Growing up, we were not encouraged to dream, neither day- nor night. Night dreaming might be mentioned if it was scary or taught a lesson. Anything else–the mysterious, flying, living a wonderful life–was dismissed as a waste of time. And day-dreaming was no better. You could have been learning, cleaning, studying, or making yourself a better person.
As the only American-born member of my family, this did not seem strange. My parents had not ony gone through the hard-time 1930s, but they went through World War II in one of the countries that lost. Rail-thin and almost without hope, they grabbed the offer that brought them to America. My father was in his late 40s, not the ideal time to start a new life. My mother was younger, but not resilient, having sustained the kind of emotional and physical war damage that one does not spring back from–ever. My two brothers could not remember a time they had not been hungry or warm enough, or had more than one item you could call a toy. Life was not for dreaming, it was for surviving. My parents were serious, life was serious. Sure, we laughed, but it seemed to be mostly from relief, not just because something was funny.
As I grew older, the temptation to dream was constant. I wanted to write. Even then adults said, “Write what you know.” I had a pretty good idea that no one wanted to read what I knew. I wanted to write what no one knew. What didn’t exist, what might exist only in my head. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a writer. I knew better than to express this wish. But I dreamed about it.
And that is exactly why dreaming is so important. It leads us away from the past with the “no” and the “can’t” and the “we don’t have those careers.” It opens the door to “Why not?” and “see what happens,” and “try it and find out.” Dreaming leaves us open to possibility. Success. Adventure. Daydreaming is as important as dreaming at night. Daydreaming solves problems. Creates hope. Stokes the ember of creativity into a flame.
Dreams heal. They heal hurts, a stifled imagination, a crumpled spirit. Dreams can heal the world. True, they are not real, but they can be made real. When I was seven years old, I wrote a short story set in a family that was not mine, in a house I had never seen, with a figurine that we didn’t have. When the figurine turned, a bookcase opened into a world filled with sun and fruit trees that held mulberries, cherries, watermelons and pecans–all at once. It was a science fantasy story. The heroine was an artist who could see things no one else could. It took a long time to write, and while I don’t remember most of the story or what happend to the spiral notebook it filled, I will never forget the joy and satisfaction it contained.
I sometimes recall that joy and satisfaction now when I am stuck on a project. Sometimes I see things no one else can, and then I feel like the artist of the story. Yep, the dream of a 7-year-old can stoke the hopes of an adult. Reason enough to keep on dreaming. Reason enough to work on possibilities.
–Daydreaming has its own values for the soul. Don’t know how? You can learn how to daydream.
–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. Visit her website at QuinnCreative.com