A few weeks ago, I tried to lull myself to sleep by thinking of a calming visualizations. You know the ones: where you imagine lying in a hammock on a beach like you did that one time, or camping in a cozy tent in the mountains on that trip you want to take, or sitting in the living room of that cozy bungalow that maybe one day you’ll own.
I kept flipping and flipping through my mental index, and I realized there was literally nothing there. Not one image came to mind. Just… list upon list of things I needed to get done, and a pile of well-worn worries and annoyances. This seemed alarming enough that I sat up in bed, trying to figure out what I was missing. And there it was. Daydreams. I hadn’t been daydreaming… for months at least, but possibly for longer. There was no point where I’d stared out the window letting my mind wander off, where I hadn’t just gone through my to-do list.
As a result, life was feeling sort of flat. Airless.
I’m not sure quite how this happened. Well, I am, I suppose. I spent four months really sick from pregnancy, and the same four months trying to hunker down and write a book on deadline, all while trying to run a business. Because I have a philosophy that you don’t engage in self-pity when good things are happening—no matter how miserable those things might be making you—I must have turned off the emotional part of my brain. (Need to vomit for five hours while trying to write 5,000 publishable words in one day? It’s really best to not to think about how you feel.)
In the last five years (well, in my whole life, really) I’ve set a ton of ambitious goals for myself, and with a determined sense of sitting down and muscling through, met many of them. At some point in the process of building a life that I’m grateful for, I stopped making goals, stopped letting myself dream wilder dreams. On one level, I wasn’t quite sure what to reach for, but on another level I didn’t feel like I deserved anything beyond what I had. I figured I was beyond lucky to get this far, so I decided I better settle down and not ask for more.
But by stripping myself of the one tool that always gave me a sense of power and control—if all else fails, I’m working towards this—I just slipped into slow simmering anger. The anger of bitterness. The anger of other people having what you want. The anger of feeling powerless to change things, or to even know what you want to change.
So that sleepless night, I climbed out of bed, and I pulled down magazines I’d tucked away years ago. Ones with the pictures of houses like I hoped I’d have one day, and places that I wanted to travel. And I sat there, awake in the middle of the night, and flipped pages. I remembered what it felt like to imagine those places, and celebrated how much closer I was to some of those things than when I’d tucked the magazines away. And I decided to allow myself to ask for things, even if it was only inside my own head.
My first daydreams were disjointed, like real dreams. They were illogical, but fun. Putting an airstream (that wouldn’t even fit) in the backyard and sleeping in it. Having a cabin with a crazy amount of bunk beds. They were dreams of flying, instead of walking.
And then bit by bit, I asked myself what crazy dreams I really wanted, and let myself just imagine them. One of these days, I might put a few things on paper. I might make them actual goals, and think about how I can work hard to get there. But for now, I’m just working hard where I’m at, but also staring out the window dreaming of what might be.
I’m goal digging, and at some point I might just find some treasure.
P.S. In the midst of thinking about new ways of making goals, I listened to a Being Boss podcast where they talked about making goals based on how you want to feel, instead of based on physical things that you want. Bingo!
P.P.S My thoughts on a very similar topic from exactly a year ago.
Coming this month: balancing two different career goals as a couple, what it even means to strive for a good marriage, reaching financial goals, and why we treat people we didn’t expect to be successful so badly. All that and a brand new round of APW craft projects (damn pretty ones), how to start your wedding budget, and more.