Dreams are such funny things. We all have them. We are, often, encouraged to pursue them. Sometimes, they control us; other times, they die. It cannot, though, be denied that everyone has dreams. And they are different, so very different. I am always moved by the power they have over us; and by the power they have over me.
Not my own dreams. Not those relics, long forgotten.
You see, I gave up dreaming some time ago. It never seemed to work out for me. When I was a boy of five or six I told my grandmother that I wanted to be a movie star. When I was 10, I decided to be a musician. At 12, I decided to be a fashion designer. By 16, I wanted to be a great dancer. And in college, I wrote my first play (though I had been writing stories since the second grade). Somewhere along the way, I picked up a camera, and by my late 20’s I was dreaming of being the next Herb Ritts. And then I dreamed up a theme book that would be published and make me the next Greg Gorman. That’s a lot of dreams for one person to conjure in under three decades.
None of my dreams really came true the way I wanted them to. I didn’t do anything that I had dreamed of because I didn’t have the focus.. maybe I didn’t have the determination.. maybe I didn’t have the stamina. I don’t know. I only know that I had these dreams and they didn’t pan out, which hurt me, to the core. I don’t like being hurt and the humans around me did it quite often enough, so why do it to myself? So I stopped dreaming. Awhile ago.
I am an optimist. It’s irritating at times but I am. I’m a hopeful romantic and a grounded dreamer. And as I have grown, as I have traveled the spiritual path I have been on, I came to the realization that the dreams I had were the shiny, sparkly dreams on the surface; it was what lay beneath the surface that was the real dream…
As a boy, I was the kid they picked on. A little fey, a little prissy, a lot ethnic and a lot obnoxious, I was beat up, ostracized, teased and ignored. The worst of these was being ignored. I spent my childhood wishing for friends. I knew, more specifically, that what I dreamed of was A friend. I underline it. A. A friend. In my mid teens I began learning how to make friends; but it would be years before I shook off the baggage and became the change I wanted to see in my own life. Now, in my 40’s, I am years into the realization that the dreams of fame, fortune, of glory and glamour were a sparkly, shiny, distraction. I focused on dreams of adulation but they were a smokescreen. My dream was to be loved. But I was loved. I’ve been loved for a long time. Once I realized that I had achieved my dream, the failures didn’t matter. I felt, for years, that I had failed as a performer because I gave up long before I had even given the career a chance to bloom. I felt, for years, that I had failed as a photographer because a) I never made enough money as an artist to pay my bills and b) that theme book I dreamed up hadn’t made me into the next Herb Ritts or Greg Gorman. I felt, for years, that I had failed because I wasn’t the c0llege graduate my daddy wanted; or the heterosexual son my daddy wanted. I felt, for years, that I had failed because I had done nothing with my life.
Living under the heavy rock that is the perception of failure is an arduous and painful (and exhausting) life. My spiritual growth brought me to a place where I could feel the light on my face and I could see the truth. I had lived out my dream. My dream had come true. There are those who dream of an Olympic Gold Medal. There are those who dream of a Pulitzer Prize. There are those who dream of an Academy Award. But there are also those who dream of having a garden. There are also those who dream of having a child. There are also those who dream of having a life. Our dreams are as unique as our selves. No dream is too small, for it is the size of the heart that carries the dream that truly matters.
I remember, just last year, in my Ipod I was listening to the motion picture soundtrack to the musical My Fair Lady. The recording has some dialogue in it and part of that dialogue is the exchange when Eliza comes to Higgins and Pickering asks what is it that she wants? “I want to be a lady in a flower shop instead of selling at the corner of Tottenham Court Road; but they won’t take me unless I can talk more genteel.” It’s an exchange I’ve heard all my life; yet, in that moment, last summer, when I heard it, I started to cry. It’s such a simple little dream. To be a lady in a flower shop. How many people are there who have little dreams that don’t demand an audience of Americans to make call-in votes?
Only today, while doing my cooking, I was watching one of my favourite movies, a happy little tv movie based on a novel called Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris. I’ve read the book and seen the film at least 20 times. Mrs Harris is just a cleaning lady in the 50s who saved for three years to go to Paris and buy a Dior dress. Why do I cry every time I see it? Is it because Angela Lansbury knows how to flick the on switch in my heart? Or is it because I appreciate the beauty of simple dreams?
A dress. A friend. To be a lady. To be loved. None of these are dreams of grandiosity. They are simple and they are lovely, like many other little, or not so little, dreams that people have every day. Speaking for myself, to be loved is the biggest dream of all. And that is why I gave up dreaming. Because I have my dream. I have my dream come true. There is nothing left for which I feel justified in dreaming. Peace on earth, I guess.
I can’t pay my bills on time, every month. I need to do some repairs in my bathroom. I could stand to lose about fifteen pounds and I could certainly use about 167 more hours of sleep each year. But I did happen to get my book published and I did happen to get to work with some very famous people. I found a job outside of the arts where I am happy and where I belong. I also happened to build a glorious family of friends who collaborate with me in my (ongoing) artwork as a photographer and as a human. With some of that family I made a movie that crusades for a right for which I am willing to fight and which is getting an admirable response from viewers. These are all uplifting facts about my life and they are all dreams that have come true for me, the biggest one being that moment when the fingers of my right hand lace the fingers of my husband’s left hand. I was a lonely little boy, dreaming of a friend. My dream came true. It’s enough.
I started dreaming again. I dreamed that my husband would go back to work as an actor. About three years ago, he came out of a seventeen year retirement and an exile in the advertising industry, and went back to work as an actor. It was what I had been wishing for, what I had been dreaming of. Each day he goes to an audition or to a rehearsal; or he needs time to study lines. And I smile. Tonight, as he rushed off to his weekly date with The Shakespeare Forum, I sighed and smiled because, even at 48, even after the failures, even after the dreams unfulfilled, even after years of not dreaming, my dreams are still coming true. They are small dreams that don’t include statues or dollar signs or accolades. They won’t change the world or, probably, anyone’s life. Still, they are there and they are mine. They are my dreams, sweet, simple and real.