Yesterday, I took Leyla to the park.
She laughed and played, and occasionally asked for my help, which I gently refused.
There were two other moms there. They were cute. They did planks and squats while their children ran around. While they weren’t all made up … Their hair was neatly pulled back and their exercise clothes matched. I watched them from the corner of my eye.
They had energy. I did not. They pushed their children on the swings. I stayed on the bench. The chatted easily. I stayed alone.
It was in this moment, I realized, sometimes dreams look anything but dreamy.
I have dreamt for a longtime to be pregnant again. To have cute little bump, and the “glow.” Even the intrusive comments from strangers would be welcome to me … Simply because it meant that I was carrying a living baby. A baby I would hold and keep.
These dreams, like most dreams are, were always in technicolor. Always glitz and glam … Even in the mundane moments. Just carrying a baby would be magic in itself.
As I sat quietly on the bench, eating an egg white wrap from Starbucks, and gingerly sipping on some ice tea, I mulled over my new state.
My arms were bruised from the previous day’s 3-hour stent getting IV fluids and medicine. My stomach threatened to revolt at any moment. I never know when I won’t be able to keep something down. I eat, knowing that I will regret eating every time. Every time.
I got a Venti drink, hopeful I would get enough fluids in. While it tasted good, I doubted if I would get the whole thing down. It took me most of the morning and afternoon, but I finished my drink.
My hair was briskly smoothed back by a brush, and my bare face, still baring scars from years of acne, wore a very apathetic expression. I looked neither excited nor sad. Any expression would require more energy than I had to give.
My appearance, something I took pride in before, required too much energy to maintain. Showers wear me out. I often can’t make it through a shower without feeling dizzy and nauseous, and need to lie down promptly after the shower. Or actually in the shower. Just getting my hair washed was a feat. As long as I was somewhat clean with brushed teeth … It was good enough for me.
I realized that to these girls, I maybe looked like a girl who had given up. Maybe I didn’t appear to be the best, most attentive parent … Or even the best, most attentive woman.
But my appearance was a result of me fighting for my dreams … Not the result of me giving up.
Fighting to keep fluids down. Fighting to get nutrition. Fighting to give my daughter a break from being cooped up. Fighting mentally and physically for the dream I have often prayed for … A baby.
Fighting for our dreams can be messy.
And when we dream, we mistakenly believe we are impervious to the mess. If it is meant to be … Things will just naturally fall into place.
When we set a goal we believe we can achieve, it is easy to get caught up in the notion that the pursuit of a dream will be just as dreamy as the actualization of a dream.
We imagine we’ll land that book deal with the first publisher we approach. We’ll start that blog, and instantly gain a platform of fans who like, comment, and share our work. We’ll start that new home-based business, and everyone we ask to join will get the vision, lock arms and run with us. That paycheck, vacation or car seems so close.
Everything seems close enough to touch … And yet right outside our reach.
Then, once we get into the thick of it … We start realizing how messy dreaming really is.
We realize that our dream takes more than talent … It takes hard work. Our miracle is not all roses and rainbows … It’s laying on the bathroom floor in nausea, completely spent physically and emotionally. It’s handling rejection after rejection from publishers, clients, friends, even family. It’s uncovering all the areas in our personality that don’t serve us, or our dream. The character flaws, the laziness, the lack of persistence, the timidity and fear of failure.
It’s as much an undoing as it is a doing.
And then we carefully watch others’ highlight reels on social media.
We see the gorgeous maternity bump photos … But we fail to see the piles of infertility drugs, medical bills, and negative pregnancy tests it took to get that baby.
We see someone rise to the top in their profession … But are blind to all the countless no’s, the evenings spent in tears or frustration, or the feelings of failure that they had to overcome.
We see that blog post that went viral. But we don’t see the hundreds of drafts sitting in their queue, the majority of posts that barely got 100 views, and the rejection letters from online magazines they long to submit to.
We watch as someone like Brene Brown go from unknown researcher to an in-demand writer and speaker almost overnight. What we fail to see is the 12 years she spent researching without an audience. We weren’t cheering her on when she put her research away for a year and a half, because it was all too much, too personal to handle. We weren’t privvy to the therapy sessions in which she had to undue and rebuild herself into a “whole-hearted” person she had spent years researching. We merely see her give a Ted talk, then rush onto the best sellers lists with book after book of pure genius.
An overnight success … 12 years in the making.
And really …. That is what all dreams appear to the naked eye to be.
An overnight success.
To us, it is a victory that took years of mess, years of pain, years of “not enough-ness”, years of failure to finally get to the point of being enough … Doing enough … Attaining enough. To get to watch the dream finally unfold in all its hard-earned glory.
So if you find yourself caught somewhere in the middle … Somewhere between conceiving a dream and actually seeing your dream come to life … If you find yourself in the thick of the messiness, the hard, the undoing … If you find yourself wondering if it will all be worth it, or if you’ll just be made a fool time and time again … That my friends is the time to dig in, press on, and give it all the grit you’ve got.
The mess is not a sign that your dream is destined to fail. The mess is an indication that you are doing what it takes right now in this moment so your dream will one day come to fruition.
I never thought that my desire to have another biological child would lead me through years of loss, tears, and now, a difficult time of incapacitating sickness. I didn’t know that in order to be a writer and a speaker I’d have to learn all the technical sides of blogging and platform building, attend conferences, and work for training (not pay.) I didn’t realize that building my home-based business would require so much persistence and tenacity … And so much undoing of my lesser traits.
And yet … I know that the struggle will make my dream all the more worth attaining.
As it will be for you.
And let us all be a little gentler to all those around us. From the outside, they may appear to us as unworthy or unwilling. But the truth is, we have no idea how long or hard they are fighting for their dream worth attaining.
As Brene Brown loves to quote Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
What dream to you have that you can’t let go of, no matter the obstacles?
What have you learned in the middle, in the messy, that can help someone else behind you through the same obstacles?
What drives you to keep in, even when discouragement threatens to derail you?