Posts tagged ‘dreams’

January 14, 2013

Making Space for New Dreams.

Regular blog readers will know that I’m on a long-term de-cluttering exercise, and attempting to live something of a more minimalist lifestyle. As I work my way through my house, I have got to the point where I’m nearly rid of all the clutter that doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve got rid of a giant teetering pile of books, all the clothes that I’ve kept in the mistaken belief that I’ll get thinner, taller or suddenly be able to wear low-rise skinny jeans, loads of old paperwork and everything I’ve kept ‘just in case it might be useful’ – and it’s been relatively painless, once I dealt with my book guilt. In something of a landmark moment, I’ve even finally accepted that my beloved blue Converse are more hole than trainer and let them go…

Now I’ve moved onto the more challenging things. A couple of things that I’ve recently got rid of have made me cry. Firstly an enormous, half-finished Beatrix Potter cross-stitch. I started this in the summer of 2006, when I was pregnant with my daughter. It was one of those ‘I’m going to be a perfect mummy’ kind of plans. I was going to finish it before her arrival, get it framed and smugly hang it in her bedroom. And then it all fell apart. Thirty weeks into the pregnancy,  I became really ill with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome and she arrived far too early for me to finish it. But in all honesty, even if the pregnancy had been text-book perfect, I was unlikely to have managed it. The simple reason? I didn’t really enjoy it. It was far too big and complicated and I’m just not very good at sitting still and concentrating on one thing for that amount of time. A lesson in not trying to be someone I’m not, perhaps.

I suppose it was the first of my failures in the attempt to be a perfect parent. These days, I am definitely not a perfect parent, and far less stressed about the whole thing. But six years after I started that damn cross stitch, there it was, every time I opened the drawer in my bedroom, taunting me about my failure and giving me a giant dose of guilt. Every time I came across it, I thought fleetingly ‘I must finish that’ before hastily shutting the drawer and putting it – and the guilt – out of my mind. Not this time though. This time, I got it out of the drawer and sat thinking about it – and having a little cry – before asking for a second opinion.

Thankfully, I have the best friends in the world, and so that second opinion was a wonderful one. One that said ‘you’re not a failure for not finishing this. It was started with love, and that love still exists, even if the finished article does not’. The love that I have for my daughter, and the six years worth of things we have shared more than makes up for not having finished one lousy cross-stitch. It went into the bin and I don’t have any regrets.

The second thing that I have finally got rid of is a guide book for Mongolia. From 1999. Hmm. I was supposed to go to Mongolia for a few months through a Raleigh International scheme, but no-one told me until I’d got to the end of the application process that because I was in the final year of my degree, I was ineligible. Marvellous. Still, I have hung onto the dream since then. I long to visit Mongolia; the vast open spaces, wildlife, last vestiges of a nomadic, horse-reliant culture and the reintroduced takhi (Przewalski) horses are something I refuse to get to the end of my life without witnessing.

Hence my ancient guide book.

I know, though, that if I ever do manage to finally make it to Mongolia, I’ll need a new guide book. So why have I hung onto this one for so long? It is the misguided belief that my dream is somehow inextricably linked with it. That without the book, the chances of me finally getting to realise a long-held ambition are doomed. This is replicated across many other things that I own, and that I’ve struggled to let go of. Half finished plans, guide books for places I’ve planned to go but never visited, books bought but never read, kit for various activities and sports going dusty…

The other reason I have hung onto things is because they have links to memories; places I have been, people I have known, experiences I have had. In some cases, the memento or souvenir is rather nice. In the vast majority of cases, it’s an old bus ticket, an unused piece of equipment, an ancient t-shirt. What I have come to realise, is that I don’t need to keep all of these things in order to retain the memory. I have never forgotten my old friends, regardless of whether I have kept mementoes of things we have done together. I’ve never forgotten holidays that I have taken or adventures that I have had, whether or not I’ve kept the tickets! And, as a friend of mine pointed out a while ago, I could always take photos of things before letting them go, if I really need to.

So, it is time for me to let go of these things. To rely on my friends to help me with the invisible tentacles that each item might hold around my heart, and to help me see that my dreams and my memories are not linked to my things, but rather that they live on inside me.

In my last post, I mentioned an article by Lesley Garner that I’d found, amidst my clutter, about de-cluttering. The irony is not lost on me. This time, I’m going to quote from it a little: ‘Clearing clutter means shedding dreams. But the funny thing is, I can throw things out because I still believe in the dreams themselves. The clutter is the husk of hope that never flew. But hope itself is inexhaustible. De-cluttering is necessary because new dreams need space to grow in’.

In clearing my house of the clutter from unrealised dreams, I am not killing the dreams themselves. In clearing my house of the clutter from things in my history, I am not wiping out my memories. I am making space, both for my mind and body to live in and for my new dreams to grow in.

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March 2, 2012

Life: The Bucket List

There is a danger that this post is going to disintegrate into one long cliché. I want you to know now, right at the start, that if it does, it is not merely through laziness or an inability to form an opinion. It is because clichés are rolled out all the time because they are true. Often there is just no better way of putting it.

Here’s one: Life is Short.  Although we all plan to be around a really long time, we just never know what might happen; what tomorrow might bring. Recent events have made this painfully clear. I lost a friend recently. Not a hugely close friend, but someone who always arrived with a smile. Someone I was always pleased to see and who had shared one of my happiest days, my wedding day, with me. The funeral was yesterday. I was saddened most of all to finally meet her son, of whom she was so very, very proud, on one of the worst days of his life.

One of the things that I always loved and admired about my friend was the way in which she threw herself into her life with such commitment, passion, dedication. In work and in play, she followed her dreams and ambitions, completing a degree whilst working and raising her son. Learning to dance and dancing all around the world.

I have a Bucket List. We all do, don’t we? Written down or in our heads, it’s the thing to have. I wrote mine down years ago. Every so often I get it out of the drawer in which it sits, take a look at it, confirm that yes, these are the things I want to do before I die. Then I carefully put it back in the drawer again. Then…nothing. I do nothing about it. Nothing to move forward on any of my plans, my big dreams. I know that some of them are not possible for the moment. I cannot imagine taking the kids on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Mongolia so I can say in a ger and see Prezwalski’s Horse in the wild. But not everything on the list is so difficult.

Doing my 35:35 Challenge and completing several smaller challenges, has begun to change my mind-set into one of doing and less of thinking and (if I’m really honest) of making excuses and procrastinating. Now I need to take that approach with the bigger things I want to do. Learn to say ‘yes’ more often instead of ‘no’. Learn to be creative, to find ways of doing what I want and dream of doing, whilst at the same time keeping my lovely family happy too. Being a scanner means having such a giant list of things that I want to achieve that it becomes all too easy to freeze with indecision because you really don’t know where to start and get worried that by taking one course of action, you immediately close off another. This doesn’t have to be the case. Movement is good.

I’m going to take my Bucket List out of the drawer and to look at each thing on it. Then I’m going to work out whether it’s something that I can do now, or something that will need to happen later. For the ones that feel more achievable now, I am going to take the first step on each. Lesley Garner once wrote a brilliant article called ‘Stepping Stones’ in which she describes how we can get anywhere and do anything with stepping stones. I think that the Impossible League feels the same. Take your first step towards the impossible and then the second…

So, my message to you is this. Life is Short. Please make sure you live it the way you really want to. Take that first step to achieving your dreams. Follow what really makes you happy, not what you think should make you happy. Because you really, really never know what tomorrow might bring.