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This is a transcript from episode #18 of the Let the Verse Flow Podcast.
Take a peek for yourself. Here are some photos of the amazing cultural gardens at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Oahu, Hawaii. 🌺🌺
Today we talk about dreams and how to keep them alive, how to protect them from negativity and how to pair affirmations and action to keep them alive.
I Dream of Hawaii (Yeah, Who Doesn't)
Whenever someone comes home from Hawaii they always describe it as paradise, like heaven. Its sunsets, ocean waves, beautiful native peoples, and lush landscapes are beyond our everyday experience. It is magical in that way; sometimes, we have no words to describe the beauty we see and feel, and we rely on old conventions and outdated images to conjure up even a small bit of what we mean. I realize it diminishes the intricacies and nuances of a place (and most importantly, its people), but sometimes it feels like it’s all we have.
I apologize to the Hawaiian people for simply calling Oahu paradise. I realize it is so much more than that. A motherland to current residents and ancestors long gone (but who may linger). But I also fell into the “paradise” description. You’d think a writer would be more original. I’m working on it.
When I came home and told my friends that I wanted to retire in Hawaii someday, that I had finally found a place that could rival my beloved New York, somewhere I could see myself living (which I had never said about any place else), they gave me the look. The thought bubble over their head was as big as a neon sign. "Yeah, right, you’ll never get there. Everyone dreams of retiring in Hawaii. What makes you so special?"
But among the disbelievers, there were a few that said, "Yes!! I can see that for you. You can make it happen." I’m truly blessed that one of those people was my best friend. Because let’s face it, if your best friend can’t conceive of you making it to Hawaii, who can? Along with her encouragement, she asked for a favor: to make sure I had a sofa bed she could sleep on when she visited. Done!
I held on to that belief in a Hawaiian retirement for a good year, until the reality of what it would mean to retire there settled in. It’s expensive in Hawaii. How’s the healthcare? Can I find a place where I don’t have to drive? Even though I’m at least 10 years away from retiring from my job, I started to pile doses of harsh reality onto my dream. I began questioning things before I had even let my dream take shape. I let all the naysayers' doubt creep in. I’ve been to Hawaii twice more since my first trip, and honestly, it feels like home. So why was I allowing other people to fill me with self-doubt? Of course, I have to figure out the logistics; who doesn’t? This would be a huge move for me, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
So I stopped shitting on my dreams with fear and began to organize my thoughts around all the practical questions I'd have to answer before a move would be possible. I have more than 10 years to figure it out, save, scheme, plot, and plan. I also decided that I don’t want to suppress my dreams anymore because retiring in Hawaii is one of the few big dreams I’ve had in my life. Strangely, this podcast is another one, and I’ve wanted to manifest both of these dreams late in life.
We Dream, We Grow, We Change
I wonder, is dreaming something that’s reserved for people in their 20s or 30s? By our 40s, the conventional wisdom has us “settled.” I’ve never liked that word. I’m old enough to know that life is hard, with plenty of bumps along the way, so settled is not a word I’d use to describe it, and I don’t want to fool myself into believing that ease will magically descend upon me as I get older. It won’t.
But why have these dreams come into my life late in life? How am I making room for them? There’s a ton to unpack here: passion projects, and affirmations to reinforce and enjoy those dreams.
A Brief History: the Dreams of My Youth
I had dreams in my youth. Those first dreams, which I’ve written about in my journals since I was a young child, were to be a writer, maybe a college professor. In high school, I loved English class, all that reading, writing, and deep diving into the author’s intent, symbolism, and wordplay. When I graduated high school, I won the creative writing award and was gifted a book of Sylvia Plath poems, one of my favorite poets.
I went on to study broadcasting & film in college, then quickly continued to get a master’s degree in European History. While in college, I had convinced myself that I would write documentary scripts, but a few post-college internships and jobs cured me of that dream, and I transitioned into research for almost a decade, everything from working in the library/archive of a major survey research firm to serving as a healthcare research analyst.
I loved learning new things and exploring through research, but the work was dry. I hadn’t met my life partner or had any kids by my early 30s so I decided to go back to school and got a second master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. I thought a human service job would provide more opportunities for social interaction.
I spent the next 8 years teaching children with disabilities. I loved that work, but it was a grueling schedule, and by the time graduate school was over, I had a husband and then a new baby to take care of. My rigorous teaching schedule was difficult with a toddler at home.
I moved into different types of teaching and writing positions from there: curriculum development and writing, creating and speaking at teacher training workshops, and finally, I landed on grant writing. I’ve been a grants manager for a school for the last 6 years, and this structured writing seems to be a really good fit for my skills in research, writing, strategic planning, and program development.
