We have dreamed large and been shattered when the dreams died. I have learned things I cannot unlearn, like searing coals that have left deep scars. Love is not enough. Life is cruel. People do not get as they deserve. Sometimes the violent prosper and the kind suffer. Sometimes you take big risks and lose it all. Death crushes dreams, sickness brings a grief that isolates utterly. We are vulnerable little bags of blood and bones and our dreams are soap bubbles and glass. Life turns on a dime.
But without dreams, there is no life, no hope, no abundance, no meaning, no joy. Without risk, we have nothing.
Nothing’s safe, except what we put at risk – Le Guin
I understand this well, it’s how I’ve stayed alive when I’ve lost so much faith in the world. But this year, it was not enough. Suddenly we’re dreaming big dreams, like having a child. The kind where I can’t imagine surviving tragedy. Death, illness, loss, all paralyzing me with terror. In the face of these nightmares, a dead child, a dead partner, court taking child from ‘mentally ill’ mother, homophobia, violence, homelessness, loss… I am like a rat in a cage, running frantically but there’s no way out. There’s no way to survive these things.
And that’s the key, there’s no way for your world to continue. It ends. What I’m doing now – this retreat, this bizarre breakdown – the letting go, it’s the letting go of a world that has ended. And you wait, you listen, you follow the small voices, the needs of the soul. And you find another path entirely, one that works for you, with what you have. So if Rose and I lose a child and it tears us apart… we sit and we cry and we say – love, love, this pain is too great, our grief is too different. Let us be free to grieve apart. If she dies and all the world we’d created together is suddenly hollow without her, I retreat, I listen, and I find a new path. Perhaps I leave the home we’d made, I buy a caravan, the child and I go traveling with the market folk, at night we watch the moon.
We are not on the railway tracks. We are free to grieve the death of dreams and make room to have new dreams. So tragedy can be faced, the inevitability of loss can be borne.
The world of structure is important. It is not wrong. It is necessary. It supports my life. Too much of it kills me. Too much of it would have me living a ‘successful’ life, the ‘recovered’ patient, doing things that have long lost meaning for me, empty and lost in my heart. This other wild way is capricious and impulsive and need driven and full of hidden mystery and meaning. People make a lot of sacrifices in their lives hoping that success will make them feel the way I feel when I’m up a tree in the moonlight full of the wonder of my world. These two things should not be divided as they are in my life and my head. They are a whole. The one supports the other. Structure follows dreaming, sustains it, makes sure there is food in the cupboard and a safe place to sleep.
Letting go frees me to dream of different things to what I have known. I have fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that flares and settles and flares again. I can expect that there will be days that I do not get out of bed – as there are now. If I wait until I’m well to be a mother, I will not get the chance. But the despair in my heart when I’ve realised that there will be days Mum doesn’t get out of bed had overwhelmed me. My mother got out of bed even if she was just out of hospital. She’s my whole world of what it is to be a mother. I will fall short. I will be one of those mothers.
So I grieve that vision of motherhood, and let it go. I will reach out to mothers who have disabilities and illnesses. I will find a new vision, where who and how I am, is enough. Where what I am able to offer is worthwhile. I will have a different family, a different life, a different experience of being a mother. This is sad, and it is also freeing. Let go of what does not work, and find something that speaks to me. Enough suffering. Enough diligence. Enough failure.
Instead, the most barely understood glimpse of a life where we live in harmony, where passion and diligence meet, space for dark and light, the strongest and the most vulnerable. Room for madness, permission not to fit in or hide, connection to soul.
It’s a rich life I’ve led. So many experiences, so much I’ve learned. I’ve walked many different worlds, seen so much (attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion). It’s an amazing thing to be alive.