Saturday, May 30, 2009

Like Seeks Like: Daydream Believers

Those of us of a certain age may remember a Monkees hit called, "Daydream Believer." Backstory trivia - it was written by John Stewart who became part of The Kingston Trio (talk about showing one's age) when Dave Guard left... I swear I won't go any further into the backstory. What the mind retains and what it leaves behind like a game of Drop the Hankie is one of the great mysteries, at least to someone who has never been a neuroscientist.

Having written repeatedly about the way music resonates in my life, this reference is really just to open the door. Daydreams. I think, nationally, Americans are afflicted by the Puritan Ethic. In my family, at least on one side, there is direct linkage to hardy settlers and fighters for the revolution, combined with, from both sides, a nearly paralyzing dedication to plain, hard work. As far as I can tell, the drifting, mooning about and imagining started with my parents who most certainly did not have it modeled for them. The poetry-writing, science fiction magazine producing farm boy meets the movie-dazed young beauty who had a portfolio filled with ideas for Rose Parade floats and a children's book about giraffes. I know my father's parents were neither impressed nor understanding about writing as a life goal. At least my mother's family approached their children's futures with more open minds; they just wanted them to be happy.

So we have what is likely a predisposition to the wandering mind - a head more connected to the clouds than to concrete. Added to this as a genetic trait is the fact that mine was not a harmonious home and retreat into fantasy was also a survival tool. It became a place where I spent so much time that I would sometimes be shocked that what I had experienced in my imagination, the scripts I'd written for everyone so they would say what I wanted to hear, matched nothing I encountered when pulled back from my reverie.

Over the span of many years I could see that this escape still provided a refuge but allowed me to set myself up with unmeetable expectations...there is no wayI have found to force anyone to repeat the dialogue you have just written for them in your mind. As a coping skill, I can't say whether the balance leaned more toward helping or hurting. Based solely on the fact that I'm still here, I'd say let's go with helping. But unlearning the habit of expectations - based on nothing other than wanting - is a slow business. Determining to be present and not swooning along in another time and place is a version of getting sober, Be Here Now. And discover eventually that much of what was unbearable no longer exists, that Now has joy and substantially less disappointment, that imagination and perhaps life-saving escape are different fish.

A pivotal moment for me was having a friend describe training she had completed with a spiritual master on the subject of our unhappiness and how it comes from wanting. She took me through a simple exercise using something from my eternal list of wishes and instructed me to let go of wanting it but rather feeling it as already existing in my life. It gave me the sense that by wanting we drive our dreams from us; in becoming willing to let go of those desperate needs or what we percieve as needs we can find peace. It also restored to me my daydreaming, not as some enchanted cave to which I could retire to hide from what was happening in the moment, but as a movie, a diversion or entertainment of which I could watch as much or as little as I chose, clear in the knowing it was just that - entertainment, but one from which I might extract ideas for future projects, revisit mellow times, imagine situations and then release them.

I feel challenged to find the exact words to explain the differences between the dreamy states. The closest I can come is that one is mind candy and the other is a place we enter in desperation and exit to find disappointment and pain. Could we ever know how many great ideas have come from daydreaming? Over time, will it be possible to sustain the purely enjoyable state and not accidentally slip back into futile wanting? Yes, I think it is not only possible, it is a natural progression. It is still a long way from what we've been led to believe about our no-nonsense ancestors, yet I can - by imagining - picture the farmers, the miners, the New England tradesmen staring unseeing toward the horizon or the wild Atlantic and conjuring for a moment the heat of a long-ago kiss, a vision of what waits beyond the mountains, adventure for its own, pure sake.

Kermit The Frog (he accents "The") has been a kindred spirit for a long, long time. As he sings "The Rainbow Connection," the here and now remain, stationary and fine, while we glide off toward the sound of a waltz, a siren song not meant to doom but rather to empower us, the lovers, the dreamers and me.


GlamVintageSouL said...


Erin in Morro Bay said...

Where would we be without our daydreams? I know they got me through 30 years of a horrendous marriage and now on the other side I've reached that stage of actually having some of them come true. Desparation blocks, but dreaming can open the door.
Thanks again for a wonderful, thought-provoking piece.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are a fan of moodling..
"“So you see, the imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering." Brenda Ueland

Lisa H said...

Thank you for validating my habit of slipping away into the landscape of comfort, adventure and exuberance.
Some days I can live it, other days, I have to depend on walking through the portal of imagination. Either way, I have my passport and now I know that I'll see you on the path.