Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big Dreams, Little Dreams, My Dream

It is important to have dreams and goals. They motivate. They give us reason and purpose. But sometimes we can dream too big, and when those dreams are not realised and goals go unachieved, we can fall into despair. We begin a cycle of dream big, fail big, punish hard. It's a cruel pattern of behaviour, and so very unnecessary.

Now, I am not suggesting that people should give up those big, bright dreams. This dreamer has big dreams and when I first began to walk this creative path, my dreams were the big bright fearless dreams of a four year old who has no understanding of impossible - I wanted to write and illustrate and touch others in the way I had been touched by beautiful art as a child. I had no idea how to make that dream manifest, but I wanted it to with all of my heart.

But as an adult, my dreams and waking became a nightmare. My life became a battlefield of confusion, hurt, and anger as I lived each and every day with depression. I had no big dreams, and my only goal was to smile, to hide my emptiness, and to survive each day. I lived in limbo, until the day I broke completely and had my feet placed upon a healing path. Suddenly, I had a goal - to be healed. Little did I realise then, how big a role this one goal, this dream, would play in my life.

I began to dream again. I wanted to write and to paint. So I did. It mattered not that I could hardly draw. It mattered not that my writing skills were those of a high school dropout. I painted, and I wrote, and I showed both to all and everyone. My efforts were met with both love and derision. I was both nurtured and scorned. But just as my depression could never overwhelm me completely, that big dream of the child could never be erased. Even when it was not a conscious part of my memory, it was never forgotten.

Over time, my dreams grew even bigger. The desire to write and illustrate and to touch others with my words and art became my goal, only equalled by my desire to be healed. But I had so very much to learn and I had so much healing still to do. Learning became rushed and healing could not come swiftly enough.

So, for a time, I learned the hard way how to fail. I had to learn everything all at once. I had to accomplish everything in the shortest amount of time possible. I saw what others were doing and I followed their lead. I spoke other's words, and embraced other's dreams as my own. I took on many roles, wanting to be the best, wanting to succeed at everything I did, but not allowing myself the time and space to learn one thing well so that I could become adept.

No, I wanted my dream to manifest in the shortest time possible, and I would do anything and everything possible to make it manifest ... except give time.

Around and around I went - I painted teddy bears because teddy bear art is as collectable as the teddy bears themselves, and when that did not work, I turned to RPG character portraits. I would become a game artist. At the same time, I dabbled in reading dreams, and played at being a witch and wise woman, and then wondered why older women - wiser women - were laughing at me and looking at me with the same amusement a grandmother looks at a child who does something foolish and silly.

I focussed upon what others were doing, others were saying, and wanted their success for my own, and so I mimicked and copied, and then wondered why I failed when everything crashed down around me. I stumbled and fell time and time again. My art was improving, but not fast enough. My writing was improving, but not fast enough. My spiritual self was growing but not fast enough. My healing was coming but my progress was painfully slow, and with every great and grand failure, it slowed even further. Oh I looked at so many others with blame in my eyes and heart. Someone else had to be responsible for my failures, because if I were responsible then I would have to punish myself. It was so much easier to blame others. It didn't hurt as much as the burden of self-directed anger and loathing.

No, healing was still a long, long, long way off.

Words from one of my older wiser friends would come back to haunt me, time and time again during those tumultuous days. She was one of those wiser, older women who one day sat me down and asked me what the fuck I was doing. She gave me a talking to which I did not understand the importance of for several more years. She told me to do one thing at a time. Love it enough to want to learn everything, but then learn each lesson one at a time. Don't rush the learning. Learn well. Learn what you love so that you know it inside and out, back to front, and upside-down. Choose to be the master of one skill that fills you with joy, than be the Jack of all trades and master of none who does the many things because they are afraid of failing at the one role they love the most.

With her words, my goal became simpler. I chose to paint. I put my writing to the side and I focussed on learning how to paint. I painted, and I painted, and with every painting, I learned. I made mistakes, and I learned from them. I learned how to undo them. I learned how to make mistakes into something that enhanced the painting instead of destroying the vision.

I was learning, but still making the same mistakes too. You see, whilst I was learning how to paint, I was painting book cover art and dreaming of becoming the next big cover artist. I was also painting fairies, not because I liked them, but because they were marketable and were going to make me FAMOUS. I was going to become the next big thing in the licensing world and see my art be used for books, calendars, statues, toys, EVERYTHING. But those dreams failed too, because they were what others wanted for me, not what I wanted for me.

I was still healing, and learning, but I was also doing everything the hard way. I had to make every experience a battle to be fought, and one in which I was usually wounded so that I had another scar to remind me of the lesson that needed learning ... or to become infected if I ignored the lesson.

