable would be more realistic.
A few off-handed words. A joke with a touch of a sad truth. I can’t stop thinking about it. Sorry, I’m not sharing the exact thought here. It’s something that was shared it in confidence. Despite the fact that I share the sentiment and the desire, I hold it for them with closed fists. The thought, the sadness of never having that need met, and the grief in knowing it won’t happen is very real in me too. Though, the specifics will stay between them and me.
The conversation got me thinking about life as a separate entity. A creature that floats through space and time. Searching for a home to set its roots and grow. The dreams it has, as its search for its place in the universe, are wild and imaginative. They’re big, wonderful, and full of magic. But they’re also small and simple. Things no one else would look at but, to the creature, these trivial pursuits hold immeasurable meaning.
As long as it’s floating out there in space then all of these dreams are still possible. They’re boundless! They can’t be restrained or tamed by the burdens of reality. Reality isn’t even a concept that factors into the equation. Not out there among the stars. Reality is too heavy, too weighted, for the lightness of space and the abstract nature of time. Out there, it can’t breathe so it can’t live. Reality needs terra firma to survive but the stars thrive in a weightless vacuum.
Life goes along, taking in the endless wonders, and as it grows, its imagination grows too. Wilder. More creative. Anything is possible. If it can dream it then why can’t it live it? Then it dreams up a perfect home on a solid planet. It dreamed it and now it lives it. Out of space and down to earth. Hard ground. Dryland. It’s found its home amongst the wildlands of reality.
That was me, growing up I always had my head in a dream world. I created these lives for myself and played them out in my backyard or inside my closet fort. They were grand and exciting. In these dream worlds, I was strong and healthy. My body wouldn’t betray me. I could go anywhere and do anything. As long as I could dream it then in my dreams I could live it.
As an adult, I still create these dream worlds to escape to when real-life presses down on me so hard it feels like gravity has taken performance enhancers. The problem is, these dream worlds aren’t as satisfying as they were when I was a kid. When I was a kid, they were easier to believe in. I didn’t know any better so everything seemed possible, but now? Now, I know better and very few things seem possible. The older I get, the fewer things seem probable.
That sounds a bit morose and defeatist.
I didn’t start my morning feeling this way. It actually started out with a nice cup of tea and a homemade cinnamon roll. When I thought about what I would write today, I felt like writing something funny. Well, something that gave me a chuckle at least. I started to write something entirely different. I got halfway through and then it fell away.
An off-handed comment intended as a self-deprecating joke and now my mind is whirling.
Is it inevitable? As we get older, do we naturally lose our love of dreams? Do we become so consumed by reality that we forget about the time we spent floating through space and dancing among the stars? Is it a foregone conclusion?
Losing faith in life. Losing the dreams I once had. I thought my life would be so different. Not perfect. Not pain-free. Despite my dreams, I never once believed I’d live a blessed life filled with fields of dandelions. You heard me right. Dandelions.
I know they’re weeds but when the light catches them just right they sure are beautiful. Sunset, the sky is glowing red, orange, and fading blue. The last rays of light slipping down the horizon. It catches the field at just the right angle and these weeds shine bright. For a brief moment, the humble dandelion is lit on fire and in the mirage you just might think you’ve found a lost city of gold.
As a kid, I had a soft spot for this much-maligned plant and I haven’t been able to shake it. Maybe it’s because, as an adult, I often feel like the weed in a field of wildflowers. The one people step around to take a picture of something grander. It’s just waiting for its moment to shine. Brief, as it may be but a moment is all it needs.
It waits and waits, but its moment has yet to come.
My life, the person I thought I’d become, is nothing like I’d imagined. If my childhood self stopped by for a chat, I don’t think she’d recognize me at all. What happened to you? What went wrong? This is our life?
Ah to be young and believe in dreams.
Wow, I didn’t start out my day feeling like a downer and I didn’t mean to write all of this down. I wish my brain wouldn’t spin so fast or latch on to things so quickly. Maybe I won’t post this? Did I post this? I could leave the day blank and start fresh tomorrow. That sounds like a good plan.
