Friday, November 9, 2012

Dreams That Never Come True

Not long ago, I was sitting in a church service with my youngest son, like I do on almost every Sunday morning. The light streamed in enormous windows, through which the mountains could be seen. Pines trembled, a piano banged, and the children's choir was performing. These performers are the littles—four year-olds, five year-olds, on up to seven or eight. The older kinds sing out; the younger pull up their skirts and stare. Occasionally, they mouth a word or two. These older, competent singers carry the tune and the younger enthrall us with the spectacle of their innocence and suppleness like dough. The fact is they are watching us, while sweetly pulling on their undergarments. It is we who are on stage.

On this occasion, the children were singing a hopeful song about dreams or wishes and imagination. It has been too long now. The tune and words have got lost in the landfill of extraneous facts that is my head. There were hand motions. Something about having enough imagination and having all one's wishes or dreams come true. It was adorable. I smiled.

Mikalh, my seven year-old, though, turned to me in great consternation and said out loud in tones of irritation,

"I have a huge imagination and my dreams and wishes never come true!"

I shooshed him, smoothed his hair and whispered something in his ear which included the words "audience manners." I am a crotchety old school marm at heart.

He was right, though. And smarter, by far, than I. At twenty-three years of age, I still sat stubbornly circling items in copious catalogs, my intention bent on having these things someday. I remember the agony of my desire for a boot brush shaped like a dragon, the statue of a tree spirit, for a plethora of silken scarves for my toddler to chew upon. I pressed my mind against the problem and let fly my pen and wanted. This was before The Secret was even written, folks. I am a forward-thinking fool.

I am not old yet, but I have seen nothing yet that confirms the notion that if I imagine hard enough, what I wish for or think of will suddenly come to life. This is good news with regard to the closet zombies, certainly, but bad news with regard to the bags of gold.

Here is what I wanted to tell my son, as the song continued and we sat there quite and still, a grumpy look on his face, as we bent our heads during the pastoral prayer and as I watched him run off to children's chapel when the story had been told. Here is what I forget to tell him.

You will not have what you dream of. You will have what you talk about.

If you talk about poverty, I should have told him, you will have it. Your days will be filled with want. You will starve with your nose pressed upon the glass of all you cannot eat or hold or wear. You will starve at a table of plenty if you talk about what you wish you had.

If you talk about anger, I might have said, you will feel angry. Well. There is a way to talk about that is spell-craft designed to cast it off, to murder it with light, to calm it, and then there is speech that stokes its fire, that makes it larger until it can consume the happiness you used to have. Be careful which you do.

If you talk about monsters, you will see monsters. The world will be full of them, hiding in Congress, lurking behind shower curtains, tailgating you on the road. The more you speak about them, the larger and more monstrous they will be. You will soon be outnumbered if you don't watch your words.

I might have told him, if I could have remembered, that his words would make his world, are doing so already, peopling his room with supernaturals and spells of protection. His words are daily casting wide nets of happiness or ire. Just like his mother, he can curdle the family mood with defiance or sweeten it with joy. Just like his mother, he is speaking the world into existence with each word that forms upon his lips, and, just like me, he doesn't know.

 Don't worry about your dreams, my child, I should have said, worry about your tongue.


  1. May I say that I love the way your mind works?!? I just want to print this and post it on the wall at work, mail it to friends, and hand it out to strangers in Walmart.

    There is a Scripture that says "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" and I believe that. But the reverse is also true,what you speak hides in your heart, affecting your outlook, creating your world.

    Thank you for giving me so much to think about today.

  2. So profound and so very true. Like Tamara, I have much to think about.

  3. Yes, yes, YES! I thought of the same scripture.
    The words we use matter so very, very much.
    In some ways, it's such a simple solution to what looms large in our lives, but in other ways, so very difficult.
    Thank you for your words, Tara.

  4. I think I very much needed this. Very much. Perfect timing. Thank you. :)

  5. I have goosebumps. I was just thinking today about the hatred I see being spewed on Facebook, Twitter, the "news" websites and channels, regarding the election. I was just thinking that disagreements and arguments are good. Hatred and belittling attitudes, phrases, words, actions - those are not good. Not helpful.

    This is one of those "simple but not easy" truths about life. Now I will think about wise use of my words instead of trying to knock down those of another. Whew.

  6. I really like this a lot, Tara. I find myself wondering about one thing, though. I think, as with anger, there must be a transformative way to address poverty (or other things of its ilk), where you can take a stand on it without being swallowed up by it (though I know that many who do, are). What do you think?

    1. I'm glad you said that! I think you're right. It's not that I think we should never point to anything that's wrong. Really, to alter the world requires doing that. And there are people doing just what you say—absolutely.

      There's poverty as I was trying to paint it—poverty of the spirit, where we feel poor because we are also wanting more—and then there's going without food. I was really thinking of the former.

  7. Ha! So true! I should start talking about coffee right now :)


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