You can see from this progression that my dreams were most defined when I was younger, and then once I got into the business of working toward those dreams, they morphed and changed. Dreams can change when we catch them on the way to being realized. After I became a mom, I put aside some of the dreaming and settled into what worked. What worked best for my family, my bank account, and my psyche as I took on more caregiving at home.
50+ Women Can Still Dream Big
But a funny thing is happening as I reach my late 50s, I’m back to dreaming. Yes, I’m dreaming of new projects and avenues, and this podcast is one step in the direction of those dreams. One of the residual benefits of dealing with my mom’s illness has been a shift in my priorities. I feel mortality like a visceral, living thing, and I’m not wasting my time with the worries and doubts that I had earlier in life. But I’m not deluding myself, my dreams will take work. Lots of work.
Creating this podcast (after a long, full day of work at my job) is not for the faint of heart. “Oh, start a podcast, you think. It’s fun.” And it is, but it’s a responsibility to my audience that I take very seriously. To show up, to tell meaningful stories, to develop quality poems, to give reasoned and researched advice, and to inspire. That takes daily work to cultivate and build.
If I’ve learned anything over the last few decades, it’s that dreams only have a chance (and sometimes it’s a very slim chance) of coming true if you put work behind them. Dreams are hard work in disguise. You dream and want, and then you plot and scheme, but sooner or later, you have to get down to work. That’s where your dreams can either take shape or start to die; hopefully, they transform into something that you can live with.
Two Habits to Keep Your Dreams Alive
I want to talk about two habits to keep our dreams alive:
- a positive mindset and
- the willingness to take action consistently, even when we feel silly, exhausted, or unsure of ourselves.
Some of you might not think of a positive mindset as a habit, but cultivating a positive mindset is an active pursuit that takes daily practice. That's a major theme of this podcast, and I believe I will have done my best work if I can help you believe in your positive spirit through creative self–care.
One of my favorite tools for this type of creative self-care is journaling. Check out the last two bonus episodes on the benefits of journaling and my 30-day journal challenge to use journaling to build and maintain a more positive outlook. As for taking action, that’s a given to breathe life into any dream. These two habits are a powerful pair with which to build your dreams.
A Meditation Affirmation to Envision Our Dreams
Let’s talk about the dream first. Because it’s a dream, a wish, a hope for the future, it’s likely something that brings a smile to your face. When you think of your dream, you feel good inside. You let the good wash over you and need that feeling. You need to grow it and feed it, give it kindling like you do with a fire. Keep the fire of your dream alive by feeding it what it needs. Like a fire, a dream needs a home to live in and a positive environment to grow. How can we build this positive home for our dreams? One way is through affirmations. Affirming our dreams, giving them space and time to breathe and grow.
I don’t mean the old concept of affirmations from years past where you stare into a mirror and tell yourself you are brave and beautiful. Although, doing so won’t hurt at all. The type of affirmation I’m talking about is the kind that’s related to your best self-talk. It’s a conversation with yourself that feels like a meditation. These are affirmation meditations, a hybrid that uses meditation's mindfulness combined with affirmation statements. You are relaxed, gentle, and guiding your mind, body, and spirit into a realm where your dreams can live comfortably. Your dream can stretch out its arms and journey into the world from the soft cradle of your affirmations. Please write some of your own affirmations so they speak to your needs and viewpoints, but I thought we’d start with one of mine as an example. I’ve been doing some digging into affirmation meditations as a positive mindfulness tool. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. You may be listening to, or saying things like…
An Affirmation Meditation to Keep Your Dreams Alive
Let’s not judge our first few sessions with affirmation mediations. They may be new to your mind, and your logical mind may want to jump in and try to take over. That happens to me. I can refute mindfulness techniques like these because they aren’t as tangible as writing or actively working toward my goals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.
The more open you are to these types of experiences, the more you realize their benefit to you. If nothing else, you get to relax and sit with some positive thoughts. That’s not such a bad thing. You can relisten to this affirmation mediation anytime by replaying this audio.
At the same time that you are saying your affirmations, you may have your eyes closed and picture or visualize your dreamland. I do this often with my Hawaiian retirement plans. I imagine the small apartment in the Diamond Head section of Oahu where I will live. I picture a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment. The second bedroom will have a pull-out sofa for guests but will mostly be my study. I will have rows of bookcases along one wall, and my desk will go along the window’s edge. I’m writing daily for this podcast and in my journal at my desk as I smell the salt air and flowers outside. It’s so vivid at this point.
I have a small lanai for me and Arthur, and we sit outside most mornings and have breakfast while we talk about all the things we talk about. We laugh, we tease each other, we bicker sometimes. Then I go off to my study and write until the afternoon break. Sometimes I take long hikes along the water’s edge with my first cup of Kona coffee and I count blessings at night for the peace and beauty that’s around me.
