“Wouldn’t it be something if this time next year, we were sitting here with your boyfriend?” My sweet Southern mother said while sipping on Perrier in Central Park on Memorial Day. It’s our tradition — and my Mother’s Day gift — to fly her up for the long holiday for some always-needed girl time.
“It would be nice, but if not, we’ll find something better to do. I’m not waiting around for a man, especially when there is never a guarantee of one coming or even sticking around once he’s here,” I said, stuffing pastrami and cheddar cheese bites into my mouth. “I don’t need to have a boyfriend next year or the year after or whatever. I’m just fine, just single.”
Lucy tilted her head at me like she does when I’m singing loudly in the morning and my mom copied her expression as she replied, “Well yeah, of course you’ll be fine. And happy, I’m sure. But you’re dating because you want to meet someone, not just to kill time, am I right?” Annoyed at her ridiculous ability to be right about everything, I snapped back at her with a long monologue about how I finally found peace with being single and I didn’t want to talk about what might be or what could be or what will be or what I want or what I hope for.
“…if I think about and imagine a relationship, it’ll never live up to my expectations and most dates… well, all dates currently, are just disappointing. And I don’t want to be disappointed anymore, so I have decided to not think about it,” I finished, feeling like I conquered a non-existent argument. My mom took off her sunglasses and rested her hand on my knee and asked:
“When did you stop being such a dreamer, Linds? Did you forget how to dream?”
Though she left a week ago, I find myself asking that same question over and over again, trying to decode just when I stopped entertaining fantasies in my head — and why exactly I deemed them unhealthy. She knows me very well — probably better than anyone else — so it’s not a surprise that she can spend five days in my New York life and instantly decode the weak spots that I try to gloss over. We spent the holiday walking about town, getting caught in the rain, dancing at Irish pubs, singing karaoke and having deep conversations about soul searching and dealing with change as we caught trains throughout this big ‘ol town. And somehow, without trying at all, my mom can see through every facade and great illusion I try to weave, and see exactly what’s wrong.
And well, articulate it in ways I haven’t been able to until now. In the last almost two years, I’ve focused so much on living that I’ve stopped dreaming.
Oddly enough, that was kind of the point of this blog from the get-go: I wanted to learn how to love myself with or without a man, and ultimately, figure out how to live in today instead of worrying so much about tomorrow. But somewhere along this passage to single-and-lovin’-it, I lost track of the lady who loved to dream. She may not be too far away — if you look at my current bedroom walls, you’ll see a map circled with places I want to go, photographs bought at pop-up street fairs of couples happily in love, clip-outs of homes and apartments that are so expensive I lose track of the zeroes, and quotes that continually lift me up when I feel myself slipping away.
But when it comes to talking about the love I haven’t felt yet or the man I haven’t met or the post-Mr. Possibility relationship I’ve yet to have, I’ve been trying so hard to be so strong about it all, that I haven’t let myself believe — even for a second — that maybe, love is actually on the way. Actually someday soon, even.
Instead, I’ve been protecting my heart and well, my mind from failure. From getting my hopes up so high that they have no place to go but crashing down. From getting excited about a third date because in this city, it usually means nothing. From thinking — and beautifully, wishfully dreaming about the life I hope to have ten years from now.
Or even one year from now.
Today, as I cleaned out my bookshelf, I stumbled across a postcard from an old friend that read: “Take time to dream.” Unable to wrap my head around the coincidence, I sat down on the floor, in the middle of the pile of books and papers and just cried.
It wasn’t out of desperation or longing. It wasn’t even out of sadness. I cried for the younger, the less street smart, the less experienced me that used to doodle about things she wanted. The me that cut pictures out of magazines because one day I’d work for one and one day I’d have everything that I read about on those pages.
And maybe that’s why I’m a little scared to dream now. I do have most of what I ever wanted: an incredible job that’s challenging and entertaining. A safe, comfortable place to live in the city that’s always held my heart. A group of dynamic and funny friends that keep me sane, regardless if they’re a subway stop or a plane ride away. A sweet puppy who never lets me end my day upset or feeilng unloved. A healthy body that looks great in red.
So the thing left to dream about is… love.
Or about the ways my career will change and grow over the next few years. Or about the NYC addresses that I’ll write on envelopes but haven’t walked past yet. Or the people who will change my life that I haven’t met. Or the races I’ll run or the stamps I’ll have on my passport.
Or maybe — if I really dare myself to dream — perhaps, I’ll live with a tall, handsome, successful and kind husband in a great Upper West Side apartment, be a best-selling novelist who is able to travel and able to remind herself that it’s only with imagining that anything can ever happen.
I’ve always dreamed about many impossible things, and many of those so-called silly ideas have come true. So why should I forget how to dream now? How can I forget to dream when my dreams have always been the start of everything that’s ever meant anything to me?