As the heat of the day lingers, and my daughter plays with cups of water outside, I reflect on the dull but persist conflict of my heart.
Most of my life, and particularly since having a baby, I have felt a pull towards success. A successful father, a private school, a top Australian university and a family of high achievers leads me to feel that at some point in my life I will do something worthwhile. And so I continue to study, because in the story I tell myself, this is the safest way to achieve success. In the background to my study are a million ingenious ideas that will one day make me famous, and each of these I dance around and dream about.
I listen to friends who have started businesses, or successful blogs, or have achieved something fantastic in their professional lives. A part of me is happy for them, but another part of me turns against myself, and points an accusing finger at all my failings, and my own lack of success. Why haven’t I started a business yet? Or become a doctor? Or published a novel? Why do I continually fall short?
In a typically philosophical conversation with my husband last night, we talked about dreams. The previous night a beautiful young man had said to Gregor that he believed we should all follow our dreams. In a typically cynical fashion, Gregor had suggested that this sentiment was for the privileged. People who have nothing to eat, he argued, just want something to eat. They aren’t likely to live the dream life of becoming an artist…or whatever the dream may be. And so unfurled a discussion about the nature of dreaming and following one’s dream. Even if, in our privileged society, we feel the need to live out our dreams…will it make us happy? Is this what life is really about?
I wonder…as I tip water from one container to another with Elka, the sun is setting and it is beginning to cool. I am thinking about my blog post, and about how to become a successful person, and she is asking me to come back to the moment: “Mumma, pour water. Mumma?” In these precious years, when I have the time and the space to really be with my child, why am I still so anxious to achieve something else? Why am I jealous when I hear of another person’s success? Why do constantly feel like a failure?
Gregor’s dream in his twenties was to become a rock star. He played two hours a day, wrote hundreds of songs, played in bands…he lived and breathed music. He was meanwhile living his dream of becoming enlightened at a Buddhist retreat centre in England. At some point, the two dreams collided, and his soon to be enlightened self told his ordinary human self that his dream to be a rock star was not bringing him happiness, only dissatisfaction. When at last he let go of that tightly-clung dream, he was released. And now can live happily ever after.
I think of Gregor’s release, and my own pithy dreams. Does my urge to “succeed” detract from the present with my child? I am starting to realise that I need a new definition of success. Success is my life as it is. Happy. Golden. Present. Full Of Love. I’ve repeatedly said I wouldn’t change a thing. But maybe the one thing I would change is to let go of my desire to be a better, different, wealthier, more “successful” person…
How do you feel about dreaming? Come, please tell me.