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The Importance of Dreaming as a Chronically Ill Adult

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What were your dreams as a kid? I wanted to be a “professional cash register person” (direct quote from childhood me). A teacher, like my mom. Pile on plastic jewelry with abandon. Join the Boy Scouts (canoes > crafts). Write a book. Acquire a lifetime supply of Fun Dip. Set a Guinness World Record for most butterfly clips in one ponytail. Perform.

My current dreams? Give myself room, time and permission to heal. Read a book that transforms me. Write a book that transforms you. Return to Spain. Eat my way through Americana’s diner scene. File my taxes. Write a letter every week. Do yoga every (other) damn day.

When you’re young, dreams are everything. The world says “Great Job!” and might even put it up on the fridge underneath a blueberry-scented magnet. We’re allowed to think in big, unrealistic, imaginative thought bubbles. Polly Pocket can marry Pikachu and it’s the best thing ever. But as adults, dreams dwindle under obligation. Aspirations collapse from unsolicited opinions. And for the chronically ill, the idea of dreaming (or even mustering enough energy to think about tomorrow) is obsolete.

young girl holding a bucket and standing in shallow water
Me, back when things were a little bit simpler.

While I’m guilty of being my own worst enemy, I think it’s important to think big – whatever that means for you. Be the change. Don’t settle. Try again and again until you fail. And then try again because let’s face it: life is hard and it’s bound to happen. Have more meaningful conversations. Spend entire days (or weekends?) in your underwear. Learn a new language because your brain wants the challenge. Donate your time to a stranger. Wear mismatched socks and an armful of bracelets. Cut the crusts off your sandwich. Eat your pizza backwards. Move to a place where you don’t know a soul. Give blood. Adopt something. Start a comic book club. Meditate. Sign a petition. Call your grandma.

So very often, I find myself thinking that being sick and having dreams are mutually exclusive realities. Do you, too? Sometimes it almost seems like cheating if I can’t live a “normal” existence and yet I find myself drifting off to the abstract corners of my psyche. But aren’t the point of dreams to inspire oneself to be better, do better, act better? So perhaps having a dream is the only way to get through each day and onto the next. A way to connect, pick ourselves up and magnify whatever joy we can find.

I’ll try to give myself a break tomorrow and dare to dream a little more and worry a little less. Perhaps I will see you there.

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Originally published: March 4, 2017
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