Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Dream Is A Wish (Your Heart Makes).


What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

   We know dreams are powerful. Literature and history and music and art are all brimming with themes dedicated to the raising of hope and the shuttering away of doubt. I first realized the hold that dreams can have through one of my favorite stories as a child, "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen. If you are not familiar with it, and you may not be, because you prefer bright sunshiney tales that feature unicorns and rainbows and pots of gold, it is sad. (Sad things and I go together like dubstep and hipsters in Park Slope.) Because I am lazy, I offer this, from Wikipedia:

On a cold New Year’s Eve, a poor girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is freezing badly, but she is afraid to go home because her father will beat her for not selling any matches. She takes shelter in a nook and lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow, she sees several lovely visions including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward, sees a shooting star, and remembers her deceased grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone died and is going into Heaven. As she lights her next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother nearby for as long as she can. The child dies and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the dead child in the nook. 

Nice, right? I know, I'm stretching here; it's not so much as a dream as vivid hallucinations brought on by hypothermia. The point is, The Little Match Girl held hope in her sooty little head, even if it was a false one, and it comforted her.
But when does a dream become a burden? The June 2012 issue of Psychology Today features a wonderfully biting article by Augusten Burroughs titled, "How To Ditch a Dream".  Burroughs says:

"...(T)here are many, many people who do not need to be told to cling to their dreams; they need to have those fantasies wrenched from their little fists before they waste their entire lives trying to achieve them. 

I am one such person."

I laughed heartily at his familiar self-depreciating humor (thankfully, the article was free of his other hallmark: shockingly lurid descriptions of past abuses suffered at the hands of...oh, everyone) then stopped short. HE'S RIGHT!  I panicked. You are now reading a blog post, so chances are, dear reader, you are familiar with the internet, and the phenomenon known as YouTube. Or Facebook. Or, actually, Blogger. The internet is FULL of people who think they have talent (ahem, all kinds of talent, or so I hear from anecdotal evidence). You know that this is not so. Their talents are greatly exaggerated. Except for that one guy who...never mind. You understand. So what if I AM ONE OF THEM? (This, incidentally, is partially the reason for my departure from the blog. Not that one guy - the fear that I am a no-talent hack showing off.) But I digress.

When do we give up on our dreams? The real ones. The ones that keep us warm at night like the poor Little Match Girl, and the hopes that raise us afloat during the day, promising better tomorrows and ever afters? And how do we keep living when all hope seems lost? It's not in me to give up. So I won't. But I will always wonder if I'm doing the right thing.

(PS sorry I called you "dear reader". The only thing I dislike more that that is "What say you?" I will try to refrain heretofore.)


  1. The little Match Girl is a fairy tale and as such all very well in its place, but to be taken with a large dose of children's realism. A child is an utterly realistic creature, not given to long-term sentimentality.

    As for giving up dreams? Never.

    Keep them handy, warm yourself on their gentle glow, light another one when the last dream fades into the shadows, take them with you into the dark recesses of doubt and doom and gloom; if you can, choose a dream that could become reality with a little effort (or a lot, if you are so inclined) but never ever mistake your life for a dream; that doesn't work.

    As for 'dear reader': I've just addressed my readers by that title. Too bad.

    I've missed you. I hope that this dipping in of a blogging toe means you have returned to entertain this 'dear reader'?

    1. Hello, dear Friko:

      If only we could stay as children in some ways. My sentimentality is going to be the death of me.

      Thank you for missing me. I have missed you as well, dear reader, and plan to return. Whether to entertain or bore remains to be seen...

  2. Hello Maggie:
    Well, a little dream came true when your blog post popped up for us this morning! We have missed you.

    Your voice in the Blogosphere is unique, engaging, vital and intelligent. Our own blogging experience is richer when you are here and we do so hope that this particular post heralds a return to this virtual world where all dreams can come true!!

