Dreaming a Little Dream

Hocking HillsI can’t stop reading over the job announcement. These arrive regularly, advertising positions in Michigan for Physician Assistants in a myriad of positions. Surgery. Dermatology. ER. Oncology. Primary care. I don’t even open most of them. Parenting two kids who appreciate that they live just half a mile away from their father and close to all the people and places they’ve known since birth makes thoughts of relocation a nonstarter. Oh, and there’s that homeschooling part where I teach, coach, and drive from dawn until well after dusk. That’s not compatible with 12 hour shifts no matter where the location, never mind one in Ironwood, a town of under 6,000 people in the most northwestern parts of the Upper Peninsula.

But I can’t stop reading the announcement. It spent a week on the stairs, my mail-holding spot, followed by a week on my desk before being pinned to the cork board in the kitchen. It’s not the fine salary, primary care work, flexible hours, and benefits that would ease my mind that keep it in sight. It’s not for a desire of the pace of a small town in the rural northern part of the lower 48.  As I moved the letter from one place to another, rereading it and sharing it with a few friends, I wondered why I was so obsessed with a job that I couldn’t take in a place I couldn’t inhabit until my youngest is grown.

And then the answer came. It offered me permission to dream. That letter lets me wonder about roads not taken yet and all the possibilities that lay ahead. It reminds me that those roads and possibilities aren’t closed for good but just waiting until later. At a point where I feel mired in responsibility for the two people I love beyond all reason, this announcement  offers what has long felt illicit — a daydream where I’m not mom first and me when there is time.

I’ve been told I’m lousy at dreaming. It’s true. I can’t get lost in the what ifs and lose myself in possibilities or impossibilities. A short jaunt down the daydream road is detoured by concerns about finances, timing, the feelings of others, and uncertainty. Especially those dreams that touch the edges of reality. Those are the hardest to leave as dreams to either be realized or just enjoyed in theory only. Those are the most prone to my prodding, probing, analyzing mind.

It seems that sucks the fun out of dreaming. Okay, I can see that. If you’re musing along, thinking about what might be, reality isn’t your best friend. Whether that be fantasizing about the writing the book that’s brewing in the barrier between consciousness and unconsciousness or sketching plans for the house overlooking the shore of Lake Whatever, reality isn’t welcome. And yet I can’t chase it away. I wonder about if the book would ever be published or purchased. I worry that I have nothing to say than anyone would ever read. I do the math on the land plus materials while realizing that I like a more urban setting and despise driving in lake effect snow (or any snow). Reality bumps its big nose into the dream, shoving it into the closet or simply sending it crashing to the floor, breaking it into a hundred different pieces.

So I stink at dreaming.  I don’t know if I’ve always been this way or if it’s a product of responsibility for children and a home. I can remember dreaming with my once-husband. He’d buy a couple of lottery tickets a few times a year, tickets to dreaming about what we’d do. It was a far better investment than tickets to the movies or dinner out. For a few dollars, we’d dream about the house we’d build, the trips we’d take, jobs we’d change, the mortgages of family we’d pay off, of the giving we could do. For an hour, reality stayed away. Everything was open and change was possible. I can’t recall us bringing up what we knew money wouldn’t change — that all stayed away for a time, irrelevant and unwelcome to the dream state. We had other (non lottery-based) dreams, too, but time has erased them from my memory.

And now for too many years, I can’t access that freedom to dream, at least for myself.  I can dream for my children. I dream of them happy and gainfully employed, loving partner at their side, perhaps with grandchildren decades from now. I dream of them immersing themselves in what they love, passionate and persistent with, ironically dreams of their own. Perhaps it’s the undeniable truth that I have no say in the outcome of their lives (aside from loving and educating them now) that makes this dreaming possible. It happens beyond me, after they leave my reach.

So why now? Why does this job announcement live on my cork board  carried to the kitchen table to be read and reread? Why do I find myself wondering about a house in the woods or high on a hill, surrounded by trees and space. Why do I think through the ten twelve-hour shifts a month in the walk-in clinic, with plenty of days to write, teach writing, or do something else that occupies the wordy part of my brain? Why do I think about the view outside my dreamed-window, watching snow pile deeper and deeper, with a fire in the stove and music in the background?

Perhaps it’s the sheer impossibility of it that makes it dream-fodder. I’m planted for now, close to friends and close to the father of my boys. I don’t really know that I’d like living remotely, urban/suburban person I’ve always been. That may be the magic of the dream. It takes me out of myself, letting me be whomever I might like to be. I can imagine that I like that rural life, that snow, the potential for solitude and freedom of schedule while doing two jobs I enjoy. With no real possibility of making that move in the next many years, I’m free to dream what might be someday without feeling reality intrude.

So I’m working at it. I’m dreaming a bit, here and there, reminding myself to stay in the dream and exclude all the evaluation and concerns. The job announcement flits between my desk and cork board, not so much because that job is my dream but because it reminds me I can let my thoughts go to what might be without that being an evaluative statement on what is. With some practice, I might not need the paper reminder to drop concerns about finances, logistics, and general problems while allowing my heart and mind to wander to Ironwood and beyond.

3 thoughts on “Dreaming a Little Dream

  1. Beautifully written. Keep dreaming. Listen. You never know what the deeper message might be. I was a city person also and also couldn’t imagine living remotely. I stayed “in the woods” for 25 years. It’s not for everyone. It was right for me.

  2. Great post. “this announcement offers what has long felt illicit — a daydream where I’m not mom first and me when there is time.” As mothers, those are our dreams, aren’t they–nothing more specific than a reclaiming of our own selves.

    Your words reminded me of a passage from Nick Hornby’s How To Be Good (I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a more convincing example of a male author successfully channeling a modern woman)–“It is the act of reading itself that I miss, the opportunity to retreat further and further from the world until I have found some space, some air that isn’t stale, that hasn’t been breathed by my family a thousand times already. . . this book [makes my own space] so much bigger. And when I’ve finished it, I will start another one, and that might be even bigger, and then another, and I will be able to keep extending my house until it becomes a mansion, full of rooms where they can’t find me.”

    Your reflection is in a more lighthearted tone, but whether we feel trapped or merely securely anchored, I think we all relate to the appeal of the escape fantasy.

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