Then again, who’s life ever turns out like they thought it would when they were ten years old? Maybe there are a few lucky souls who live out their childhood fantasies. Never say never, they say, but they don’t tell you it’s highly unlikely…
You know what? I wrote that line and then stared at blank space after it for a solid five minutes. I sighed dramatically and then walked away. I made another cup of tea and now I’m back. Sure, I stared at the line for another sixty seconds, but I couldn’t fill in the blanks.
Why? One, my brain is functioning at half capacity today, and my thoughts are coming slow and sporadically. Two, that last sentence sounds too sad, even for me. I have pessimistic tendencies. If you asked me if the glass is half full or half-empty? I’d tell you that glass contains urine from a hundred rabid chipmunks. With that knowledge, who cares how full it is?
I don’t know if this tendency towards the bleak is a naturally occurring pattern or if it’s something I’ve picked up along the way. Probably a bit of both. Sure, one can never count out the genetic component, and life has been, for me, one very long challenge. When the worst tends to happen, it becomes a lot easier to expect that the worst will keep happening.
Whenever I have some kind of medical procedure, they give me a list of possible side effects and negative outcomes. I always ask them what’s the least likely thing to happen? On that list, at the very bottom, it will say something like, “In rare cases.” What’s the rare case because that’s the problem we’re going to face.
If I got a penny every time I’ve heard, “This isn’t supposed to happen.” Well, I’d own an island and a fleet of yachts. For some reason, my body likes to challenge scientific norms and go for the worst possible outcome, And yes, that includes death because I have been clinically dead a few times but, they keep bringing me back.
Glass half full? Glass half empty? Nah, the glass contains chipmunk urine.
I have a highly developed flinch response which might lead to a pessimistic outlook. Not always. I have moments of reckless optimism and hopefulness. Moments that are fleeting, though I try to hold on to them with everything I have. I want to be more hopeful and spend more time in that reckless headspace but I’m just not sure if that’s my lot in life.
Ah, but there I go. I really need to mind my head.
I’m not where I thought I’d be. I’m not even close or in the general vicinity. But, I’m where I need to be? Is that how this works? Just like that, no matter where I am, that’s where I need to be? Even if I don’t feel like I’m needed there? It seems so laissez-faire. I don’t have a say in my life. I’m floating along on a river of time and I’m at the mercy of the current. Leave it alone and it will work out.
Really? That doesn’t sit very well with me, but I’m a bit of a control freak so the problem could purely be mine. Then again, life has to be more than an aimless wander through each breath. Surely there’s a participation trophy at the end of all this. I may not win but at least I played. Actively involved. Pushing my life towards…Something even though I don’t know what that is.
Again, I know I’m not where I thought I’d be, but I’m also not sure that I’m where I need to be either. This moment. The next. Tomorrow or next year. Here, where I am in my life right now, I don’t feel particularly needed. I don’t mean that in a woe is me sort of way.
This isn’t something that can be fixed by anything, or anyone, external. This is an internal unrest. I’m looking for direction, meaning, purpose. I’m trying to figure out what I need out of life rather than letting life happen to me. I want to happen to life. I don’t think that sentence structure made sense, but the sentiment is there, hopefully.
Sure, with the pandemic it’s a little hard to go anywhere or try new things. It’s hard to put life to the test inside my tiny apartment. Maybe it’s bringing out the restlesness. I don’t know, but surely there’s something I can do right here, right now. Right?
I’m on mental journey, along an overgrown path, and I’m stumbling along. There’s movement in the shadows. A bear? A cougar? A guide leading me forward? I feel like I’m being led somewhere but I don’t know where or why. I don’t even know if this guide is real or if it’s wishful thinking. All of the above? None of the above?
There’s also a chance that this existential crisis will pass the same way everything else does: Inside a tall glass of chipmunk urine.