    As for giving up dreams, well, we should be bereft. Our minds are permanently racing through the next crazy notions that we can be up to...most of which, of course, are rejected as soon as they are born. But, it is in the dreams that give the spark of a new adventure which then tempt one into the unknown for which we are grateful, even if afraid!

    Dearest Maggie, your writing is inspiring, witty and clever as, no doubt, so are you. Write on, we implore, write on!

    1. Jane and Lance and Lance and Jane:

      Oh, thank you! Thank you! So implored, how can I refuse?

  3. I was glad to see your post pop up this morning, as I'd enjoyed reading what you wrote.
    Dreams come and go, grow big and shrivel up. All I know is that they are necessary, otherwise life would just be one slogging day after another, slowly and surely to the grave.
    I hope you'll hang around and post some more.
    I write 'Dear Reader' often - always tongue in cheek.

    1. Thank you so much for missing me! You are right...I don't think it's possible to stop dreaming at all. It's just sometimes those dreams, when unfulfilled, can break our hearts. No need to defend the 'dear reader'! :)

  4. I wondered where you went...Glad you're back!
    Here's a little more L. Hughes (from "Dream Boogie")--

    "Ain't you heard
    The boogie woogie rumble
    Of a dream deferred?"

    Yes, dreams DO comfort us, as you point out via the Match Girl. They offer us the promise of a future. I think when we hear our deferred dreams rumble, we should pay attention--before it's too late. Time to boogie!!

  5. Dear Blogger,

    Your dreams have been deferred too long.

    Time not to give them up, but to give them all.

    Yours ever,

    post script
    I vote for explode.

    1. Dear Reader,

      The magic 8-ball you gave is getting worn out. I must make my own destiny.

      Yours ever,

      PS Explode I shall, one way or another.

    2. And make our own destiny, we will.

  6. Great post.

    This is a really tough issue. The standard approach seems to be to split us into two groups: the talented and the talentless, and to urge the former to pursue it to the ends, but I doubt it's that's simple. Sometimes it probably is the right decision for even talented people to give up. Or redirect. Maybe when the dream can be replaced with another passion/etc? I don't really know.

    "It's not in me to give up. So I won't. But I will always wonder if I'm doing the right thing."

    This describes me as well. I've set deadlines for myself in the past. But they passed, and I kept going, so... That's something.

    1. Thanks for stopping in!

      I guess it isn't so simple. Sometimes the less talented have more heart, and therefore are more likely to succeed at achieving their dreams. But then again, who can really judge talent? (see: Ke$ha)

      I am not good at replacing dreams. They stick stick stick like gum to your shoe in a hot parking lot. My problem is I am never able to set them aside and take them out now and again; the discarded/unattended to ones always seem to pop out when least wanted.

      So on we go...

  7. That fairytale use to make me cry. I don't think that some of us blog because we think we have any type of talent but ,maybe because we want to connect with others and, by doing that, learn a lot. I agree with Friko, never give up on your dreams.

    1. I guess I never thought of it that way. It is a wonderful way to connect, and I am so grateful to have met so many wonderful people through the blog, and to have the chance to soak up so many new ideas and points of view.

      I will keep dreaming, then!

  8. Welcome back, dear Maggie! I was pleased indeed to learn from Suze that you are up and running again. As for the little match girl, I can't resist passing on to you a link to David Lang's "the little match girl passion." You can find it here (if I've done this correctly, that is). And as for dreams and the worry of not being good enough in general, here's my credo (borrowed from
    Wisława Szymborska's Microcosmos):

    I’ve wanted to write about them for a long while,
    but it’s a tricky subject,
    always put off for later
    and perhaps worthy of a better poet,
    even more stunned by the world than I.
    But time is short. I write.

    (She's wonderful. If you don't know her poetry, a place to start is here.)

    1. Thank you!

      Oh, and that is so so wonderful. I am off to check out your links right away. What an inspiration!

  9. I can't imagine an existence without dreams. I always want to work towards something bigger and brighter than what I already have, however long it takes or impossible it seems. Whether it's practical or impractical, dreams are an impetus to many actions. I sometimes ask people why they're doing something, which on the surface may seem like an ordinary occurrence, and people have told me that it was one of their hopes and dreams.

