It turns out I’m not as good at daydreaming as I used to be. When I was about nine, my mother would have to physically rouse me from my bed, not because I was sleeping, but because I was spending happy hours imagining my life as Mrs. Paul McCartney.
My fantasies involved boats, castles, me on stage at Beatles concerts—that is, ‘me’ bearing no physical resemblance to any adult I might ever grow up and become. I was devastated when, one day, somehow, I let my dream slip out and my older brother said scornfully, “Why would Paul McCartney marry a nine year old in Akron, Ohio?”
After that I got more realistic. I moved on to George Harrison, the youngest Beatle. Perhaps that first ‘realistic’ decision was the beginning of the demise of my fantasizing prowess.
Because these days, it turns out, I’m no good at daydreaming at all. Over the years I’ve gotten much better at planning, and actually executing plans. I’ve moved across country, switched jobs, launched projects, had a wedding, adopted a kid—done all kinds of other things that took hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny acts and choices, promptly scratched off my to-do list. But somewhere in there, daydreaming fell off the table.
I didn’t know how bad I’d gotten at it until my spiritual teacher gave me an assignment this week. Take time each day, she said. Stare into space. Daydream. Imagine what would be most fulfilling, delicious, inspiring, to do and to be. It doesn’t matter if you’ll never do it, if no one ever could. Just see what you imagine! Find your young self, see through her eyes!
What once would have been a breeze is now really hard. Back then, along with being tall and willowy and beautiful, and marrying a Beatle, I had every intention of being super-wealthy, being a famous writer, traveling to the most exotic places. Now my rational mind jumps right in. Super-wealthy? I say? You want to be part of the one percent? And instead of enjoying, even for a moment, some delicious luxury vacation, or even the philanthropist I might become, I am fuming about the ‘fiscal cliff’ and drafting imaginary letters to Congress. Word by word.
I think what my spiritual teacher is pointing me to (though she is a bit cryptic and never says why she gives me the particular assignments she does) is to find joy in the longing itself. To allow the imagining to take on a life of its own, but primarily to allow that quality of desire and longing to truly take root in me, until I remember what my young self knew—that we are made to dream, as well as to act.
So, here’s what I’ll do, needing structure to help me out. I’m piling up all of the magazines, random bits of ribbon or paper and 2012 calendars in the house, which I would otherwise be recycling as I clean up the holiday wreckage. I picture looking through all of the materials with one focus—to find items which evoke longing in me, which provoke desire, even if I’m not sure exactly why!
After I gather up images, words, whatever I want—ribbons, sheets of color, fabrics, who knows? I’ll piece them together to see how they fit, to see what shapes they make.
And then, at the end of the day, I’ll have—I don’t know what!!! A jumbled mess? A picture of young Paul McCartney, back when he was cuter than a puppy? What I hope to have is a little bit of a snapshot about what longing feels like in me, so that I can begin to recognize its voice when it whispers in my ear. So that I can become a respectful vessel for my heart’s deepest longings. So I get better at this again.
On New Years’ Day, I plan to go through my usual practice, with friends, of making gratitude boards for the year that’s over, and a vision board for the year that’s coming—same process of cutting and pasting, but with a very different focus as I look through my materials. This time, celebrating 2012 and envisioning things I actually hope and plan to do in 2013.
I’m going to be really curious to see what effect, if any, my extra session of fantasizing has on the visioning process. The fun thing about creative experiments is that you can never guess their results!
However you see in 2013, however you imagine it and live it, may it be full of blessings for you and yours. See you next year!