“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” ― Gloria Steinem
A few days ago I marked the third anniversary of the day I signed the papers entrusting my much loved house in Raleigh, NC to new owners. I watched the moving van pull away from my house that was no longer home and moved in with a friend for three weeks, waiting to hold my not-yet-born second grandchild before I spent two weeks transitioning across the country to start down a new path in life’s mystery of a journey.
I’m having trouble deciding if I should post my annual retrospectives on the anniversary of the day I left my house, or of the day I pulled into the driveway of my new life. It was a long bridge from one life to the next, as is Mama’s transition. As I read my year one post and my year two post, I feel like nothing much has changed: I am still hanging in here, gradually putting down roots. Mama is still in a decline that feels precipitous to both of us, but really continues to be a gentle slope. More on that next month.
Three years ago I was looking forward to the adventure of my drive across the country, sad to leave my home and friends, and terrified of the future. My only plan was to spend a year packing up my mother’s house, move her to assisted living, and figure out where I wanted to live next and what I wanted to do. And to write about it.
What I realize now is there was no dreaming involved in my plan. I had no idea what I wanted beyond that year. I wasn’t sure how I was even going to get through the year. Perhaps there were too many unknowns to float a dream, and no roots. If life is what happens while we’re making plans, dreams are what are planted while we are living life—and I was about to spend a gap year. There was no room in the Life Interrupted garden for dreams.
I’ve always been a dreamer. It hasn’t kept me from living in the moment, rather it has given form to the present and hope to the future. I dreamed of a restored garden at my little house in Raleigh. When that little bean of a dream felt as big as I knew how to grow it, I moved on; I’m not big on maintenance.
When it became clear that moving Mama might not be the best idea, I started dreaming. Now my little bean of a dream gets me through the days and gives structure to a life that my day job and my garden restoration used to give me. Serendipitously, in this third anniversary week, two of the three jobs I held simultaneously in that day job, were posted as separate positions yesterday by my former employer. I recalled the dream I had when I applied for the first of my eventual three jobs there 14 years ago with absolutely no experience to recommend me for it. It will always remind me, when the chips are down, that far-fetched dreams can become reality, and they go places never expected.
My sisters and I now own the house and its four acres, if only on paper—Mama is still in charge. My dream is to give it new life. I have ideas, but I know the specifics will change. For now I am preparing the soil: beans don’t grow out of nothingness. I have built new trails in the woods that radiates out from our property so the guests who inhabit my current dream will have loops to walk on. I’ve created a garden to grow vegetables and flowers, with an artsy fence that the lovely deer can only look through longingly. And I have given life to the wasteland in the “Garden where nothing will grow,” a name inspired by Mama. Maybe it’s that last that has informed my living the most: growing something from nothing. I look at the growing things and see the evidence I have not been idle.
I have been writing this blog, sharing the experience and trials of living with my mother and the challenges being old-old bring. I’ve started a memoir and written a draft of novel. I’m dreaming of new life here. It remains to be seen if any of my beans will reach the sky.
My former husband used to chide me about dreaming. He couldn’t, he said, look ahead until he knew it was going to work out. I deal with disappointment better than I do with having nothing to strive toward. I am living with a non-dreamer again. Mama has lived her 99 years (next week) in perpetual disappointment, a state described by those who study human behavior as: “It’s easier to live disappointed than it is to feel disappointed. It feels more vulnerable to dip in and out of disappointment than to just set up camp there. You sacrifice joy, but you suffer less pain.”
Living with the old-old is, if nothing else, a reminder that life is short; I will make the most of every year in the only way I know how: walking in joy and planting and tending my bold little bean dreams.
“What’s bold is different for everyone; and even the smallest move in that direction builds the boldness muscle and then self-trust.” ― Peggy Payne
P.S. If you would like to send Mama birthday greetings in the comment section of this post, I will read them to her on June 11.