We are created to dream big. The moment we dream, we open ourselves up to feeling, desiring, aching, grieving, suffering, and celebrating. To dream means to be fully alive in a beautiful and tragic world. It means that we are willing to reach outside of ourselves, fully aware that we may not grasp what we long for. Part of the therapy process involves unearthing dreams that have been lost to trauma, addiction, depression, and anxiety. However, when we face the story of our life and begin to heal, we can risk dreaming again.
Addiction devoured my ability to desire. My dreams of running track or playing tennis in college were discarded for a different kind of life. As I got sober, I watched other people do what my heart secretly yearned for, but I was too paralyzed by fear and hurt from dashed dreams in the past. I needed to grieve what I ached for and never achieved. I feared that I would dream again, and nothing would happen. I was afraid that I would align myself with my dreams, and I would fail. I was too detached from my heart to face my feelings; I was not willing to hand my heart over and risk hoping and dreaming again.
I have sat in the story that I can’t do it, that the training will be too much, and that I, once again, should resign myself to failure. I have told myself that I should keep this desire silent while it keeps pulling at me, yanking at the strings of my heart. But I couldn’t take the tension anymore. I took one step and hired a coach. Then I said my dream out loud to him, immediately wishing I could grab it out of the air and pull it back inside of me. But I couldn’t. And my coach didn’t laugh at me. In fact, he told me that he could see in my eyes that I could do it. In that moment, my dream became alive. A tangible goal. With a plan. My fear and shame question my ability to become an Ironman, but this time, with a full heart, fear is helping me step into my desire, armed with courage and willingness.
To risk desire and let our big dreams be known? It takes courage. It takes willingness to honor a dream that may not become what we envision. It takes grieving lost dreams that have numbed our hearts. It takes speaking our dreams out loud to someone who can celebrate and grieve with us.
In order to be considered an Ironman, you have to finish the race in 17 hours or less. If you finish any later than that, you are labeled “did not finish.” I have had to wrestle with the possibility that I will train hard for nine months and not technically complete the race. Can I have the courage to honor my dream even if I don’t finish the way I envisioned?
I have heard many people say that the journey to becoming an Ironman is the hard part; it’s where all the lessons are learned. The race itself is merely an execution of the training. Perhaps dreaming is the same way. The willingness to honor a dream is where the real blood, sweat, and tears are shed. Maybe that is all we need.
Lawrence is a counselor at Sage Hill Memphis where she helps adults, adolescents and children.