Friday, June 15, 2012

Reality; or When Dreams Die; or When “Eventually” Turns Into “Never”

[I'm not 100% happy about this blog. It still doesn't say what I want it to say the way I want to say it, but you can be the judge of that.]

It’s always quite disheartening when I realize that something I thought would always happen actually won’t.  (And no, I’m not talking about getting married and having babies—those dreams are still very much alive).  I’m talking about small seemingly irrelevant things that one may not consider even to be important or realistic, but are still things that have been anticipated. Sometimes these dreams become what we consider to be “eventualities.” The moment when one realizes that eventually never comes is to what I’m referring.

I think we all have moments like this whether we choose to categorize it or even contextualize it as such. Lately, I’ve had a few of these moments—none of them are devastating or life-changing[1], but just disappointing.  Some of these are connected to aging, while others are about our particular circumstances or the circumstances of those around us.

To paraphrase Langston Hughes, this is not about a dream being deferred.  Deferred suggests that it has been put off until a time more suitable. I’m referring to a dream which doesn’t simply wrinkle, change shape or even explode, but it disappears with only faint traces left when it once stood.

Here is an incredibly benign example from the recent past for context.  I always imagined that I would have a pet. I’ve known about my allergies to pet dander for many years now, but I thought that with medication and exposure I would be able to overcome them. When I was younger, we had a cat and with regular allergy shots, I would do medium to fair around her. I have also witnessed plenty of friends and relatives with varying degrees of allergies managee to bring dogs, cats, etc., into their lives, so I figured that eventually I would be able to do this as well. Recently, after spending a few hours at some friends’ houses with pets, I’ve found myself in such miserable shape (coughing, sneezing, and overall crappy asthmatic responses) that I finally had to reach the conclusion that it would not be; I could not be a pet owner. I kept trying to convince myself that there would be a way, though I practiced the following phrase with reckless abandon: “I’m not willing to sacrifice my health for a pet.” I thought I had convinced myself of this reality, but it took longer than expected.

It’s amazing how long we live with denial of the inevitability of certain things. We cling desperately to any hope that something is actually possible and that we can change the circumstances before us to suit our needs, when, in fact, any real attempt is, as the Borg would say, futile.

Realizing that there is no “eventually” in certain circumstances is difficult. I have often been accused of being a pessimistic person, but what I’m talking about has more to do with understanding the realities of a situation rather than being a “Debbie Downer” for no solid reason. It’s not even about “knowing when to quit” because many of these things are not things one can actually change. They either happen or don’t. This isn’t about lack of initiative, willpower or foresight. It concerns reaching reasonable conclusions about expectations which will not be met—some of which were unreasonable in the first place.

It was unreasonable to assume that somehow, something like my animal allergies would be alleviated by sheer will, determination, and pills.  I knew better.  I know better, but I was unwilling to foreclose on that particular dream, just as I was on many others. I’m not sure what has inspired the change, but perhaps I am more willing to foreclose on dreams that I know aren’t worth the risk—financially, socially, culturally, health-wise, etc. I must have developed a new barometer for calculating risk in my life.  Perhaps I am just looking for fewer scorch marks where dreams went unfulfilled.

This isn’t to say that I have called a moratorium on small dreams. Sometimes I think they are the best ones because they are low-risk.  Some of them are not nearly as low-risk as I thought they were because then even small dreams dying wouldn’t take such a toll.

[1] This is not to undermine when large dreams are unfulfilled, but I think that gets discussed much more. I am more interested in the smaller, sillier, fairly inconsequential dreams that we have.

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