Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crying Wolf

So my sister (Punkish Middle Sister-who is no longer punkish, but will always remain so for the purposes of my blog) has a problem. Actually, she has many, but they’re not my stories to tell. But one problem rules them all, and it’s one I share as well. The problem of accomplishment, finishing what we start.

My sister is a very creative person, who can dance, sing, sew, draw and paint. She’s fascinated by fashion and interior design and is drawn to all things crafty.

It’s so easy for her to become seduced by the lure of the New--nothing is more exciting than a blank canvas, a new bolt of fabric lying smooth and untouched, a white empty room. It’s a little bit like falling in love, and she shares her newfound devotion with anyone who will listen--family, friends, church members, the mailman, strangers. This is IT, she’ll claim. The project that will change everything, reverse her sagging fortunes, turn back the clock and restore her life.

It’s wonderful to be around her during this time; the air seems to vibrate pink with her excitement. She’s always possessed the ability to be utterly convincing--to sell any passion. Her eyes glow as she outlines her plans--the gown she’s on the brink of designing, her new dream of unschooling her children in the service of their creativity, the business that will salvage her mortgage and her ego. You can feel yourself getting infected by that sweet mania, nodding Yes, Yes! Fingers itching to make your own notations, start work on your own notions. Wondering whether this will be the time that it actually happens, and that she follows through.

But it never is. She hits her first obstacle, which usually manifests itself as boredom. All that she had previously found fascinating seems to ebb away, leaving her standing in the low tide murky backwash of hard work. Is it the hard work that makes it seem boring, or the boredom that makes it all seem so suddenly difficult? Yes, to both.

And so Mami sighs, "Ay, your sister....she’ll never change. She’ll never focus...she’ll never learn that talking isn’t doing." This is a grave sin in my family, obsessed as they are with the tangible symbols of Success. Thus, the beautiful castle in the air that she sketched out inevitably becomes another failed plan to add to the storehouse of failed plans that gets tallied up against her. She becomes the creative Little Girl who Cried Wolf. And after a while (because people always feel a little foolish and duped when they believe her) they stop listening, nodding absently. Humoring her.

I know she longs to prove them all wrong, but the secret is...she doesn’t believe herself either. Regardless of how enticing the idea looks at the beginning, she knows that nothing will never really change because nothing will ever really get done. The initial excitement will never fuel her through the staid (and longer) middle.

So she drags all of these unused parts of dreams, tangled and half formed, behind her like a shroud. Unable to lay them to rest. Unable to forgive herself.

My sister and I are a lot alike in this.

I too have a trailing garment of glorious plans and hopes that linger, abandoned. In fact, sometimes all I see when I look back is failure--failure to speak up, to risk, to finish what I start, to ask for help. Like my sister, I don’t trust myself anymore and I can’t forgive myself for squandering so much life away.

But unlike my sister, I don’t trumpet every new desire; on the contrary. Until I started this blog, I tried to stop talking about my dreams at all, hoping, I suppose, that I’d be able to stop people from remembering the lit pinwheel of potential I was, and comparing her to the me I am now. Hoping to sidestep the chasm of familial disappointment, even as my sister falls in again and again.

But this feels like a betrayal too. Am I depriving myself of much needed support, excitement, accountability? How can I believe that this time will be any different from the others when I can’t even affirm it to the people I love the most? Even TEG protects himself from me now, insulates himself from my inevitable failure. And he was always my staunchest supporter. I can see the moment that he clicks away from me, reminding himself to remember who he is dealing with. His wife, the Queen of Beginnings, but no Endings. I’m not sure if I know how to believe in myself when he no longer does. Our whole relationship is beginning to feel like yet another of my failures, to be stitched into my hairshirt.

Even writing that, even allowing that thought to exist, hurts more than I can say.

So my question to you is--do you tell your dreams to others? When? And how do you forgive yourself for all of those forsaken goals and trust that you can change, starting now?

My sister and I would really love to know.

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12 Comments:

Blogger M said...

This is a very poignant post...it resonates big time with me. I too have been dealing with finding a voice for my dreams. After so many years of being afraid to say anything out loud for fear of failing or even succeeding, now that I have a support system and people who will help me find a way to make them come true, I can't remember what it is I want. Make sense?
The only advice I have is be bold, just go for it. Every situation teaches us something, even if it's just that we only enjoy the initial stages of this process! Check out Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher...she says it's ok to be someone who starts things and never finishes them! Maybe I need to be bold as well!!

11:39 AM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger lisrobbe said...

I too have forsaken goals "hidden in my closet". Finding that voice for my dreams was stiffled by my sever sense of procrastination. It wasn't until I truly reflected on my happiness and whether I was really fullfilling my true desires and dreams that I realized I "had" to make some of those dreams come true. I still do not finish everything. But the accomplishement I feel when I have is so satisfiying. It creates a great sense of anticipation to move forward to the next thing. Yet, if I decide that I want to not follow through. I just enbrace what I accomplished to that point. No need to be too hard on "yourself!

11:47 AM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger Cate said...

I agree with M.

I sound like a lunatic with this but . . . Julia Cameron's Right to Write (and The Artist's Way, etc) changed my life because it made me accept certain things: one word on a page is better than no words, all I can do is create (the other stuff is not fully within my control--i.e. how it is received), be kind to oneself (to pay attention to my own details).

