I wrote about one of my dreams recently, having an observatory in my backyard, and the decision + my reaction to the decision that I had to let the dream go. But I found myself bargaining my way back into trying to consider another option, even thinking I might just impose an option that was perfect for me if not awesome for Andrea and Jacob because it was important to me and I had hoped relatively minimal disruption on them. Until I did the formal measurements tonight and realized, sure, it works for me, but it is not “minimal” for them. The only option that works for them isn’t worth it for me. So I need to kill the idea completely, I just can’t make it work.
Going off on a tangent for a moment, I talk to a social worker every couple of weeks for some much-needed talk therapy/counselling, and this past week was almost entirely about my reaction to the first “realization” that it likely wouldn’t work just two weeks ago. That realization/decision really threw me into a tailspin, as I blogged about earlier. Much of this week’s conversation was about not really have anyone to talk to about it or the emotions that go with it, and most of my diversionary options to distract myself are not available right now, so the social isolation is hitting me doubly hard. The irony is not lost on me that the introvert who frequently likes being alone was feeling lonely.
But one of the key principles I believe in most strongly is to expect people to be the people they are, not the people you wish them to be. A fundamental belief in self-determination, self-control, self-management, simply the concept of the “self” that is yours to define. It was hard with my mom, for example, seeing some stuff she did that I found less than ideal, as well as having to remind myself that she was being who she was, not the person I wished her to be. Sometimes I forget that with family and friends, but I try really hard not to impose my desires on them as expectations.
This is not a pity party, by the way, it’s just recognizing the limitations of the life I’ve chosen to lead. Certain things that I wish I had in my life are not there, and when I find them missing, it’s only natural to think it is someone’s fault, that person x, family member y, or friend z didn’t provide it. Except that wasn’t who they were, so it’s hardly fair of me to expect them to behave that way. And that’s mostly what I talked about with the therapist. She’s paid to listen to me on these types of issues, one of the reasons I see her in the first place. A professional muse to help me work through sticky emotional/logical intersections. And to give me some much needed perspective if I’m chasing my inner nuts like a mad squirrel.
Which brings me back to letting go of a dream
I know what I’m doing “instead of” that dream, I know how to adapt or divert my energies, I know how to confront the dream to see which parts of it are dreams, which parts are actual goals, which parts are merely scripts. But in the end, as I said, I’ve still been holding on to part of it, bargaining with myself that maybe one of those alternatives could be made larger and fulfill the original goal. Except it can’t. The measurements I took tonight confirm it. I simply cannot put a slab or pier or shed in the backyard in a way that will work for anyone but me. Maybe when Jacob is at university or something, but by then I’ll be retired and it won’t really be relevant. By then, I’ll be able to go out any night that is clear to a darker sky site to set up. Time won’t be the limitation it is now.
Two weeks ago, I did a bunch of research to see what I could find available about letting go of a dream, but I didn’t really try to curate any of it into any sort of practical “strategy” for myself. I just let it wash over me, saved the links, and set it aside. Going back now, I can see ten general trends in options:
- Focus on the belief that a goal or dream doesn’t define you, you’ll be fine either way;
- Meditate on the negative feelings that go with the loss of the dream;
- Let go too of the “sunk-cost” mentality that you’ve worked hard for it already, or done the planning, etc.;
- Recognize that letting go of something is neither failure or cowardice;
- Recognize why you are letting go — unrealistic, unachievable by you, inappropriate for the current you, timing, it’s blocking you from enjoying what you have, etc;
- Let go by actually letting go and not revisiting your old stomping grounds…move on by actually moving on;
- Take a break from it to give yourself some physical and emotional distance;
- Identify what that dream gave you in the present so you can celebrate the victory of what it gave you on the journey up until now, even though you are letting go of the final result;
- Be the friend to yourself that you think you need…what do you say to yourself about the change?;
- Consider whether there are other equally-rewarding dreams that you ignored because you were focused on the one that you now need to jettison;
Not surprisingly, there are no magic bullets in there. I suspect I most gravitate towards #4 as a stumbling block, as there is some sense of failure in the loss. Some personal choice that I’m not willing to pay a certain price to achieve it, even if I’m okay with that choice. Plus I did let myself get excited about it, personally invested, so #3 also resonates — a sunk-cost mentality of not wanting to give up and reduce the previous work to meaningless. #1, 2, 5, and 10 don’t resonate at all. #6-9 are interesting, but not compelling.
I guess if I had to narrow it down to an actual strategy I would say it will be:
- Analyse (#2 the negativity, #3 sunk cost, #5 why)
- Adjust my thinking (#4 failure, #8 partial success)
- Adapt to reality (#10 alternative goals)
- Adjust priorities (separate)
I don’t know if it will help me self-manage better, but it’s worth a try. I’ve got most of the first one done and I am working on the second. The third is partially done, but I don’t feel like the fourth has been touched at all. The depression side of letting go is dampening down my enthusiasm for much else right now, so it’s hard to get excited about other projects. I’ll get there, just not yet.