So much for dreaming…

I have come to a  fantastic realization; I have finally stopped following my dreams.  I am now following my happiness instead.

I have not given up on my dreams.  If a leprechaun were to grant me a wish (aside from the obvious of simply making for me a good fitting pair of shoes), I would have a band full of strings and harmony, and we would be performing hopeful, lightly political music at Winnipeg this summer.  We would jam on workshop stages with other musicians and share The Craic long into the night.  There are no handy leprechauns,  so getting to Winnipeg (or Carnegie) is not a matter of dreaming but a matter of following a series of choices, and not ones I can make.

A couple of years ago, I went to a workshop at Winnipeg about the economics of the entertainment industry.  In  it, we were given the best possible advice that anyone could give.  We were asked why we wanted to be professional musicians, and then told that there is only one “good” answer.  “That you must.  You can love music, you can love to entertain, you can want to serve, but at the end of the day the only thing that will be worth all of the sacrifices you will need to make is if being a musician is simply what you must do.”

I have spent some time “on the road.”  While I will always love traveling I have come to the conclusion that the “romance of the road” is a myth we tell ourselves so we can enjoy the resulting show.  For the brief time I was on the road following my dreams.  I remember long drives going over in my head what I needed to remember for my part and long drives home categorizing what I needed to fix in my costume or re-living the audience interactions where I should have been brilliant but was not.  I remember waking up in a hotel room, and looking for a phone book to figure out where I was.

I also remember specific nights more than a decade ago on where the craic was good.  Those were amazing nights and I could certainly see how some people must have that lifestyle.  For days after such a night creativity flowed out of me faster than my brain could register.   Poetry, writing, or solutions to stubborn problems would seem to come from nowhere.  There is not a feeling like it, and the best way to get to that feeling is to be with imaginative people who you don’t otherwise spend much time with.  People who have enough in common to share stories, but who have not yet shared their stories with each other.  Travelers who come together for brief periods of time.

I have felt this at festivals, at youth hostels, at conferences, at pub song-circles and in the back of a greyhound bus.  This, as much as the audience interaction, is what I dream about.  This is what the leprechaun would give me, but amazing craic on its own cannot equate to happiness for me.

I wrote some pretty good songs while under the influence of other people’s creativity, but the themes are all of saying goodbye to those people and of meeting again sometime in the future.  They are songs of not being together now.  I was in my early 20’s, and writing music that was essentially re-living the glory days.

Lao Tzu is attributed to saying “If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future and if you are at peace you are living in the present.”  Following my dreams lead to a few glorious moments of being in the present, surrounded by a a lot of time being either anxious about how I was going to get to a present moment, or depressed about no longer being there.  I was not very often happy, and that is what I have given up by not following my dreams.

Shannon and I are building a family.  Some parts are harder and more complex than we had bargained on, but with her I am not focusing my energy on a few nights of matchless camaraderie, but focusing on building what we have, every single day.  Our short term energy is focused on a fair next week, and the creative outpouring that will entail, but it is a fair we share, and when it is over, we will share in that process as well.  After that, we will share trips to see more of our family, and then the next project we choose to be a part of, together.  Eventually (no, this is not an announcement) we will be sharing projects with our kids in an expanded family.

Not following my dreams is allowing me to be very, very happy.  I won’t need a phone book to tell me where I am; I will be home.

3 comments

  • I don’t believe I have often consciously followed my happiness. I have always tried to follow my dreams; and that has seemed, for the most part, to make me happy– although it has also led to some anxiety.

    As I get older, however, I find living in the present has its advantages. I think the new catch phrase is “Mindfulness.” When I look at the dreams that I still have, and look at the amount of time that it has taken me to realize those past dreams, I wonder if I have the time left to complete my new dreams and, if I do, if I will have the stamina or mental acuity to follow them through to the end. But if I don’t have long term dreams, I am not happy. I just have to adjust them to my current abilities. If they are dreams only of retirement travel, grandkids and other elderly things, I think I would become very depressed; even as I love retirement travel and grandkids.

    I don’t like looking backwards, except as it reflects in my storytelling or radio shows. But sometimes looking back can be rewarding, like when someone you trained (or your own kid) does something fantastic. Just this week the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids, Minnesota printed a case study of KAXE, a community radio station that Suzi and I started. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction. However the future is so exciting with technological challenges (some for the better, some for the worst) I need to incorporate that future into my dreams. I think it helps that I am working with fantastic young people and I can incorporate helping them realize their dreams for a better country, world, society, whatever, into my own dreams.

    I think happiness is a combination of living for dreams and living in the present. Both were very much a part of my life when you were growing up, and I enjoyed that time with you, and it still enjoy the present as I am involved with community and my marriage. But without some big dream in the future that I can work towards, I am not sure I can find happiness.

    • I’ve had a couple of thoughts in response, just no time to jot them down.

      First and foremost, you and Mom met in College, and have shared the work of realizing dreams together. Second, the dreams you have been working towards are things that have tended to build a strong and supportive community around you. They have involved travel, but they have involved working in places long enough to build relationships and temporarily lay down roots. We are social creatures, a good root structure promotes happiness.

      Finally, while Brian and I were growing up, you and Mom chose a more stable position than is normal for you. Perhaps without making an active choice about dreams, responsibility or happiness (perhaps with), you arranged your dreams in such a way that it promoted a community upbringing for Brian and I (a choice for which I am very grateful). I can’t say if it is because the dream of KCAW was significantly more compelling than your other dreams, but I would guess that it had a lot to do with electing to follow the needs of your family.

      • It certainly had some relations to needs of family but following getting KCAW established I was able to move dreams to the translator network and building that and then to APRN development, including raising money for National Native News. I was able to accommodate big dreams within KCAW. I suspect that if there had not been the financial crisis of 1986 I may have left Raven Radio sooner. Managing the cuts and rebuilding made the job more interesting than just maintaining the station would have.

        The Fall of the Berlin wall changed all that. I realized that I had to be part of the transition. Dreams changed. That’s one reason why we pulled you out of your Junior Year in High School to go to Albania (and before that to Vladivostok for shorter visits.) Although we tried to make sure that Albania would work for you. I think it did.

        Studies show that elderly people, they are much happier as elders than they were when younger because they have proven themselves, accomplished their dreams (or surrendered them) and can pursue their happiness. I don’t feel that yet although it could come.

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