The Fantasy of What Should Be
I believe very deeply in the power of a dream. I feel strongly that dreaming, goal setting, and making purposeful changes are vital to being happy and living a content filled life. Without these things, we stagnate and life becomes something we merely survive.
With that said, I think sometimes holding on to particular dreams (or more precisely our firm definition and romanticized interpretation of those dreams) holds us back. We fixate on how things “should” be rather than how things actually are. In doing so, we become blind to the joys of our true reality.
Let me provide an example. When I was young, we had a very close extended family. Nearly every weekend, my mother’s siblings (and in some cases her step-siblings) and their families would get together for a visit, for a picnic, or to go camping.
As the youngest grandchild in the first family and a true introvert, my feelings about these family get-together, at that time, were complicated. I felt like the odd person out but at the same time knew I belonged to something bigger than just my little family. I felt that most of these individuals thought me a bit strange for being so shy but I looked up to and adored them all just the same. Their mere presence added joy and celebration into our otherwise quiet lives, even while it created conflict and chaos.
The Good Old Days
Now, I look upon those times with a sort of romanticism. Some of those people are no longer with us. Most of the rest, I haven’t seen or talked to in years.
Still, part of me longs for a replication of such an experience (the romanticized version not the reality). If not with my cousins and if not with my own siblings then with my own little family. Yet, while it’s a nice thought, it is just isn’t based in reality.
Going back to those “good old days”. On any given weekend get together, we would be incomplete as an extended family. Someone would be mad at someone and wouldn’t show, someone would have other plans, and more often than not there was tension between my Grandma’s first and second families.
In any case, the likelihood of everyone in the entire extended family being in the same place at the same time was highly unlikely. Everything running smoothly and everyone getting along probably never actually happened, even once in all those years. So my idealized view of those events probably never happened in reality, just in my reminiscences about the past.
Yet, at the time, we all seemed to share this delusion. These get togethers silently reinforced we were a family beyond our own little home. Even if these event didn’t go perfect and even if the main conversation was gossip about those who didn’t happen to show up that particular day.
Then Reality Hit
But, this dream ended abruptly when one of my cousins died in a tragic accident. After that day, our family get-together changed. We could no longer feel the joy in being an extended family. All we could feel was our grief. One person was missing. Even though, he might have missed other occasions before his passing and we felt whole nonetheless, after that point all we could see was that he wasn’t there.
Of course, we were grieving. Perhaps in some way, I am still trying to repair the hole that opened that day. Again, if I can’t make that idealized family get together happen with my cousins or with my siblings then I expect it will happen with my own children.
The problem is that I’m completely and wholly subscribed to the romanticized, unrealistic fantasy that everyone will attend our family get togethers and everything will be perfect. I’ve forgotten that that was just the idea behind these events and not the reality. I’ve even forgotten that at the time that I found such events stressful and that I often felt out of place. I’ve created a fantasy and so long as my reality doesn’t live up to this unrealistic notion, I can’t be content with what I do get.
For this reason, each get together feels incomplete. My boys come over and I am happy but I start to wish my daughters were there too. My oldest daughter comes with her children and I enjoy them fully until I start remembering that my oldest grandson doesn’t know his birth mother. I get frustrated because, when planning a simple birthday party, I have to figure out how to keep the peace.
In doing so, I ensure that life is never quite enough. No party can be right or complete. No moment can be perfect or wonderful. There’s always a veil of what “should be” dampening everything.