I’ve always been a dreamer, a star gazer, an optimist, an idea machine. My ideas have little idea babies, and all they want to live. It can’t be easy for my husband, Bernie, a pragmatic realist, to have Doc Brown from Back to the Future for a wife. He heroically endures my dreaming and all the cryptic, scribbled notes left around the house that come with it. I won’t let him throw them away, and, yet, I don’t know exactly what I meant when I wrote, “website for dentists/candles” either. I’m sure it will come back to me.
Some of my past dreams even made it to trial phase. My favorite was a recipe for organic dog popsicles called Muttsicles. They were fantastic. I poured them in real Popsicle molds for freezing but instead of the traditional wooden stick – a rawhide. Boom. Dogs went nuts for them. Poor Bernie would come home and smell what he thought was a delicious pot roast only to find another batch of beef Muttsicles on the stove. My downfall was retail freezer capability and/or having no business plan. We didn’t even have a dog.
So, it was fitting in 2011 when I started watching this web-series called Failure Club. Produced by Morgan Spurlock, the documentarist who made Supersize Me a few years prior. The show followed eight New Yorkers who each committed to making a secret dream come true over one year’s time. Its intent was to take the stigma out of failure – which is, really, a ridiculous thing that sort of dictates our entire lives. I needed that. Besides a freezer full of Muttsicles, I didn’t have much to show.. Having dreams feels lovely, doesn’t it? Attempting them, though, taking them beyond sticky notes, that is terrifying stuff.
At the time I was also reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh (“Because you are alive all things are possible.”), and Pema Chodron (“To be alive is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”), and Brene Brown (“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”). Even though no one on the show was talking about it, to me, it was so poignantly clear that the participants weren’t simply taking chances: they were absolutely redefining their relationships with fear, uncertainty, and the Universe itself. In that group accountability setting, Failure Clubmembers were practicing the brave work of being vulnerable, big, and playful with life. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear!” Jack Kornfield and I yelled at the screen.
But, in 2012 my mom died. She was 54. It was excruciating, and I stopped dreaming for a long time. There was no heart left for it. It took everything just to walk through the grief pit and still make mac and cheese and find my kids matching shoes before preschool. Man, that was a dark stretch of road.
If there is, however, any silver lining to deep grief, it’s that when one finally does start stepping out of it, back into the light, what used to be scary seems laughable. One’s threshold for discomfort and unknowing grows tenfold while in its throes. There is freedom in that, certainly, and promise, too.
And the impermanence of all this! Of everything! As I healed, my sadness was replaced with bafflement: I couldn’t wrap my head around why we all aren’t running towards what we want like our hair is on fire. “Your problem is, you think you have time,” whispered Jack Kornfield. I decided that if I was going to really come back, be myself again and carry on, I was no longer willing to just daydream. It suddenly felt ludicrous to ever let fear boss me around again.
So, in 2015 I opened Source, a real business that is not in my freezer. We provide onsite meditation and yoga classes, soul-play workshops, gypsy-esque merchandise, and lots of woo-woo services like astrology and tarot readings. It makes my heart sing. And, yes, it was scary to start. In the first few months when I was bombing I remember thinking, “Holy crap, I’m in Failure Club!”
Which, of course, gave me another idea.
That same year, I started Dream League, a women’s circle/coaching group/adventure club for all the dreamers, star gazers and optimists out there. Every fall I accept a handful of women, of all ages and stages, who each commit to making a secret dream come true. This will be our third year and it gets better and better each time.
While structured a little like Failure Club, Dream League adds extra layers of intent and support as we talk about the real work being done: how can we be more joyous and brave in this one life we have? How can we redefine our relationships with failure, success, desire and curiosity? We learn about the cycle of a dream, how to get past ego and fear, how to hold space for ourselves and other women, and, more importantly, why we should hold that space.
It’s wonderful. The women are wonderful. The dreams are wonderful: getting published, learning to dance, saving the environment, being a stand-up comic – we’ve seen it all and look forward to more. I can’t promise any of the dreams will come true, but I can promise it changes one’s life to try. And I don’t feel so much like Doc Brown anymore. There are a lot of us. Closet dreamers, secret optimists, come out! Life wants to play.
Sarah Bernstein is a certified life coach, business owner, high school teacher, writer, mother of three and wife to a realist. You can learn more about Dream League by going to dreamleagueadventure.com. If anyone in Traverse City has an office, even a little corner or cubby, where Sarah can take a nap, let her know directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave a commentEdit