Dreams are good; wishes are not.

During my angsty week, I spent a lot of time writing in my journal, a practice I’ve continued for the week that’s followed.  I’ve written to my monsters, made lists of stuff to do, and let the frustrated thoughts out on to the page.

Martha Beck says that this guy claims back pain, at it’s source, is emotional.  I have a lot of back pain, deep tension in my upper back and neck that feels like fire and leaves me struggling to sleep.  I thought I’d try her suggestion: to write down who you might be mad/ annoyed/ angry with and see if you can find an action to relieve it.

I wrote things in my journal like, “I AM REALLY ANNOYED BY THE WAY ____ ASKS QUESTIONS” and “GIVE ME A BREAK, PEOPLE, AND DO YOUR JOBS!”  I felt like I should hide the journal away lest my coworkers somehow find it — yes, in my home office in Knoxville, TN.

Writing down my feelings made it much harder to ignore them; before I knew it, I was calling people on their ridiculousness – diplomatically, but clearly.  Friday was a day where I asserted my authority.  A lot.  And you know? I ended the day without a blinding tension headache and burning shoulders.  Keeping my frustration in has a definite physical cost.

Back to my point: a la Gretchen Rubin, I also kept track of the things I know keep me from being happy.

  • Blindly surfing the internet. [soul-sucking/ brain-emptying/ boredom-exacerbating]
  • Window-shopping of any sort. [leads to coveting and obsession over things I now want.]
  • Shopping in general. [too much decision-making]
  • Wishing.

Say what?   Yes, wishing keeps me from being happy.

Dreaming is fine.  We dream of lake houses and island bed-and-breakfasts, children and beach vacations, finished bonus houses and time to rip out our kitchen ceiling.  Dreaming is good.  Dreaming connects my husband and I, reminds me that we’re a team and gives him a chance to flex his dreaming muscles.

He’s a great dreamer.  “Let’s talk about what we’d like to do with this house,” I say, frustrated that all our time, money and attention goes to the house we don’t live in.  “We could have a renovated kitchen with slate floors and a gas stove.”

He says, “We could put in an elevator.”

Me: <blank stare>

Him: “An elevator.  So we’d have an elevator in our house. Cool, right?”  He’s a big dreamer.

So dreaming is good.

Wishing, though, is really bad for me.  Dreaming sounds like this: “Someday we’ll have a lake house where our kids can run like wild creatures and be forced to spend time with their parents, telling scary stories and learning to build a fire.” Wishing sounds like this: “I wish I had the money to finish up the bedroom already.”

The problem with wishing is that I often maintain misconceptions.  Technically, we have the money to finish up the bedroom already, but per our savings plan, we’re funneling it to finishing the new house.  And getting my eyes zapped.  And a bunch of other things that are more important to us than new sheets.  Wishing, though, turns me into a whiny kid stomping her foot and telling her mom she “just wants it!”

I am not a kid.  I own my choices.

So no more wishing.  When I find myself starting a thought with, “I wish…” I make myself look at reality.

“I wish he’d come give me a hug” turns into “Hon, can I have a hug?”

“I wish we had the money to _____” turns into “we’re putting our money _____ because _____ is important to us.”

“I wish I could see my family” turns into “how can I get to the southwest sometime soon?”

Dreaming is good; wishing is bad.

What keeps you from being happy?  I like to steal other people’s ideas (ahem, share your best practices).

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6 thoughts on “Dreams are good; wishes are not.

  1. I had commented the other day but I guess it got lost; I forget exactly what I had to say at the time, but I do really like this post. I never thought about wishing versus dreaming in that way before, and I think you’re right. I am ALWAYS saying things like, “I wish I didn’t have to go to work, I wish i had more time, I wish our apartment wasn’t so cluttered, I wish my husband wouldn’t do X, I wish this had never happened.” What a waste of time, what a negative way to approach life! I’m going to pay more attention to this now. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Yes, sorry, Kathy. I had to rollback a database upgrade (that was really a downgrade) to fix my blog, and it looks like I lost comments and posts in the two days between. My plan was to take the comments out of my email (they all get emailed to me) and paste them back in, but I haven’t gotten to it.

    I hadn’t thought about wishing versus dreaming either, but I knew something made me feel bad when I thought about wanting, and other things didn’t. If I can want and feel good, then I’d like to avoid wanting and feeling bad. So, the post was born.

    I’m glad it resonated for you!

  3. I was hoping your comments would be fixed soon, so I could comment on this post. I love reading your blog because your posts are always so full of substance and they make you think.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your statement “wishing keeps me from being happy.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this myself lately and it always seems to come back to “wishing.”

    Facebook keeps me from being happy.. more so when I was a recent college grad, than now. I’d see other people buying houses and I’d think to myself “I wish I could buy a house.. what’s wrong with me that I’m not in a position to buy a house and they are?”

    Blogs have a similar effect.. I spend too much time online reading about other people’s lives and not enough time living my own. I spend too much time looking at inspiration going, “oh, I wish I could afford that.”

    Overall, great post. Re-framing my thinking in a more positive light is definitely something I am going to work on.

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