Whose dream is it anyway?

So I’m doing a course and as part of a workbook exercise, I had to answer this question:

What Dreams Have You Let Go Of?

The immediate answer that came to mind (though I seldom think of it) was this:

Becoming a mother

As I said, I rarely think of this. It’s not a part of my day, or my life, to be honest. I’ve known for a long time that this was not my path, so it’s been a non-issue. Even now, staring at those words through tears, I can’t say I would change anything. I’m happy to be child-free and couldn’t imagine my life with kids in it. If I’m honest it gives me palpitations!

BUT. But. I feel the absence of that experience I’ll never get to have. The experience of me being a mother. Of getting to meet a little person with all my mixed-up genes and inconvenient family traits, transmuted into something completely new and unique. The wonder of finding out who that little person will be and how I can support them and teach them, without fucking them up (too much). Cos that’s what parents do, I think. Their best, whilst knowing somewhere deep down that it will probably fall short. Most likely, that’s when you construct a bridge of hope that your child will somehow figure it out anyway. Find their own way despite your instinctive need to guide them even when they don’t want or need you anymore. Christ. I think I might have been a good mom, as they say. Good enough. I hope I would have been playful and receptive (but probably tired and stressed!) I’ll never know and it’s a big thing to not know.

The follow-up question was, what was your reason for letting go of the dream? That’s when I realised that I’d probably gone too deep! Maybe they were looking for an easier answer because I didn’t let go on purpose. I just ran out of time. But when I dig a little deeper, I realise that I did let go of something. I no longer believed it was possible to find the kind of partner I would want to have a family with. Beliefs are the engines for your dreams, but I didn’t know it then. And I never thought about going it alone (which is really unlike me because I have such an independent spirit!)

But now I look at the question again and realise I’ve glossed over the most important word… ‘Dream.’ It was never really my dream to have a child or to become a mother. It felt more like an inevitability! It’s just something that is taken for granted in our society, assumed. Of course, everyone wants to be a mother, right? So often we prioritise other people’s dreams above our own because that’s how life works a lot of the time. We never really get to ask ourselves the question until it’s too late. Is this what you really wanted? Maybe, maybe not. so perhaps it’s not a dream I have let go of, but a potentiality; a sliding doors version of my life that may or may not have been as happy and fulfilling as the one I’m living now. If we subconsciously choose our reality, then I have chosen to prioritise a different part of me and I’m going to honour that inner intuitiveness by letting go of the dreams that are not mine and embracing the ones that are. All in.

Why The ‘Hygge’ Are We So Stressed?!


I’ve noticed a growing trend in advertising over the last few years (you know advertising; those people who tell us what sort of lifestyle we should have in order to be happy? Yep, them.)  Last night I watched a new car ad, whose marketing department decided they needed to target women.  So they told the story of a young, successful woman who began her day by deep-sea diving (as you do), then drove to work where she spent a ‘hectic’ day at the office making extremely important decisions and telling mostly men what to do, followed by a night out at some pretentious venue where she picks up a total randomer (shags him, we assume) and arrives home at sleepy o’clock in her shiny new car.  After a jam-packed day that left me feeling exhausted just watching her, she assures us in a breathy voice that she wouldn’t have it any other way – ominously implying that she will do the same thing again tomorrow.

This was swiftly followed by an ad for mascara, where an angry-looking young woman is out-running some male secret agents while looking FLAWLESS.  The voice over artist tells us that her mascara is UNSTOPPABLE, while the pristine model runs away in impossibly high heels.  This is followed by an ad for make-up that is INFALLIBLE!!  And I’m sitting on my couch thinking, what?  What’s the message here?  Expect more, don’t relax, be busy, seek perfection, ACHIEVE, keep moving, life is a battle and we need to fight it head on, whilst remaining impeccably groomed and loving every f&*king minute of it!!!

