“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” — Oscar Wilde
Last spring I shared a post called Saying No — A Successful Writer’s Must. We can’t fulfill our creative goals if we say yes to everything/everyone 100% of the time, I asserted. If we do, we’re essentially saying no to our dreams. Today I want to talk about the flip-side: the importance of saying yes to not only our goals, but our hearts and instincts.
As some of you know, I provide nutritional therapy and mentorship to individuals with psychiatric conditions, namely eating disorders. I can often predict whether an individual is going to recover successfully by the way she talks about her goals and dreams outside of her illness. Consider the following examples:
Alexa: “I can’t think about anything else, and I don’t want to. Controlling my weight is all I know. It makes me happy, or at least the happiest I could be. I don’t have other interests. This is it.”
Jen: “All I know is I don’t want to feel like this. I can’t fucking take it anymore! Sure, I had dreams once. I used to paint and make jewelry. I was going to start my own line someday. [sarcastic laugh] I don’t even have friends anymore…”
Sandy: “I miss the piano. I’ve been playing a little again… [smile] I’m good at my job, but it doesn’t make me happy. Maybe it’s silly, but I feel like I could write songs. And maybe teach.”
You can probably guess that Sandy has the greatest odds of recovery. She has something beyond her illness to say yes to, and a genuine desire to do so. Jen can get there too. If she continues to explore her frustration, it can be the launchpad for positive change. Alexa has the toughest cards in her deck. Until she starts questioning her disease and believing in, or at least hoping for something brighter, she’ll likely remain stuck or worsen.
As artists, denying our hopes and dreams is like a disease. On the milder end, we suffer artistic “colds,” mere sniffles and congestion from too little artistic nurturing. In the worst cases, we stifle our dreams completely. I’m pretty sure this can land me in the hospital. (Arguably, it has.)
We are blessed to have passions and dreams. Saying no to influences that draw us away from them won’t do much good if we then fail to say YES! to our hearts’ desires.
I’ve been reminded of this recently. Since my book release, even amidst the euphoria, I sensed a sort of void—a nagging feeling in my gut. I thought I merely missed writing fuller-time, having taken on marketing and promotions, but there was something more. A book project has been knocking on my heart’s door, and though it wasn’t my intended next step, I have to pursue it. Sure, it makes my workload heftier, but at the risk of seeming melodramatic, it makes my soul lighter. I bounced out of bed at five this morning, eager to dive in. Upon making the decision, my mood turned sunnier, and the body aches I barely recognized have vanished. It’s a lot like falling in love.
When our soul speaks, we best listen. I’ve learned this repeatedly. I see it in my own life, and in the lives of inspiring individuals facing seemingly unbeatable odds. I’m giddy each time I meet a “Sandy,” for I already sense the wonder she’s going to experience and carry out into the world. Authentic, passionate people make the world a better place. As artists we have significant opportunities to be them.
Yes, I’m an ooey-gooey pile o’ mush today—totally fine by me. As author and activist Geneen Roth wrote in Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Just About Anything, “We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes.” There’s nothing wrong with savoring decadent treats, but sometimes our longings run much deeper. The real sweets derive from being true to ourselves.
I hope that whatever dreams your heart holds, you’re going for them. I’d love to hear the ooey-gooey details. What goals are you stoked about? Have you ever felt slightly lost, then found? Do your instincts speak louder than words? I ♥ hearing from you.