You are just on the cusp of life. In a few more weeks you move from childhood to adulthood. It’s not just the exam process marring the end of secondary school for every Irish young person that delineates in such a peculiar way between the strictures and restraints of school and the utter freedom to mess up in university or other forms of third level education. But I didn’t want to talk about this today. I wanted to talk about you and your life to come.
You are the bearer of a beautiful name. Aisling weaves along the ear drum in a lightly modulated way till it reaches the last consonant with a definite ring. Its meaning could be intimidating with a suggestion that the quality of its message could encourage the bearer to stay in the land of dreams or to be dreamlike and this must have bedeviled you at times. ‘Come on Aisling, stop dreaming’, or ‘’Hey Ais what are you dreaming up next?’ Or even ‘Aisling the dreamer!’ I confess that I don’t know you well enough to guess how many times that has happened to you. I fact I don’t want to have this conversation with you but to talk about what I consider is far more important in the long run of things, more important than money, success, fame, longevity, and everything else that this world says are important. Dreams are the magic of life.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be an actress so I made a theatre. I acted for years in front of the bathroom mirror. I acted in the small toilet room and often starred as the beautiful mediaeval locked up princess, waiting to be rescued by her knight.Then I yearned to be a stable girl and wrote about that in an essay at seven years old and was laughed at in class as I read out my ideas about the perfect stable and horse. I dreamt each night of horses in the garage beneath me and woke to the devastation of reality.
I also dreamt of being a ballet dancer in the Royal Ballet school and getting to spend delicious years training my body to perfection. But ballet classes were not on the agenda in my family so I stuck to whirling in the bathroom, using the towel rail as my barre.
Then I wanted to be a marine biologist swimming all day and discovering new species of underwater life. I discovered too late my lack of qualifications for that life. And that dream of discovering an amazing new creature underwater has never left me. I wanted to learn to play the guitar and sing and travel the world entertaining people. I wanted to write the perfect book that would sell millions and make me famous. Piece by piece these dreams were aborted by reality, lack of opportunity, lack of persistence and courage and stamina. Some metamorphosed into different forms later on in different circumstances.
To compensate, other dreams flew past me in the night, outwalking or outrunning the reality saving my sanity. Whenever I wound up in banality or mundanity I found myself flying in the face of reality with a compensatory sense of the absurd and its companion inspiration.
For me it’s like allowing the alcoholic to reach rock bottom before the desire to get off the numbing platform and take the train, to anywhere else.
Stuck in the bowels of the going-nowhere Ireland of the 1970s I found myself partnering up with another woman to start summer play schemes in poor communities. It was not a new idea but we fused the then model with our vision to encompass better off communities so that kids from all backgrounds could meet equally.
That moment where young leaders from diverse communities met on an equal basis is one of my reality dream flying moments, where we see the connections overcoming the alienation, where commonality diffuses differences and where the synergy of people united in the same direction explodes likes a starburst. I wonder how many people get to experience that outside the act of orgasm?
This morning I read Jack Gilbert’s poem about Icarus and tears came into my eyes when he said ‘anything worth doing is worth doing badly’. We are taught, nay indoctrinated into forms of perfection that weigh us down like millstones. In this way, we lose the courage to do things regardless of the outcome because we fear too soon the prospect of failure or perhaps trying something out is denied to us because others think that we may fail at it, or we listen to ‘it’s not meant for us’.
There have been other moments of incandescent joy in my life - when understanding, coming together with enlightenment and releases that moment of frisson that happens high up on the back of the head, then moves down the spine, and back up into the heart as we find ourselves flying with others as they share their dreams with us.
We live in a world that negates the power of dreams, that negates the potential of the surging spirit of the impossible. We crash and smash the extraordinary creativity of young people to smithereens with a careless word or phrase or a throwaway line. My experience of those benighted dreams of my childhood found other ways of expressing themselves in different ways. I waited a very long time for some of them. For others, they may not emerge on this life or may meld into something else even at this stage of my life.
It’s the never giving up that matters. Like Icarus I’d thought I would crash and burn out early in a glorious ecstasy. At some stage I made a choice not to do so. Perhaps having children in my 30s changed my orientation. Perhaps it was falling in love again with life. Perhaps, who knows. I don’t care to dwell too much on the ‘What If I had..’ but the ‘What If I could?’
These days I’m better with the getting fired up with the possibilities and not getting burned out with the responsibilities. That I’ve found is the middle path that allows for enjoying the glory of all those ventures that are ahead of you. I still lust after the fireworks that accompanies those moments where a tiny difference happens, where the light in the eye sparkles in a luminous way, where the heart races and fizzes, where the mind relaxes with love.
It’s not the dreaming that is the issue, it’s the flying and daring to go beyond into the ether where nothing is predictable before or after and where the sweetness of courage takes us into joy and sorrow, confirmation and negation, affirmation and neglect, love and indifference.
Don’t be afraid to fly your dreams out there. Please share some of them with me.