Friday, February 13, 2009

Hopes and Dreams

I had some ideas about hopes and dreams somewhere on the back burner of my brain. Then I came across two different authors mentioning something similar and, not being one that believes in coincidences, decided it was time to move it to the front burner of my brain and start writing about it.

I believe that while the two concepts are related, they have distinctly different characteristics and meanings in our lives. For my purposes here, I will be defining "dreams" as what gallops through our brains while we are asleep and "hopes" as those aspirations that come to us in our waking hours.

There are those who hold that our dreams are merely our brains trying to sort through everything we've experienced during the day. Others say that our dreams are giving us information that we should use in our lives. Maybe they are both right, or both wrong, I'm not certain because neither option covers all the different types of dreams a person can have.

If they are merely a sorting mechanism in our brain then why did I have recurring nightmares in childhood of a giant, green Viking chasing me around while I ran on nothing? I had never encountered any giants, green or otherwise, nor was I acquainted with any Vikings. But the darned dream terrified me repeatedly for a couple of years. If that same dream was trying to give me information, what could it have been, aside from I should run away from giant, green Vikings? Perhaps there is some third or fourth purpose to dreams that would explain it.

On the other hand, during the years before I allowed myself to admit that my marriage had been a mistake from the first, I continually dreamt that I was rushing to the airport and getting on the first plane I saw, not caring where it went just so long as it went. Clearly, this was about wanting to escape and I recognized it as such at the time. And after I initiated the divorce, I had a dream that seriously disturbed me despite not at all being sure of its meaning at the time. In hindsight, it was clearly about a fear of being in deep water (figuratively) and being alone with no one to help me in tough situations.

The examples above are why I tend to think that dreams at night can have varied uses and meanings for us and no one fixed purpose.

Hopes, on the other hand, shape and define who we are, how we see ourselves, and how others see us. What we wish to be or to achieve says important things about our very selves and what we value. I've had relatively few hopes in my life for various reasons. When I was a teenager, I was always pressured to name what it was that I wanted to be. As I was a smart girl, did well in school and had a wide range of interests, everyone "knew" that I would BE something. What that something might be no one seemed to know and I received no guidance on how to figure it out. I had no career hopes. In fact, the one hope that I had had nothing to do with a career and has yet to be realized, although it remains a major hope in my life.

While I was in college, I was the target of much good-natured teasing by my family because I kept changing my major. It wasn't that I was particularly flighty, it was just that the course catalog offered so many different things that piqued my interest and it was very difficult to choose just one or even two. When I finally settled on philosophy, it came, seemingly, out of nowhere while I was studying textile design. It made me feel as if the way my brain worked was not really totally odd, but it was never part of my hopes to study philosophy.

In the years since my divorce, I've allowed a second hope to join the unfulfilled one from my youth. All my life, I have been the go-to person for anything that needs to be written. But, somehow, it failed to enter my mind that I should write. Sometimes, I can be incredibly dense for a bright girl. Despite the fact that several people who knew me well had repeatedly asked me "when are you going to write," it took an unbelievable amount of time for me to realize that I not only wanted to write, but was actually good at it.

What might it mean to have so few hopes in my life? I'm not certain at all. Perhaps it is due to some residual doubt in myself and my right to claim anything for myself. Perhaps it is a product of being a female in the time and place I grew up. Perhaps it is something else entirely. But the result, for me, is that those hopes that I do cling to have incredible importance in my life and, as a consequence, have the power to floor me when they go unfulfilled. I wonder if those who have many hopes for their lives have it any easier when it comes to the point where a hope is dashed. Or, perhaps, they are made stronger both because they withstand numerous disappointments and because they have more hopes to fall back on. I honestly don't know, but I suspect that the loss of a cherished hope is a personal tragedy, no matter how many other hopes one has.

1 comment:

Knitman said...

I think dreams do have various meanings and they are there to help us. I know for me that my epiphany toward the end of 2007 was heralded by a dream early in 2007. I didn't make the connection until after the epiphany but one that happened it was clear how the two things, the dream and the reality were related.
As for hopes, the only one I had, and it wasn't even formulated clearly, was that I be loved. That came to be. I tend not to hope still so I'd have to think about it some. Oh, obviously I have hopes with regard to my dog showing but I guess I am thinking more than that.mmm,I don't know what they are. Just to love and be loved really.