    This is the first time I've come across this fairy tale.

    1. Medeia,

      All of his tales are so bleak! I love your exuberance. Sometimes the happiest people are the ones who have followed their dreams and have achieved them, even if they seem insignificant to the outsider.

  10. Following Suze's recommendation on "Analog Breakfast", I popped over to check out your blog. Now that I've read a couple of your posts, I fear I have no choice but to sign on as your newest groupie. (Good stuff!)

    As to the questions you pose in your post, I've harbored the same doubts. After all, every single person who tries out for "American Idol" is convinced of his superlative talent. Yet, in reality, some of them not only can't carry a tune as well as my cats, they screech. Horribly. So, how do I (we) know that our writing self-assessments aren't as horribly out of sync with reality, right? How do we know that our aspirations aren't as delusion-filled as some of those poor misguided "singers"?

    Maybe we don't. But ya know what? I decided that no matter what, I enjoy writing. And that is, in itself, enough for me. And, pssst! Judging by what I've read here, you don't have anything to worry about.

    1. Susan: Thank you so much for your visit! I will pay you one in kind, soon.

      I think it is healthier to have doubt than to have complete confidence. Maybe that is because I am a doubter...It's good to have some measure of self-worth, but running around like you're the bee's knees seems like a bad idea. Even if you ARE talented, people may start to hate you. Nobody wants that! (I mean "you" in general, not "you" specifically!!)

      Yes. I enjoy writing as well. I don't know if it's enough for me, yet, but I will keep trying to find out. And thank you for your kind comments!!!

  11. Yay, you're back. My feeling is who cares if no one likes what you do. If you only do things because you want others approval then you are not living your life. Wo cares if you think it's no good, you like it, so do it. All the cliches such as "this is not a rehearsal", "you're a long time dead" blah blah, spring to mind. If you like it Maggie, do it, you only have yourself to please. I'm here, you have at least one fan who thinks you write eloquently and with feeling. It's good to read your words!

    1. Hello Di! Thank you for missing me. I feel a renewed sense of purpose!! :)

  12. This is a good refection. It made me laugh a few times.

    1. Hello Peaches:

      I try to mix the serious and the insane and hope it all comes together ok in the end...

  13. I have also missed you Maggie. Your blog is one of those few that makes me think and I personally find your writing exceptional. My dreams for the most part have consisted of day dreams and as such were mostly useless except as help to make it through the day. I keep tossing the word "dream" about in my mind while wondering if dreams are good or not. As my husband used to say, "Linda, you could fuck up a wet dream." (It was funny in person.) That's because I have a need to take everything apart in an attempt to understand what's going on. Perhaps you have a bit of this? Regardless, it is so much our nature to keep striving to be better and better, and if that's dreaming then we should all hang on to it. Just me.

    1. My dear Linda:

      Thank you for having low standards when it comes to writing! ;)

      I LOVE WHAT YOUR HUSBAND SAID. I think it is terrible but so funny. He seems like a lot of fun!

      I think if we don't strive for better, and just become complacent, that is no life at all. Also, if we only keep doing the things we know we are good at, how do we challenge ourselves and grow?

  14. There is always an endless cascade of ..wrong things...better to believe you are doing the right thing more often. I think I can hear the little outboard motor that is your brain...I appreciate its mental prowess. ~Mary

    1. Hi Mary! Thanks for waiting for me.

      Sometimes right and wrong isn't so black and it is better to believe that the correct path is being followed. Why be negative?

      My humming outboard motor of a mind thanks you.

  15. Of all of the stories I read to my children when they were little, I could never finish the Hans Christian Andersen one of The Little Match Girl. I would always start sobbing so badly as I got near the end that I never finished it, no matter how hard I tried. My kids finished it for me... it had a profound effect on me when I first read it asa a child and continues to to this day.