“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” ~ John Lennon
Whenever Erik, my brother, comes home for the weekend or a night or just a day it’s hard for him to go back to his house. Erik is developmentally disabled and moved out almost two years ago. No matter how pleasant our time together has been the tension builds as he anticipates when one of us says it’s time to go.
His shoulders become tight, he starts working his jaw and tongue and his stimming behaviors are more intense. Erik verbalizes fears through what seems like violent talk. Sometimes I want to laugh over the bizarre things he says (this only disturbs him more), sometimes tears seem more appropriate.
Every time I want to tell him that he can stay home with us, that this charade of him living somewhere else is over.
But it cannot be that way.
Erik needs his own space and we need him to have his own space.
On one of our drives home he asked when Mom and Dad were going on a cruise.
To fill you in, sometimes I just chat to him as a way to distract him from his OCD thoughts. When we didn’t live together, my family and my parents and I, Erik would come to stay with us a few times a year. We came to call that time Camp Shepherd. He loved it, the kids mostly loved it, and I really loved it. Having Erik with us made it feel a little more like home.
Now, though, there is no Camp Shepherd. Camp Shepherd/Krieg (or Camp Shrieg as we call it now) does not hold the allure of the other. It’s not a vacation anymore. It’s just home, and home is the same.
At Camp Shepherd, Erik could ride his bike with his nieces and nephew, he could talk to people that he didn’t know, he could play the piano and preach in the empty sanctuaries of churches my husband was employed at. He was braver at Camp Shepherd, more bold, not nearly as afraid of getting lost.
He can ride a bike in our neighborhood, but home is boring. It’s something he’s known forever.
Camp Shepherd was a chance to be different, to be more free from his self-imposed constraints.
Erik had asked me when he could come to Camp Shepherd again, as he kept me company while I cleaned my boys’ room. Having him in there kept me from blowing my lid when I stepped the 17th Lego piece. I told him we’d have to send Mom and Dad on a cruise to Alaska to have Camp Shepherd. It was just something I said, not something I meant. He held onto that for a couple of weeks before re-visiting the idea.
It took me a few minutes to figure out why he was asking when our parents were going on a cruise. When I finally remembered I laughed because I’m always amazed at what he remembers, what he takes as fact. I told him I didn’t know, but that we’d look into it.
At the next light he said, “I want us to all go on a cruise.”
“You do?” I asked.
“Mm hmm,” he said, nodding his head. He does this a lot when he’s very happy or excited. He looks just like he did when he was a little boy. It’s one of my favorite Erik looks. “Yes, let’s all go on a cruise: Kiley, Laurel, Spencer, Liam, Lee, Mom, Dad, you and me.”
“To Alaska? That would be fun.”
“Around the world. I want to go on a cruise around the world.”
“Wow,” I answered, baffled at this newly divulged desire, one I think he had just given birth to in that moment.
“Yes. It will take us an entire year,” he said with finality, like it was a done deal.
It struck me that this idea was not about our destination; it was about being together for as long as possible. It was about taking a break from the normal and getting to do something grand and different. A cruise around the world would be a chance to be brave and be together.
I told him I would get maps and we would mark with push pins where we wanted to visit. His excitement was contagious and I found myself getting into planning our world trip. We talked about which places we wanted to visit. He wants to go to Canada because the band members of Rush reside there.
It was easier for him to get out of the car after our day-dreaming. Erik was relaxed. He only came back to discuss what concerts we could go to 6 times. Erik cannot leave without saying, ‘God bless you’ and if he thinks you missed it he’ll come back and make sure you did, sometimes over and over.
I drove off wondering what I would make for dinner, where I had to be next, and if anyone had fed the dogs dinner.
That trip and our cruise conversation took place a few weeks ago. I suppose both of us have moved on from that dream, or day dream, or pipe dream.
Except it’s not really moving on when our dream is forgotten. Maybe it’s left behind. Maybe it’s weighed down or maybe buried alive, just waiting to be unearthed again.
This morning I woke up thinking about our cruise. I woke up wondering what it would be like to visit another country by way of boat. I’ve traveled enough to know that while the landscape may look new there is also a familiar thread to be found. Maybe it’s the way certain food tastes, or a stranger will remind you of someone you know, but there is usually something that will remind you of home.
Erik teaches me so much about dreaming, but he also surprises me with it. It’s easy to look at someone like him, someone the world tells me is simple-minded, and fall into the wrong thinking that there’s not much to him.
There is a depth to my brother, though, that takes my breath away.
His brain may not cooperate, it may be confused and betray him, but his heart is like the ocean. Erik’s heart, his soul, is boundless and beautiful and deeper than anyone has ever explored. I’m embarrassed that it still shocks me to learn that there is more that Erik wants for his life, that the world’s short-sighted vision of good enough is not good enough for him.
Isn’t that true for all of us? Isn’t it our dream of what could be that makes the mundane, every day life bearable? Isn’t it that our dreams, our visions of an imagined future, lend color and passion to our current situation?
Isn’t it our dreams that tell us that this world is not the end, that there is more?
It dawned on me this morning that it is envisioning our wildest desires that fuels us forward, compelling us to continue on. Even as our mind tells us it’s impossible our heart cries out, “YOU CAN!”
“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy!”
~ Ray Charles
So today I’m going to get Erik a dream journal and we will fill it with pictures of places he wants our cruise ship to go. I’ll have the kids, Lee, and my parents help as well, so that bits of all our dreams are sprinkled on the pages. I’ll get his map, just like I said I would, and we’ll dream of our cruise around the world together.
It won’t just be his dreams, it will be our shared dreams, and when he thumbs through the pages he’ll remember that we dream together. Not alone. Never alone.
Just as I allowed the everyday to hide our cruise ship conversation we each can lose sight of our desires. It happens slowly, accidentally in most cases.
Sometimes it’s on purpose, though, that we allow our dreams to fade. Perhaps it’s too scary to keep a hold of them for fear of failing. It may be that your current situation feels so dismal that dreaming literally hurts. If that’s the case dig in, dear one, and be brave like my brother. In a world of no-you-can’ts he chooses to dream anyway – if that doesn’t stir your heart I’m not sure what will.
Dream even when it hurts.
Especially when it hurts.
What special thought swirls in your soul, what secret desire have you never told anyone?
Grab hold of it, nurture it. Allow it to grow. Feed that dream pretty pictures and sounds and words. Thanks to YouTube all that is possible.
Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would when it comes into fruition, but I’m certain it will lead somewhere amazing. It may be that you’ll meet someone or go somewhere that you wouldn’t have if not for your imaginings.
Dreaming opens the door to action…and that’s when anything is possible.
I’ll let you know how Erik’s dream journal goes in a few weeks, and maybe you can share yours as well? I have things fluttering in my heart, too, traveling, writing, making our house pretty – all those things and more.
In the meantime, friends, be brave and dream a little.
Heck, dream a lot.
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