One day, I realised that I had lost myself again. I was growing older, growing wiser about the world around me, and growing in artistic ability, but I still had no real sense of self and I had lost sight of that big dream. Just as I had played at being the psychic, just as I had played at being the fantasy writer, I was playing with my own healing. I was committed to my art, but why? The commercial path left me feeling so empty and unfulfilled. Where was I going? Was I ever going to write and illustrate my own projects, or was I going to be an artist who forever paints other’s ideas and visions?

I had no visions of my own. My dreams were not mine. Did I want that big dream to manifest, or was I to continue in a cyclic pattern of self-destruction and self-sabotage? I realised, in one of those rare moments of clarity, that in order to have my dream realised, I first had to understand the dreamer. So my goals became twofold again - to paint and to know myself ... to heal.

And ironically, the writing - the dream that I thought I was putting aside at the time - was a crucial part of that self-exploration, but we won't mention that wee point will we?

So, I painted, and I began to discover that with every painting, I learned more about myself - the dreamer. I learned to listen to my thoughts as I painted. I wrote them down. I read those thoughts. I studied them. I analysed and I theorised. I learned to see patterns and habits. I learned about what I liked and disliked and why. I learned about my strengths and weaknesses. I learned what makes me happy and what makes me sad, what makes my blood boil, and what can reduce me to hysterical laughter. I discovered how passionate and spiritual I am, and I explored both my passion and my faith, and in that last bit of learning, came the truth of my dreams.

Suddenly, the visions began, and what I saw filled me with awe and excitement. Everything began to fall into place. I saw everything – the patterns, the way my choices had moved me from one moment to the next. I saw … me.

This dream, the big dream of the child, is the role I chose before this life began. It is my destiny, my life's purpose, and all that I have lived and experienced has played a part in making that big dream manifest. It’s not a dream that was ever going to manifest over a period of a few years. It is a dream that would take a lifetime.

I was never meant to paint pretty, empty pictures, nor meant to write fantasy stories. No, my purpose is to share my visions, my faith, and my connection with the Divine, and my healing is intrinsically tied to all three.

It is the dream of this dreamer to help others to feel and nurture the same connection and to find the same healing.

Now that's a big dream to have.

But this dreamer is now wise. Yes, still learning, but wiser for all the lessons that have been learned. The wisdom gained has taught me one very important lesson.

When one battles with depression, one learns how to dream small. To have dreams that are too big can result in the dreamer being overwhelmed and overcome. I learned how to do all the small things first. I learned that healing is a path that can take millions of steps to complete, and I learned that the journey can only be made one step at a time.

So, this dreamer with a big dream keeps things simple. I no longer allow myself to lose sight of the big dream, but now I treat it like a painting. I have broken the big dream up into smaller dreams, and each of those smaller dreams are further broken down into simple, achievable goals. If I close my eyes, I can see the big picture, but when they are open, they are focussed upon the only thing that matters … the little details.

It may seem like it some days, but I now do one thing at a time. I live in the moment, and focus upon what I am doing in that moment with the only what I am doing in that moment in mind. Right now, my attention is on the tale I tell, and I will not rush it in order to have it done sooner rather than later. No, I take all the time I need, so that what I create is what it is meant to be and the best it can be. It matters not that my painting sits on the other side of the room, waiting for me to return to it. I will get back to it when it is time, and when I do, my focus will be upon it and it alone.

I do not dream big anymore. I dream small and invest my all and everything into that little dream so that it manifests true and bright, a part of the big dream, but also independent of it.  

And every little dream becomes a shining, refined detail in the painting that is the big dream. I have not given up on the big dream, but I won't rush the creative process just to have that dream manifest. Again, the big dream is not something that will manifest in one year or five. It is not meant to. I cannot do the big dream justice if I am not willing to learn all that is required first.

As I sit here at the end of my tale,  I have to take a moment to laugh a little at the irony of it all, you see, while I no longer focus on the big dream, I often forget that I am also living it in the present. That is what happens when the big dream takes a life time – you live it in every moment. I am already touching and inspiring others with my words and my art. I do it every day, but I often forget that I am.

But I did say that my dreams are big. They are ‘Hans Christen Andersen’ big, for it was a book of his fairy tales that inspired the big dream in the four year old who looked with awe at the artworks within a book that she could not yet read. Just as his stories have touched and inspired many thousands of people, that is what I want for my art. I want it to touch and inspire thousands of people. No, I do not want this because I desire fame. I simply want others to know this love that I feel.

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