Monday, July 2, 2012

Dwelling In the Land of Broken Dreams

From infancy, we are taught to dream. We learn to fantacize through the stories our parents tell us, through the toys we play with, and through many other wondrous means that stimulate our young imaginations.

As we grow, our imaginations play an important role in understanding reality. For example, imagination is necessary for learning about people and events we don't directly experience, such as history or events on the other side of the world. And, as young children, our imaginations allow us to ponder the future, such as what we want to do when we grow up.

Pretend play is an important part of  our child development that stimulates our active imaginations. (Memmay Moore, "Dramatic Play and Preschoolers: Fantasy, Imagination and Make Believe Are Important Learning Tools in a Child's Development,", March 1 2009)

Dramatic play enhances our development in four areas: social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language.

* Social/Emotional -- We negotiate with our friends about what roles to play, and learn to work together. We who engage in dramatic play are less aggressive than those that do not.

* Physical -- Dramatic play enhances our physical development and eye-hand coordination as we try out different roles. Both fine and gross motor skills are engaged as well as eye-hand coordination.

* Cognitive -- We use our cognitive skills in pretend play. We and our playmates recreate past experiences, share ideas, and solve problems together.

* Language -- We practice our language skills to explain and express what we are doing. When acting out stories and songs, we build our literacy skills.

As our parents and caretakers promote dramatic play by providing basic props -- dress-up clothes, puppets, stuffed animals, dolls, carriages and wagons, kitchen stuff, pots, pans, doll and kid size furniture, diaper bags, purses -- these loved ones strengthen necessary skills we will use in real situations. In essence, they are helping us realize our unique dreams in their very early stages.

Play is vital preparation for life. Our friends and well-meaning adults in our lives help form our unbridled imaginations, uncompromising spirits, and steadfast beliefs in supernatural intervention.
I believe wholeheartedly in the value of play and of shaping dreams. What would the world be without dreamers? How could successful people build a lasting future without a dream? I understand the importance of the age-old advice "We must follow our dreams."

Broken Dreams and Reality

I, however, worry about the dreamer who dwells in the land of broken dreams. Many must face the reality that they somehow have lost their technicolor fantasies along the way. Despite their preparation, determination and hard work, many of these dreamers find their rainbows break into irreparable pieces in the real world, and they must face the reality of burying their lifelong dreams forever.

Many of us do experience this traumatic, harsh reality. We think we are walking the right track to our dreams when a tremendous force from behind unexpectedly slams into us with the speed and impact of a high-balling freight train. It shatters everything we believe in and cherish. The world around us turns dark as our friends treat us like enemies and our hope fades.

At that point, we know what we most wanted is never going to happen. We feel cheated, but we realize our protests will never change the outcome. We wonder how to live without those things we dreamed about, that we believed we would someday accomplish through our faithful adherence. We feel alone. And, all that is left then is to grieve for our lost dreams, let them go, and prepare for a "different" future with memories of unfulfilled expectations. The loss is nearly unbearable.

Along about then, others can talk about the plan the Almighty has devised for our lives or the inevitability of our facing difficult obstacles. These wise folks can say that "defeat" must never be in our vocabulary and that we are good people and "good people never stay down for the count." They can quote uplifting thoughts such as "Tomorrow is another day" or "The only thing that will stop us from fulfilling our dreams is us." These good-intentioned people really don't know the deep depression caused by lost dreams. For the first time, we see our world crumbling and exposed .

Here is the biggest blow: We know we must accept that we will never fulfill the loss of our innocent dreams. Circumstance has crushed us and left us no options for pursuing what is eternally lost. Accepting this is much different from just "moving on." The scar is permanent and something that will always remind us of "good thoughts" having the potential to be cruel and deceptive. That lesson remains in us and reminds us of natural imperfection and cruelty all around us.

For many of us older people, such ugly, stark realizations became indelible as we watched a Disney fantasy classic when a hunter fired a bullet that took the life of Bambi's mother. But even though we suffered a scar then, someone assured us that things like that only happened in movies. Now, in lost dreams, we realize they lied. Loss is real and permanent and dream-altering.

We blame ourselves for lost dreams. Something abruptly changes our best perspectives. What we expected to be reality in our lives becomes limited, and nothing we can do is going to repair that. The consolation we have is that "some of something" is better than "all of nothing." To that point, our dreams have served us with inspiration and vitality. No it's over. Just because our dreams are dead does not mean we have destroyed our lives. Still, we feel crippled.

It is up to us to find a means to dream again. Otherwise, we will dwell in the Land of Broken Dreams forever as we search for something we will never find -- the cause of our unhappy separation from our conceived ideal. Consider the fact you are not in complete control of your destiny.

You see, very few of us attain a Dream World. Those of us who think we have gotten our dreams, like little children, can imagine we live in a "perfect world" where we can always find happiness. Yet, in truth, possessing a dream is impossible. The dream, by its nature, possesses us.

A dream is a fantasy playing in the field of human desires. Chasing a dream may be what we truly desire anyway, especially when we are young and innocent. Capturing one, caging it, and closely inspecting its real composition will likely lead to dissatisfaction. It's the anticipation of the acquisition of something just out of reach that drives us toward attaining valuable trade-offs. We never get over the thrill of fantasy and play we acquire as children. We do not want that to end.

As you can tell, I've had shattered dreams. They hurt every time they occur. My life is full of 180 degree turns. I love to think about another new dream coming true, but I know the possibility of that is very slim. Now, I am happiest living within the natural boundaries of my life. That certainly doesn't mean I don't fantasize and play. I do. But, now I do so with contentment in the efforts I exert, not with expectations of stardust.

"There should be fireworks, at least,
when a dream dies."
-Kirby Larson, Hattie Big Sky, 2006

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