Unexpected wisdom from a midlife birthday
Many years ago, an artist’s handpainted signs at a crafts fair at the local park caught my attention. I came home with five, and hung them on the wall outside my sons’ bedrooms. They implored:
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION.
NEVER, EVER GIVE UP.
As a fledgling writer working on a novel, these three messages I needed for myself. Acknowledging that these messages carried their own kind of pressure, the wall also bore warmer fuzzier, and perhaps competing, messages I also wanted more of:
LAUGH OUT LOUD.
GO WITH THE FLOW.
A decade and a half later, on the eve of my birthday, I sat at my dining room table with my family. Dinner was winding down, and my father asked with his winsome smile, in the quiet voice he uses now, if I had a speech. Like a doll he can wind up with a key, needing the barest of nudges to speak (I am like him), I said, I do.
I have been thinking lately, we need to do the opposite of what the world tells us is called for. We need to let go of all the pressures we take on that we cannot see or name, like the signs I hammered into our walls — think big; make a splash; publish the book and hit the bestseller list. We need to dream small.
Dream of having dinner with parents who are healthy. Dream of an imperfect table with uneven leaf extensions. Dream of the flavors of Thai take-out. Dream of a chocolate-smeared tablecloth and pink candles melting into icing.
Dream of an array of pink tulips your husband arranges for your first-thing-in-the-morning view. Dream of your 18-year-old’s doting presence and phone calls from college towns. Dream of a board game whose rules you don’t understand but you play because it makes the kids happy, and their happiness makes you happy.
Dream of an afternoon dog walk over slick, muddy grass that pulls you down, then pulls up a laugh and a memory from your honeymoon.
Dream of a fireplace and fresh chopped wood that catches. Dream of hand-me-down sofas with room for everyone. Dream of the ache in one hip that is loosening with stretching and time.
Dream of Prince’s music playing over the speakers, reminding you of how in 1987 you danced to 1999, and how in 2023 you are dancing to it still. Dream of the friends who walked that arc with you, whose smiles you count on appearing at your door.
Dream small, and in naming your small dreams discover their immeasurable enoughness.
Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is writing a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker from Guatemala. Follow on Medium, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.