I love the classic Disney films because most often they are about wishes and dreams being fulfilled. From Cinderella to Simba, the characters overcome obstacles, find the courage to follow their dreams, discover beauty within themselves, and learn that wishes really can come true.
Throughout the past two weeks I’ve faithfully written my Morning Pages, taken myself out on an Artist’s Date and have pondered and gained insights during my Weekly Walk. Week two in Walking in this World (by Julia Cameron) is entitled Discovering a Sense of Proportion, and “inaugurates an ongoing process of self-definition.” Julia introduced me to the chapter with these words, “As you redraw the boundaries and limits within which you have lived, you draw yourself to a fuller size.”
As human beings we’re filled with self doubt, some of us more than others. When we look in the mirror we see ourselves as ordinary and maybe even odd, we wonder if we’ll ever ‘fit in’ and whether or not anyone will find us beautiful. But, if we close our eyes and turn off the voices, we see the part of us that we’re afraid to let out. I think Julia says it best, “Part of us knows we’re more than they see; part of us fears we’re less than we hope.”
I cried when I read the story she told of a man who became a composer after two decades of denying the truth in the compliments he received about his talent. He had convinced himself that he was ‘just the appreciator’ in a family of musicians. It took a trip and time spent with people who knew nothing about him or his ‘musically gifted’ family for him to begin ‘jotting down notes.’ When he returned, “He didn’t call himself a composer, a songwriter, or even a musician, but he did call himself happy.”
It made me wonder how much we hold ourselves back because of how we think others see us. And it struck me that often we are lucky enough to have people in our lives that see more than we do, people that challenge us to see ourselves as creative and competent, who encourage us to “spread our wings,” and to become who we were meant to be.
I was also reminded how I discovered my love for writing, how I heard the words but not the message when people told me how much they enjoyed reading what I wrote. “You’re very nice, but I’m not a writer,” I would respond. Thanks to a persistent friend, I took my first writing class and I now know that whether or not I become famous or ever earn a dime doing it, writing has become like breathing and I call myself happy now.
The previous chapter focused on self acceptance and faith, this week she carried those themes through while gently nudging us into the world of growth, transformation and the idea of ‘living large.’ Living large doesn’t mean driving a flashy car, living in a mansion, or vacationing in the trendiest hot spot, it means admitting dreams, miniaturizing doubts, and trying on pieces of our new identity one step at a time.
I was moved by her reference to Nelson Mandela who remarked that “we do no one any favors ‘hiding our light’ and pretending to be ‘smaller than we are.’”
I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘dreamer,’ but I am an unrivaled ‘wisher,’ which is why I think my favorite task was to create a wish list. The instructions were to number a blank sheet of paper from 1 to 20 and complete the phrase “I wish” as quickly as possible, ranging from large to small, whatever came to mind. My list ran the gambit, everything from “I wish” my tummy was flatter to “I wish” I was debt free, and “I wish” I could write a book.
I was amazed at what came next. She revealed the secret of the list, “Very often, each ‘wish’ will suggest some small action.” I read over my list and made notes in the margin. Out of the twenty items, the only one I couldn’t take at least one small action toward making it reality was, “I wish travel was less expensive.” In that moment, I realized that my wishes are also my dreams, and that within me lies the power to help them come true.
I hung on every word as she explained that “art is not linear” and that “life is as much about mystery as it is about mastery.” I thought about transformation, and the many times in my life that I was ready for change and somehow just what I needed found its way to me.
The final task was once again the most difficult and yet the most illuminating. After answering a series of questions designed to invite feelings of vulnerability and expose secret dreams, I was asked to write a letter to myself, to my ‘inner artist’ about the dream that was revealed and to find a concrete form in which to take action toward achieving it.
I’m not quite ready to share my innermost dreams, I’m still ‘trying them on for size.’ The letter to myself concluded with the following. “Continue to express your humor and intelligence through your words. Continue to ‘build it’ and ‘it will come’.”
Dream a dream
Set it free
Trust your heart,
Just believe [Jiminy Cricket]