Blessings For Dreams Lived and Unlived

By Paul Dunion | May 17, 2020

I watched you with eyes of the heart. You sat alone in the den in that old beige chair, with a dim lamp appearing to struggle to shed enough light for reading. You sat night after night, your glasses tipped forward onto your nose, eyes peering down into an encyclopedia’s version of history. Ancient times filled your heart, but there would be no books nor education to bring a genuine historian into being. No, tethering patterns from the past would hold you to something much smaller. Your dream to take your place amongst those who would give voice to the human story would go unlived.

You knew how to tell a story. Moments after you began to speak, the bodies of the listeners would resonate with your words. It never felt like one man telling some narrative, as eros filled the room with an enchantment escorting everyone somewhere they had never been before. Everyone’s eyes were enlarged with both gratitude and welcome for your story. You possessed the calling to be able to live in story and everyone knew it. What I never quite understood was why did the same anticipation exist in your audience even when they were about to hear a story they heard before. What allowed you to transcend the ennui of redundancy?

The image of you with your encyclopedia in hand, sitting under dim light was burnt into my soul. How could I save my father from the unlived life of his dreams? How could I save myself? I desperately convinced myself that I could live the dreams of two men. I look back now in the winter of my life and wonder, what was my dream? How could I know my dream from some borrowed sentiment? Maybe now, dreams that preferred to be hidden dare to show themselves.

I close my eyes now and allow for a blend of honesty laced with enchantment to shape an image of a boy taking his father’s hand as an encyclopedia falls gently in his lap. “Come with me. I will live our dreams for the both of us.”

That boy’s manhood would be challenged to hold some measure of having done enough; as well as feeling he was enough. The voice of limitless striving always close by, reminding him of his father’s unlived dreams. Never quite knowing when my own dream had taken a full breath as the unlived in my father beckoned me.

Two unwelcomed gifts have come helping me to move closer to what is being asked of me: a pandemic and a series of Meniere’s symptoms. The combination has brought helplessness, vulnerability and a pause, that has my body regularly shedding tension. Has this tension been the vibration separating me from the voice of my soul? Or has it been the tremor hurrying me to the next moment where I hope to live enough dream for two men? Could there be in every pause, a quiet but salient welcome?

In this pause there is an image cradled in active imagination. I’m standing at that chair, the one dimly lit with my father sitting there with his khaki trousers and a green and black flannel shirt. He holds my hand and says, “I want you to let go now, Paulie. These unlived dreams are mine, mine to embrace, feel and I’m the one who must listen to their voices. Unlived dreams are not simply a source of defeat. They can reveal unyielding fear and the narratives making it so, as well as a courage longing for something larger. You have loved me dearly and I ask you to love me now by allowing your limits to embrace your lived dreams. I, as well as our ancestors, rest easy as you cease pushing life but rather allowing life to hold you, the way it was always meant to be. Come to know this holding. You will never find it in busy, for busy has you stepping just beyond life’s enfold. Move slowly, holding the faith that in the pause an intimacy with life will be consummated. Such is the path of unity.”

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  1. Eric Wilson on June 10, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you for this gift Paul. Recently, I was gifted some photos and documents of grandparents. As my father ages (he’s 82 now) I have been reminiscing through his eyes and feel like I have been feeling his longing for him. Wondering what dreams he missed out on. This piece spoke to me.

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