He calls to say he’s been feeling down. Melancholy. Sad and alone. Listless.
Why the dark the mood? The inertia? You’d think he’d be electric with anticipation and exhilaration. He is closing a significant chapter in his life, and looking ahead to the relocation that will begin a new chapter. He has crossed the finish line of one adventure, and now is facing a new adventure.
I suggest he is in a new round of “goodbyes.” He reminds me he hasn’t really lived there long enough to develop close, interpersonal ties. And I remind him that “goodbyes” are not only required for people, but for dreams, too.
Say, for example, the dream of life partnership. Love, marriage and family.
Ah, yes. He did not merely move there to pursue the next step of his career. He moved there to hatch and nurture the next step of love with the woman.
But it never hatched. Try as he might. And now, as the date of his departure looms, his beckoning future has painted him into an emotional corner. To move forward, he must say a definitive “goodbye” to a sweet, sweet dream. He must let his heart break. He must accept reality at all cost. He must let go. With finality.
I tell the man he is brooding. Like Hildegard.
Actually, I’ve never met Hildegard. But I was talking recently with a friend who was telling me about her friend named Hildegard.
Hildegard is brooding. She hardly eats. Won’t exercise. Just sits … and sits … and waits.
Hildegard is brooding. She is intractably bonded to a hope that will never happen. She is incubating a dream that is either long dead or quite possibly never fertile in the first place. The dream is an empty shell, void of life, yet Hildegard still obsesses as if the dream might hatch.
Hildegard’s nest is pure pathos. Everyone knows it. Somewhere inside, Hildegard must know it, too. Yet, if in love and compassion for Hildegard you try to coax her back to reality, on to new, living dreams, back to life amongst the living … well, Hildegard will get her feathers ruffled. You will have a fight on your hands.
Hildegard clutches a lifeless clutch. She just won’t let go.
Hildegard’s dreams are a miscarriage. She just won’t yet say that out loud.
Oh, you thought this was a metaphor? Nope. I’m being literal. Hildegard is a chicken. A laying hen. A fowl. Bok-bok!
Apparently (says my friend the fowl expert), chickens sometimes get instinctively bonded to eggs they lay in the absence of having been introduced to a handsome rooster. The eggs are infertile. Terrific for omelets, but not so hopeful for little yellow chicks.
But a hen beset with broodiness just won’t be convinced.
OK, now the metaphor …
When is hope our friend? Our lifeline? And when is hope a prison constructed of wet cardboard and the smell of mildew?
That is, how to recognize the difference between dreams that are alive and inspirational, energizing us and pulling us into our future, as opposed to dreams that are long-dead and infertile, pinning us to emptiness, bitterness and inertia?
I think of the ancient Hebrews who said it this way: “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together ….” (Ecclesiastes 3) Or the Christians, who might say it this way: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24)
It takes a lot of courage to risk dreaming. And it takes a lot of courage to walk away from dreams unrealized.
Because brooding over a nest of dreams that will never hatch is not a good use of our time.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Mondays. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.