When Dreams Die

When dreams die.jpg

I've been dreaming lately. Daydreaming, eyes becoming unfocused and the world softening around the edges. It's a pleasant way to spend some time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Often, I find myself thinking and dreaming about the characters in my favorite books. Today, though, I'm thinking about the nature of dreams themselves. We talk about daring to dream, and I think that is an accurate depiction of the risks involved in making an emotional investment in desiring a certain outcome. When we admit to wanting something, we also subject ourselves to the possibility of disappointment, which leads inevitably to pain. Because most of us avoid pain and even discomfort at all costs, assuming the necessary burden of vulnerability isn't the path of least resistance that most of us prefer to travel. The ability to dream is the engine of great achievement and advances. Dreams inspire and motivate us to work hard and make sacrifices on the altar of delayed gratification. Dreams are the manifestation of our hope. 

And all of that is well and good when our dreams come true and we get what we want, or perhaps even more than we imagined possible. It's even good right up until the time when we are forced to admit that it's just not gonna happen. That is the downside of dreaming, the part where we have to either acknowledge that a train we were desperate to board has left the station without us, or contort into Twister positions to convince ourselves (erroneously) that we might still make it. Because not all dreams come true, despite what we've been told by well-meaning parents, teachers and Walt Disney. There are no magic wands waving to any discernible effect in this plane of reality. And we can't always get what we want, more's the pity.

I'm talking about when we need to acknowledge the mortality of our deepest desires, which, coincidentally, coincides with the mortality of our bodies as they march toward death. For those of us leaving middle age in our dusty wake, there are dreams that we've been forced to abandon, whether we like it or not. Only the most cognitively challenged among us could persist in denying that the dream of everlasting love dies with divorce, or even early death. Some of us must give up dreams of parenthood or athletic achievement as the inevitability of biology robs us of opportunities open only to the young.

When I think about my beloved immortals and the "fact" that they need not attend to the physical indignities of growing older, it occurs to me that they are not immune to other effects of dying dreams. In Mate Claimed, by Jennifer Ashley, part of the Shifter Unbound series, Eric must acknowledge the death of his dreams of a single mating when he falls in love with Iona. Sookie Stackhouse of True Blood fame, while not immortal, mourns her status as a one-man woman when she takes a second lover.  And it is so sad when Mac Lane must acknowledge the demise of her dreams of getting married in her small southern town, raising her children alongside her beloved sister and growing old together because her sister was murdered.

Laurell K. Hamilton offers one of the best-written depictions of this phenomenon in the Anita Blake series. Over the course of almost 20 books, Anita grows and evolves and we see her hold onto and then begin to let go of a specific self image, which is the dream we all share, and which most of us must abandon sooner or later. For Anita, she must grieve the woman she thought she was and wanted to be, someone who would marry and live in a nice house and maybe raise a few kids. Yes, she might raise a few zombies while she was at it, but hey, she saw herself in as conventional a role as possible, given her status as a necromancer.

But Anita, like many of us, saw that dream die. It was hard for her as it is for all of us, and paranormal fantasy works best when it reflects our shared reality (and then adds a little something extra). I've had to let go of many dreams.  I've had to acknowledge the death of my dreams of a beautiful pregnancy and my visions of being a carefree young mother, happily attached to her baby, bonding and seeing the world through new eyes, etc., etc. That particular dream was incredibly well developed, as I'd had many years of infertility to hone its edges to a killing point. And when that dream dissipated like so much steam over a pot of boiling water, the sharpness of the blade just about killed me. That particular dream died very, very hard. And it left scars, much in the same way that the death of a loved one leaves marks on our soul to remind us of our love and our loss.

Perhaps my daydreams are a little weird. That's OK, I'm proud to fly my freak flag high, as I've told you before. Hopefully my rumination on the ruins of my dreams will help others bury their own dead and embrace the reality that lives. All my favorite paranormal characters do it, and so can we.