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Dreams, for me, have always been anxious-ridden, a way for my subconscious to address issues that are otherwise denied, covered up, or ignored. I’ve also been known to naively believe that these issues have somehow resolved themselves, but my dreams remind me that they are only buried. The ones I can remember are re-enactments of past relationships and the overwhelming feeling of being unwanted and not good enough as well as helplessness to change it. I think of these as episodes of failed love. I do not say failed relationships because I now believe all relationships, whether short-term or long, follow their intended path – they play out how they must.

These “failed love” dreams that leave me distraught also remind me of how wrongly I have approached love in the past. First, I have confused love with everything from passion to comfort, from commitment to sacrifice. Secondly, I have consistently defined love in selfish terms. I thought of ways to be more loveable, to be more upstanding in my partner’s eyes, rather than learning and striving to love better and more completely. So many of my actions were done to obtain a particular reaction or sentiment, never (or hardly ever) out of unconditional love.

This goal – to be loveable – stems from my innate desire to achieve perfection. I laugh at myself now, realizing how foolish such a pursuit is, and how my undying devotion to it has cause me additional anxiety and heartache. And so, when I describe my partners as selfish or self-centered, I am now self-aware and acknowledge: 1) That my accusation has grown out of the pursuit to target and dispel imperfection; 2) that my expectations can be so high that even I cannot reach them; And 3) that the belief that my accusation will provide any recourse or comfort is egotistical and just plain ridiculous. What does it matter? I am no longer on a joint venture with them, having extricated myself as soon as I realized we weren’t actually together in the first place. Why do I fret over it still?

I believe my subconscious, appearing through my dreams, continues to dwell for fear of allowing to fester the dark truth – my fear to admit the root of the problem – ME. After all, I’m still viewing everything in terms of “Am I loveable enough?” or “Am I completely unloveable?” And it is this realization that has seemingly forced my hand into embracing the other end of the spectrum. I have focused so long on the wrong things, trying to provide happiness like its a gift, while ignoring my own and resenting the indifference I feel in return.

A recent conversation with my sister brought me enlightenment, confirmation, and comfort that my new direction is a sane one. As a caring, loving, and sympathetic sister she said, “You’ve spent so much of your life living for others that have selfishly taken from you. You deserve to be selfish for a while.” While my sister’s allowance may seem paradoxical to what I’ve said above, I know my sister meant selfish in terms of self-cultivation. It is this temporary selfishness that will allow me to focus on my definition of happiness and love, to learn to accept my (and everyone’s) imperfections, and ultimately to learn what it means to be unselfish in matters of love.

My sister also embraced me warmly – figuratively and literally. In response to my recent blog posts, she said to me:

After such committed relationships, you must now explore the other extreme in order to define for yourself what lies at the balanced center.

I was surprised at (and thankful for) how honestly and succinctly she stated that which I have begun to believe, why I feel the need to swing on the pendulum from one side to the other. In that moment, I felt relief at being understood and not judged or criticized.

And it is because I’m tentative about my new journey that I hope to find others to encourage me. I’ve already discovered many times over that it is easier said than done to traverse the less beaten track. I find myself too often falling prey to my old emotional habits. I feel discomfort with living in the moment and guilty for ignoring any investments for the future. But I know that becoming instantly attached to someone and jumping ahead to the future are two things I must avoid. Now, I need to embrace the transient engagements and accept them for what they are. For only in defining the boundaries of fleeting trysts will I then be able recognize a long-term relationship, perchance it comes my way…

Dreams and life are two sides of the same coin. We may fly through life, carefree as can be, but our dreams tend to remind us to touch ground every once in a while. I may naively think that the past has resolved itself and I can safely move forward; however, my dreams continue to show me that I have a lot to learn from the past before I can create a future.