I wish I could say something to help you. You've written beautifully about your pain. You must start giving yourself credit for what you are doing: writing heart-rending essays despite massive sleep deprivation! You may not be writing a book right now (or revising the one you've written) but you ARE making growth!

Deb, who visits my blog, tells me often that the quiet, anxious, uncomfortable, unproductive times are just as important as the ones where success is tangible.

If TEG is unable to nurture you through this--and I'm hesitant to write this because I don't want to say anything that might sound critical of your man, but I want to look out for you--then please, please look for support in other places (books, online friends-hint, hint, family).

You have a gift. Define your dreams and take baby steps. Enjoy the journey!

Hope this comes out right. Thinking of you! xo

11:59 AM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

i wish i had some brilliant advice for you but you are writing my story. i too belong to the 'crying wolf club'. several years ago a quit my job so that a friend and i could open up a bed and breakfast. 3 months later i was broke, jobless, and we hadn't gotten the funding for the b&b. but you know what the worst part of it was, deep inside i knew it wasn't going to happen. i have a hard time believing that MY dreams can come true. maybe other people live out their dreams but not me. and failure after failure has made me stop voicing my dreams, and even at times stop dreaming altogehter. i can relate. i can! and i relate to the relationship issues too. i'm in a very rough place with that right now and not even wanting to admit it to anyone but my therapist or my journal. it's as if i'm afraid that if i say it outloud i'll cause something terrible to happen and will the relationship to end. and so i sit quietly, dying a little inside.

5:03 PM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

I wish I had an answer that would give you a clear path. I too love to try new things, getting all excited about a new interest or project. I hope I'm learning to hold my discoveries a little closer and share them only where I'm sure to be supported while exploring. Family can be the harshest critics, of our work and our selves. I try to shake their expectations off and know that I'm being true to myself, even if that means I sometimes don't finish or jump from one thing to another, or even if they think what I've done has no value. And really, I think it's okay to try lots of new things. It's all information gathering and soul feeding. BTW, you're an amazing writer. I'm awed by the way you express the deep, hard feelings and thoughts.

10:10 PM, May 24, 2006  
Anonymous beansprout said...

This is a wonderful post. You are describing the world of many of US. Thanks you for that. I have dreamed many BIG dreams only to find myself paralyzed by fear. Like la vie en rose, I too have "a hard time believing that MY dreams can come true." i guess deep down I don't really believe I deserve the amazing things that I dream about. So often, I don't even begin, I wish this wasn't so...because i do believe we can manifest magical lives. I often don't speak of my dreams or what I truly want...and when i do it is only to a chosen few (both understanding creatives!!) All I can really tell you is not to give up hope, continue to dream, and try your best to take whatever steps you can.

10:29 PM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

This is a powerful post. We all have our fears; the important thing is persistence. When I'm feeling blue or worried about goals, I refer to some inspiring quotes, such as "Be bold and mighty forces come to your aid." There are so many out there - just open Bartlett's! Just doing a little every day contributes to the big picture you want to create! Bonne courage!

2:13 PM, May 25, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

Such a great post!!! I so strongly believe that a habit of completion must be cultivated, that it IS the hardest work of all, to stay true to one dream long enough to make it real, to stay focused and true to your initial excitement, your initial vision. Patterns can be so hard to break, how many times we tell ourselves, this will be the real one, this time I'll do it, not really believing it ourselves. A realization sort of hit me finally, that I just had to do it finally, to commit, to complete. That I couldn't go on like I was. That other people finish things and I knew I could too. I also believe sometimes that real burning talent can be a detriment almost -- people like your sister (and my brother) who are good at everything they try when they are young, they don't always acquire the tools necessary for the grueling hard work of accomplishment. It's so unglamorous, so plodding. I DO tell my dreams to people, but not all of them, and not until I'm sure. I let them percolate first, and I tell them to a journal. I know I can't do them all, all my book ideas and whims and projects, so I let them hang out in my journal for a while and try to practical about which ones to spend my energy on. You CAN break out of the pattern -- and get back your sparkling pinwheel self (love that!)

5:12 PM, May 25, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

I always figure the only thing that I can control is the process and the results will be what they will be. So I focus on doing my best with what I've got at the moment, and not worry about whether or not the dream manifests in the way I envisioned it.

Since I stumbled upon this way of thinking I've felt that I was much less of a failure. Persistence is its own reward-- or something pithy like that.

5:12 PM, May 25, 2006  
Blogger andrea said...

GREAT post. I loved reading this and could feel my own excitment bubble at the dreams you and your sister share.
Personally I lean more towards the old cliche, "its not the destination but the journey".

I also think that when you find what is right, you won't be able to let it go. It will reasonate with your soul, and burn with a passion of a thousand suns. Until you find that...keep looking and trying.

Relationships...that's different. That requires work, compassion, forgivness, etc. It is not a dream but a decision.
a.

9:19 AM, May 26, 2006  
Blogger fern_leaf said...

Hmm. I recognize a lot of myself in you. I have so much energy and so many dreams just bursting to come out. Sometimes the only thing I can do is slow down and set smaller, more attainable goals that I can see some results in soon.
Like this summer, I want to learn how to cook realy wonderful things. I think tomorrow Ill try not to burn fried rice. LOL
I dont think this means giving up the larger goals, just setting stepping stones to boost your confidence and keep yourself on track.

8:20 PM, May 26, 2006  
Blogger AscenderRisesAbove said...

you have a wonderful relationship with your sister. I am envious.

10:23 PM, June 01, 2006  

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