And these were the ads for women without kids.  I can only imagine that the car ad for mothers would involve her literally juggling three kids in the air whilst steering the car with her foot and preparing an eco-friendly meal in the glove compartment.  Because as well all know ladies, you can have it all.  But do you really want it?

Conversely, we are all lurching from one ‘get relaxed quick’ scheme to another.  The publishing industry enjoyed an unexpected boom last year from sales of adult colouring books – the hangover from the previous year’s attempt to introduce us all to mindfulness (which nobody really understood).  ‘Just be in the moment!’  it proclaimed.  Something that easy shouldn’t require any effort, and we all sat there in the lotus position wondering how long it would take to be mindful.  Is it happening yet?  Am I relaxed??  This year it’s Hygge.  As if we need the Danes to tell us how to light a few candles and chill the f@%k out (sorry for all the expletives!)  Don’t we know how to do this without having to buy a bloody book about it?  Clearly not.  We have lost our ability to just BE.  And every marketing department the world over is taking advantage of it.  They’re selling us the cause and the cure.

I recently had a chat with my sister about something I saw on Twitter (which she hadn’t read) and she went on to explain that there just wasn’t time for all of the information that kept coming at her.  By the time you’ve followed the link and flicked through 800 different opinions about the thing and eventually tried to form your own, the world has moved on to the next thing, with more information and it’s just never ending!!  Social media has us worked up into a frenzy over issues that we really have no control over, so our rage and sense of injustice has nowhere to go.  There is no practical outlet for us to affect change on the world around us, so we just tweet our frustrations away.  I don’t really know when all of this change happened.  I suppose every generation bemoans the next, but wasn’t it better when we had more time to just flop about and naval gaze for a while, without feeling guilty about it?  Is reaching for our phones every two seconds a way of distracting ourselves or deluding ourselves into believing that we’re doing something.. anything?  I was starting to wonder if this was just the general malaise of being a grown up, but then I read a great post by Misha Kahn’s  called ‘When are you going to be enough for yourself?’  I think she really hits the nail on the head of our ‘be busy’ culture with this thought:

I started to believe that if I wasn’t being productive, I was failing.

Is this how ‘they’ want us to feel?  Are we somehow being programmed to work harder, better, faster, stronger, with the only watchman being our own guilty conscience?  I’m no conspiracy theorist (am I?) yet I can’t help but wonder if this ideal of being an over-achiever is eroding our natural state of being?  After all, we are human beings, not human doings.  Yet the first thing people ask when they meet you is ‘What do you do?’  An author friend of mind just published a book and I was alarmed to see how many people barked the words, ‘Have you written the next one  yet?’  I mean, back off people, just enjoy the moment.  Like the annoying kid at school who scribbled furiously on their test paper while you sat there doodling, some people can’t wait to make you feel unproductive (the horror!), or worse, rub their productivity in your face.  Ewwww!

It’s a long time since I first read Tom Hodgkinson’s book How To Be Free  and while he may not have all the answers, his suggestion of painting murals on the ceiling so we can spend more time looking at it, isn’t the worst I’ve heard!  His mission is to bring back the days of merriment and self-sufficiency and really, who can argue with that?

‘Tom shows that consumer society has led not to a widening of freedoms but to the opposite and that the key to a free life is to stop consuming and start producing.’

It’s true, modern life has turned us into willing slaves of our screens so we are constantly switched on.  Even during our recreation time, we are still consuming because that’s what we’re told to do through these types of aspirational lifestyle marketing campaigns.  Check out Tom’s website ‘The Idler’ where you can connect with people who aren’t shackled by this notion of ‘performance guilt’ for want of a better term.  Life isn’t all about working hard and partying hard, which again, sounds like more work!  I’ve always felt that statement implies that you don’t deserve to have fun unless you’ve slogged your guts out working.  We could all use a little anarchy, especially when we are being brainwashed into finding happiness at the shopping mall or salvation in over-achievement.  Maybe, just maybe, our achievements do not define us and happiness is really about finding pleasure in the simple, everyday things that cannot be measured, bought or sold.