My life shifted dramatically the day I realized that all my dreams had just as much possibility of coming true as all my fears. For so long I spent all my waking moments running from and planning for more of my phantom fears than I did making space for and opening up to my wildest dreams. And then one day I got really really tired and really really weighed down, and I resignedly said, “Fuck it! I’d rather be blissfully naive than depressingly realistic.” I spent more of my time dreaming and wishing than I did worrying and stressing out and slowly realized that this didn’t make me naive, it made me brave.
When the kids and I traveled through South America for 3 months, I had no idea what was in store for us. I never even dreamed a trip like that would ever be possible…but there we were, hanging out with penguins in Patagonia. I planned for the trip wisely, packing emergency gear and signing up for government issued warnings for all the places we’d be. Part of me was terrified of all the things that could go wrong and all the things that would be difficult. Not speaking a language makes anyone vulnerable and a little insecure! But I also believed that there were just as many amazing experiences out there that had just as much of a chance of happening. So I went for it.
One particular morning, 2 months into the trip, Naturalist and I woke up at the crack of dawn and hiked an hour up a sand dune in Huacachina, Peru. We never even imagine a place like this existed…a small town nestled in between towering sand dunes.
We’d been up and down this dune lots of times during the day, but we really wanted to see the sun rise over the oasis. I spent the night before learning how to salsa from all the locals, so pulled myself away from the dancing (still going on at 5:30 am!) to collect Naturalist and make our way up the sand mountain. The sunrise did not disappoint.
It was so amazing up there we just kind of relaxed into the soft sand. I fell asleep as the sun warmed me up. Naturalist was nodding off when all of a sudden she leapt up, jumped over me, and launched herself across the sand. Clutching something in her hands, she made her way back over to me (now wide awake) and held out a cluster of dandelion seeds.
“Here Mama! Make a wish!” she said as she handed me one.
I clutched it like a child, believing in that groggy moment that this seed represented the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams…if I could only make the right wish. But what wish? What dream? What did I really really want, and was I sure that was what I really really wanted over everything else?
I lay back down in the sand, deep in the midst of an existential crisis. If I only had one wish, I must be careful with it. I must think long and hard about it. I must not waste it!!!!
I fell asleep again with the seed tightly between my two hands. I don’t know how long I slept under the softly glowing sky, but once again Naturalist woke me up.
“Mama! MAMA!!!! LOOK AT THIS! JUST LOOK AT IT!!!!!”
I opened my eyes to see her twirling around in the sand, in a vortex of dandelion seeds.
Sometimes at the tops of sand dunes (or any mountain, really) the wind gets pushed up the mountain from down below, cresting over the ridgeline carrying all manner of wind blown debris with it. This morning the wind had gathered hundreds…thousands…of dandelion seeds and carried them up to us.
I looked around me and could hardly believe the blanketing of seeds that was now covering every inch of me. They were in my hair, tangled in my clothes, swirling around my fingers and toes. I could reach out and harvest a hundred of them in one armful.
I stood up and started dancing around with Naturalist, laughing and squeeing and watching her try to gather as many as she could.
I looked down and my one seed, still clutched tightly and miserly in my hands. My perspective shifted as I realized how wrong I’d been.
There is no scarcity of wishes. There is no set allotment of dreams.
There is no getting it wrong.
You wish, you dream, you hope.
You get wiser, smarter and then you wish, dream, and hope again.
There are more wishes, dreams, and hopes available than there are grains of sand in all the sand dunes in the world.
“I have to remember this.” I thought to myself as I watched Naturalist chase after her thousand wishes. “I have to tell everyone and make sure I don’t let my kids forget this!”
Now, we wish on a million things every day. It’s not that we’re unhappy with how things are, or wishing everything was so different, or being ungrateful for what we have. I don’t take it personally when my kids wish for things, mistakingly thinking that I must be failing them if they’re not content with how things are. No, no. we’re just…dreaming. Creating. Thinking of all the other possibilities. Listening to ourselves. Opening up to hope. Making space for lightness and whimsy. Believing in happy and hope and fun!
The only wasted wish is the one that you don’t make.
Wish big, hope always, and dream passionately!