“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
― J.K. Rowling
I feel like I am cheating. Cheating on my dreams. The ones that I wake up each morning and drag with me to the kitchen as I stand in the dim light from the hood above the stove and listen to the kettle boil water for tea. Lupe, my thin gray cat, meows loudly and looks up at me waiting for a morning treat.
I stand staring out the window above the sink into the dark morning. I feel the weight of my dreams, not the ones that dissipated when I woke tangled in bed sheets, my body slightly damp from midlife night sweats. No, these are the big dreams, the dreams of creative success. A huge book contract, 1000,000 followers on social media, an appearance on Oprah, raving reviews in the New York Times, speaking gigs. These dreams include world travel, polished homes decorated in glowing light, accented in turquoise, clean lines and absolutely no clutter. These dreams are leading writing retreats in places with palm trees, white sand beaches, pristine blue waters and perfect vegan gluten-free meals. In these dreams, my Instagram feed is filled with stunning photos of wonderfulness—all the time, 24/7. These dreams have nothing to do with reality like me waiting at a grimy service station last Friday because my back brakes were grinding so loud I thought the back tire was going to fly off.
These dreams are huge, compelling beacons—and heavy. I wake each day propelled towards achieving these dreams with their glossy definitions of success. I tell myself, stay the course and all these things will happen. If I work hard enough, put myself out there enough, do enough of the right things (which means figuring out what those things are, which is a full-time job by itself) I will arrive there.
More or less, if I am good enough, then these dreams will manifest in my life.
The problem is, I am not sure these are my dreams? Honestly I don’t see me, in any of these definitions of success. I don’t see myself living a picture perfect glamorous life. A life full of so much adventure you never have time to stop and reflect. I don’t see myself living in a house so light and airy there is nowhere to curl up with a book next to a basket full of laundry that needs to be folded.
I simply don’t exist in any of these ideas of success I see on the internet or in magazines. Does that mean I haven’t done enough inner work to accept fabulousness into my life? Or does it mean I want something else? Something more in alignment with me? Something more authentic?
What about waking up and feeling like who I am and what I do is good enough, right here, right now? What if I got to choose my definition of success and not blindly accept what my culture tells me is success? What if success was not constant striving, doing more, being more, achieving more? I like considering this, it feels good. It feels like possibility. Like freedom.
Life doesn’t have to be a state of constant craving.
Yesterday morning I sat on the couch with my partner Jay watching our black cat fling a jagged ball of rolled up duct tape high into the air, I wondered out loud why this wasn’t enough. Why I felt I needed more? I admitted I was happy. Our cluttered house with weeds growing in the garden beds, a kitchen table piled high with books and the first ceramic pieces I have made in over 12 years, camera bags open on the loveseat, laundry baskets filled with wrinkled, yet clean clothes.
We have more than our basic needs met. We have a home that not only shelters us from the elements but also affords us space to have a music room, an art studio, a room to practice yoga and my own office to write in solitude. We can afford healthy yummy food. We have transportation that takes us around town. We have a great relationship filled with ease, mutual respect, support and love (Seriously, it is not hard, filled with drama or angst. I feel like the luckiest woman alive).
Hell, I if all I do creatively is what I am doing right now—blogging, putting new essays out there occasionally, dabbling in visual work and leading writing workshops—than that is super successful for me. Because I feel good. I feel satisfied. That is enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I love creating something new and following my curiosities. Yes, I would love to make my living one day from my writing and supporting and assisting others to honor and own their authenticity. Perhaps I will, but honestly I don’t want to manifest any super-duper dream success where I don’t even see myself in the results.
I want to do good work. I want to wake up in the morning excited about an idea and create it for no other reason than because it delights me. I want to write essays about what stirs me, makes me wonder, and stumps me about the human condition. I don’t want to worry if Oprah will like it or if it is what New York Times will think it’s good enough.
So I am putting down these heavy dreams that are not mine. Success for me is releasing the suffering of always wanting more. Success is feeling good enough.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart
Ask Polly: Should I Give Up on My Writing– This is the post that got me thinking about what is my definition of success and what is enough for me. I felt frustration rise up from deep in my belly reading this because all I could think was how wonderful, you live in New York and make a living from your writing. Sounds good to me.
The Hidden Reason for Poverty the World Needs to Address– This compelling TED talk by Gary Haugen I think everyone needs to watch. It changes the way I think of poverty and what we can do about it. Still seems so huge and I feel powerless.
How to Reduce Stress By Doing Less and Doing it Slowly by Toni Bernhard- If you have never read Toni’s work, I highly recommend it. She offers wise, practical, and compassionate approaches to living.
This is How Instagram Users Show the Best Side of Their Life by Benjamin Starr- So when I start to compare myself to the outsized perfect lives on Social Media, I need to remember how much staging and cropping goes into each photo. Holy cow, this is stunning and funny.
Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich- I love this poem beyond words. This is one I will tape on the wall next to my desk and read out loud to remind me of what is important.