Community / Family / Guest blog posts / Parenting

My Dream

Today’s guest author is  Sātkhira RoiAnn Phillips, who blogs at Are You the Babysitter?, where this post originally appeared last September (and how many of us can relate to that question?!). To get further immersed in RoiAnn’s writing and perspective, we can all read her blog, but those of you in the Chicago area are in for a treat: you can also hear her read for  Listen to Your Mother, at the Athenaeum Theatre on May 5, 2013. ~Polly


There’s a lot of talk lately in my life about long-term plans, and I’ve come to realize this: I don’t have one.  I am forty-three years old and I do not have, nor have I ever had a long-term plan.

This mystifies many of my friends, who are designing retirement homes in their heads, climbing the chain of command at their various places of employment, and picking out onesies for their grandbabies-to-be.  Still, it’s worked out okay for me.

So far.

In my twenties, I did not plan to buy a house (I planned to buy a co-op) or become a mom (I was an auntie already).  I did not plan to find a full-time job that paid the bills, afforded me some autonomy and connected me to a broader social change movement (I planned to be an actor).

I have always, on the other hand, dreamed.

I dreamed a life for myself in a two-bedroom house, front door hidden behind a wild garden with a twisty path like the flower-trellised front yard on my California block when I was five, a longtime partner and a cat (maybe two cats), a job which sustained me financially and – oh, yeah – tapped my passion for writing, for acting, for directing or teaching, with enough mad money to head to a café or a pub or a show at night whenever I had the urge.

I was not one of those girls who dreamed my wedding at eight years old, or dressed future children in my mind with neckties and frilly dresses for Sunday services.

My dream was like a thought bubble drifting up into the clouds, an image, never quite close, never completely in focus.  It shifted shape.  It bobbed along just out of reach.  It calmed me in my times of need.

* * *

It was never a plan.

* * *

I had a challenging workday this week, more challenging than usual.  I arrived at the office still starving for sleep – thanks to the orange and white cat who slept most of the night on my head, until I lifted him into the air with my pillow clutched tightly in his razor-sharp claws and we knocked the cup of water off my bedside table, after which, with a hiss and meow, he landed on his feet on the bedroom floor and I debated for five minutes the pros and cons of standing, fully awake, to grab a towel to wipe the mess at three a.m. – and thanks to the late-night hemming of my daughter’s pajama pants which I will handle next time with hemming tape because it took me over an hour.

After making it out of the house (a miracle in itself) and into the city for work, I turned on my computer at 8:45 a.m., searching my in-box for final approval on an agency blog post (“Community Superheroes: Donning Our Capes”) which I quickly published.  By 8:53, I was bombarded by a colleague’s awkwardly articulated and yet clearly urgent need to send a communiqué to 3000 people.  I offered an equally awkward reply – something about how this particular framing of our message might confound and confuse its recipients.  What?

Another colleague called four of us into a brainstorming meeting, and immediately left the room.  Ummm…

A fifteen-minute project turned into three hours of struggling with hidden format code which turned black font orange and orange font grey, Times Roman into Cambria and Calibri into Arial… need I go on? Dare I?  It was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.  We used to have a book about days like these.  You know the one I mean?

I tried a few chocolate espresso beans from my office-mate’s stash as a little pick-me-up.  They were super tasty but I’m not sure they helped.

Finally, just past 6 o’clock, I arrived at the home of a friend, who had picked-up my daughter from after-school care since my partner was out with clients and by then, I was out of my mind.  We chatted for that half a second before my daughter bounded down the stairs. You know the half a second I mean? The one you squeeze your whole day into before your presence is required for whatever it is that’s more urgent than the day’s debrief.  “Hi, Mami!” she said, and then rushed outside in her fuzzy purple monster backpack with a polka-dotted bathrobe flung over one arm, racing me to the car.  I trailed behind, cuddling her unicorn pillow pet close to my chest.  “I had the Best. Day. EVER!” she exclaimed.  Pajama Day, extra recess, music, art.  I felt my mood – slowly – begin to lift – as she gleefully spilled into my heart the stories of her day.

That’s what it took – my little girl in the backseat telling stories about her sunny day – and after weeks of deliberating and chastising myself for the irresponsible approach I apparently had to my own life, it came to me: I am living the dream.

I’m not walking on clouds or anything. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes it’s truly awful.  But mostly it’s not. And when it comes down to it, the life I have – 2 kids (1 grown), 2 cats, 2 dogs, a house just outside Chicago with its bit of sidewalk leading up to our 3-bedroom home, a loving partner, an amazing job connecting me to smart and passionate people who share a vision for social change – is some version of the plan I’ve had my whole life. Some version of my dream.  Coming into focus.

It can’t all be written down.  It’s not all under my control.  But it’s real. And it’s here. And it’s mine.

What’s your dream?  Do you know?

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  1. So happy to see you here, RoiAnn! Thank you for serving up such delicious post. I’m sure we can all understand the transformational power of a child’s happiness and how important it is to savor the life we’ve created regardless of how purposefully.

    I used to dream about what my family would look like. My reality reflects those dreams only sometimes, but I am happy with this reality on most days. The longer we are a family together, and the more things happen I could never have anticipated, the easier it becomes for me to accept the notion, what will be, will be. My dreams become more general – those of health and happiness.

    That said, I occasionally dream about living on a tropical island.

    • LOVE the tropical island dream. LOVE it. I’m having fantasies like that a fair bit lately. That, and the one where I live in the woods where all I hear (yeah, right) is the trickling brook nearby. S’pose it’s the snow and ice? Thanks for kicking my butt and getting me out here – and thanks to you and Polly and all the rest who make this a warm and welcoming space for our families!!

  2. I echo Deborah’s happiness to see your voice here, RoiAnn!

    My partner and I spent eight years plotting, planning, and barking up various other trees before we circled back around to exactly what we would have ideally wanted, vis-a-vis our family-making. But all this came after my realizing that I wanted to raise young people with my beloved, who had known in her bones that she wanted to bear children (me, I didn’t even know if I wanted to be around them much). I’ve since realized that some of us are born parents, and others are made. (On a more self-possessed day, I’d say “some of us are born great parents, others have great parenthood thrust upon them.”)

    So in my case, it was a dream come true that I didn’t even know I had dreamt.

    Your post rang true for me all the same. So, thank you for that.

    • Thank you, Polly! I look forward to poking around out here and learning more of your story. And I really like the idea that some of us are born parents, and others are made. It gives me such hope!

  3. When I was eight years old I watched my mom take the guts out of a chicken and I thought, “That’s it, I can never grow up and get married, because I can never do THAT.” Little did know that I could piece together my own dream rather than trying to make someone else’s dream fit. This is why I am so happy that narratives like yours and places like LesFam exist–because we’re writing new dreams, in which the dreamer choses the plot and dresses the set in her own style. Maybe THAT’s the dream we can pass on to the next generation?

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