First: Other people’s pictures [edited to remove some images from pinterest]. My currently in progress quilt is a kind of illustration of the post but on Tuesday my lap top broke – I hope I will find out later today if it’s coming back restored or beyond economic repair. Yesterday my phone broke and that is definitely beyond economic repair. Apparently, I’m surrounded by technology going into spontaneous melt down and I can’t post any new photos.
The wind horse is an allegory for the human soul in the shamanistic tradition of Central Asia. InTibetan Buddhism, it was included as the pivotal element in the center of the four animals symbolizing the cardinal directions and a symbol of the idea of well-being or good fortune. It has also given the name to a type of prayer flag that has the five animals printed on it. (Wikipedia)
I’ve already spoken quite a lot, in From the Heart…, about sorrow and making this prayer flag…
…and this post is more about dreams. Or more specifically about how the whole process of making the prayer flag above has led me to think about and value dreams differently. By ‘dreams’ here I don’t mean the dreams we have whilst we are asleep, I mean day dreams/visions/imaginations related to doing/being/changing something in everyday life.
And I’m going to try to talk about dreams in terms of sewing (partly because this is a quilting blog and partly because I am choosing not to put anything very personal in a very public space) but really this is equally about families, relationships, careers, futures – anything that we invest our emotional energy in and that has an important place in our inspirations and aspirations. It could probably more accurately be described as a post about why dreams are important, why we should value and nurture them – especially in our children – and how we might stop them from coming true or make them come true.
Now, I have always believed that I value my dreams because I don’t discount them and I don’t abandon them and I’ve tended to share the sentiment of the speaker in this very beautiful poem:
He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
(You might also like to visit this stunning gallery He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven A Flickr gallery curated by tintocktap)
And I have trodden softly on my dreams – and I hope on other people’s. And I should emphasize here that I think that is really important. If you ask a young child to draw something – anything however difficult – they just draw but with too many children there comes a time when they’ll start to say “I can’t draw”. And so many adults will say things like “I can’t even sew on a button”. And I firmly believe this change comes about because someone, usually a significant adult, has trodden on their dreams. Someone says, “X hasn’t got a creative bone in his/her body” and too often overhearing a casual, thoughtless remark like that can wound someone very deeply for years, perhaps, sadly, forever. And one reason I mention this is that it’s a subject I’m passionate about. and I think dreams are important and that we (as humans) have a duty to each other – and particularly to children in our care – to encourage and nurture and protect them.
This is something of a digression but it’s a fab talk about educating children in a different and, I would suggest better way.
Another reason why I want to emphasize, at this point, that I think dreams are really important and must be valued is that I don’t want to cause any misunderstandings about what I am going to say next.
And what I am going to say next is that a really honest reflection and evaluation of how and why I felt violently catapulted into shock and existential despair by my prayer flag incident (without overlooking that it did involve an element of real, everyday world pain and loss) was that I have a tendency to tread too softly on my dreams. The major fatal flaw in this particular dream was confirmation bias, which I read about on Susan’s post called HOW TO BE YOUR OWN TRUTHTELLER where she says:
“When Peter Drucker observed that “no one has ever failed to find the facts he is looking for,” he was talking about confirmation bias, known as the most dependable of all delusions. What is confirmation bias? It’s when we pay attention to information that confirms what we want to believe, and ignore information that challenges it”.
And looking back I could see the prayer flag incident (PFI) had been foreshadowed, in small ways, many times over the years. Looking back I could have seen it coming. It’s easy to say ‘with hindsight I have new information and I would do things differently’ but the honest, rational part of me has to acknowledge that with hindsight there is no new information. And, it seems to me, this is how confirmation bias works. Each time the dream is challenged by reality all the information necessary is available and the dream is injured by the confrontation. And, because I was too much in love with the dream itself, each time I chose to discount the reality and focus on healing the injured dream. And this is what I mean by treading too softly. It was valuing the dream as a beautiful place to escape to, to avoid the real world, and putting energy into maintaining it as a dream. And put like this, I think we can safely say that unless a Fairy Godmother comes along or Prince Charming turns up the chances of a dream valued like this and dreamed in this way coming true are probably just about zero.
So how can we make our dreams comes true?
I would love to hear anyone’s views/tips on this.
I am now thinking of dreams more as seeds than as wonderful gardens of flowers in full bloom. And I’m thinking that the value of these dream seeds is not to polish and perfect them but to make them real. And I’m thinking to make them real they need to be planted and nurtured in both the dream world and the real world.
As the children who ‘can’t draw’ demonstrate the real world can be hard on dreams. Planting the seed of a dream in the real world makes us very vulnerable and involves taking risks – imagine how you would feel if you were the speaker in Yeat’s poem and your beloved just laughed or mocked or despised or pitied you.
So our little dream seeds need to be strong enough in the dream world not to be destroyed by the first conflict they encounter with the external world. But perhaps they need to have that conflict, and we need to engage with it and learn from it in order for us to make the concrete changes that will be necessary to realize the dream and that can take hard work and self belief and flexibility. And it won’t always be easy.
For example, if we dream of making a ‘Dear Jane’ quilt or McTavishing like an expert but we’ve never sewn anything much before we might have to learn new skills and up our patience. We might sometimes need a lot of self discipline to stick with it when when we get bored or find things difficult or get distracted or receive negative feedback from others. We will almost certainly need some help and support perhaps – going to a class, reading a tutorial or encouragement from friends when we feel like abandoning it to the UFO pile. And this sort of dream – where we have a lot of control over the real world factors required to make it come true – is well within the reach of most of us if we are prepared to put in the work.
But then there are the dreams where, in reality, we don’t have a lot of of control over external events, such as falling in love with the wrong person, being bereaved, accidents, illness…and harsh and sad and devastating as it is, some of these dreams are never going to come true.
With these dreams we feel as if we have made a mutual contract with another person/the universe/fate like Alice does with the unicorn…
Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: ‘Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!’
‘Well, now that we have seen each other,’ said the Unicorn, ‘if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?’ (Alice Through the Looking Glass)
Whilst, in reality, we are believing in the Unicorn but Unicorn is not believing in us.
And these little dream seeds don’t stand a chance in the real world. They will fall at their first encounter with real life events and if we put all our energy into trying to rescue them we are just setting ourselves up for a bigger fall at some later stage. And it may be that dream can change or evolve or it may be we just have to let it go and find whatever value and learning we can from that experience and use it to help us evolve stronger, better, more realizable dreams for the future.