I wish this combo of meditation and affirmation was enough to get it done, to make my dream come to fruition, but it’s not. If the first step is talking to action (through affirmations), planning and refining your dream. Next, you take the action. For example, I’ll have to do things to help me pay for these dreams. So, I save money. I work hard, I save hard. I’m lucky to have a full-time job to help me save money.
To keep the dream alive (and maybe supplement it with extra funds), perhaps you start a side project like I have with this podcast. Maybe you build a small business to support your dream. But you don’t delay starting the work toward your dreams (whatever that looks like to you). You have to take action before you have it all figured out. Take action, learn, revise, repeat.
We'll likely have to take these actions for a long time, defer the “dream’ and take consistent action, but that’s what’s required of us. To me, Hawaii is worth that. My passion for this island life and my poetry are worth that. My desire to spread positivity and empowerment is worth that. So, taking specific and consistent action is necessary to make a dream happen.
Love the Journey as Much as the Dream
Once you take these action steps every day, they develop into habits. We do them over and over and over again until they become second nature and part of our life’s fabric. For example, for this podcast, I have to consistently create and edit poems, create show ideas, research, write, record, edit, and promote the podcast to bring it to life. I don’t do that just once, I do it daily. I’m working on some aspects of this podcast every day.
For me, I can’t just love the dream, I have to love the way to the dream. This is important because you will stay with this dream for a long time. We must love the quest, the work, and the building toward the dream too. I think it’s important to make dreams come true by building habits based on projects that you enjoy doing. Otherwise, you won’t have the ability to sustain your efforts. I developed this podcast for at least a year before I pressed play. I had to figure out if I could sustain the poetry writing, sourcing music, recording, editing, and promoting the show. In that exploration, I discovered that I often entered creative flow states; that I became so engrossed in these creation activities that it brought me joy and made me feel good about myself. Habits are built on that type of work.
You need encouragement and clarity to hold the dream present while you build daily habits to realize it. Remember that positive mindset I mentioned? That comes into play here. I cultivate mine through affirmations, journaling, listening to music, and creative passions like poetry. My poems can start sad or frustrated, but they typically turn and then take on a positive tone as I work through feelings and ideas. My poems help sustain my positive mindset. This poem is called Home at Last.
Home at Last
By Jill Hodge
I stepped away and became a flower
I was a butterfly, a sea turtle, fully present in our collective hour
Feeling good to try a different suit, among earthly things that know me not
I stepped away and heard my voice
Tiny at first then booming, electric, and in verse
Rat a tat tat went my fingers
Writing so fast, thoughts raging like storms
With peaks and valleys, on keys that speak, no sing
To float out into the ether and glide on gossamer wings
I stepped away to smell plumeria
It was everywhere and lingered right above my head
I could touch it so thick and sweet
Beaconing new feelings as I sauntered down bustling streets
Afoot I was and not on holiday
I was finding myself
Someone I thought I’d lost along the way
Head tucked down till I’d lost at least an inch of neck from ducking storm clouds
A hope to not be found
I stepped away from life around the edges and
Fully steeped, stepped away from dangling off ledges
Caged and bleak
I stepped away and found myself at play within the silence
For I could hear myself, sit with myself
A little black pearl nestled in the bed of a deep green kelp forest
Home at last, I found myself
In this poem, I’ve spent so much time dodging bullets and tucking my head down, spent so much time ruminating and asking negative questions, that my metamorphosis into a sea turtle is a respite. I need this time in beauty, in Hawaii's nature and old valleys, to find myself again.
Before I took my first trip to Hawaii, I knew I was lost. I had lost some of my zest for life, but I didn’t know I’d have to travel outside New York to find myself. When I’m on the island of Oahu, I feel just right. My body feels good, my senses are the happiest they’ve been in my whole life; my view of the world is expansive.
I look forward to moving to Hawaii, learning the language, reading and talking about the native ways and traditions, and honoring the land and sea. The place that honors who I am and helps me find myself. That is my new dream. I work toward it daily, I will it into existence with a positive mindset and an affirming inner voice, and I silence the critics and negative thoughts that can destroy my dream. Like sheltering a delicate flower from the elements, I must shield my inner dreams, keep them close to my heart, and use them as fuel to build new worlds.
Journal Prompts to Support Your Dreams
This week as you journal, ask yourself about your interior state. Do you have a dream or two? Are you willing and able to work toward it? Have you set an intention to support it? And will you try to walk away from negative thoughts to protect it? Here are this week’s journal prompts. I’d love to hear what you come up with. DM me on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share an affirmation that’s working for you.
A dream is personal, and only you know if you can achieve it. Don’t let your negative thoughts sway you from investigating and working toward your dreams. It may be a hard, long road to realize your potential, so use your mind to be an ally, not a crutch. You determine your thoughts, so recast them in a brighter hue and put them to work toward your dreams.
Until next time, I hope you feed your dreams from the bright side of the beat. 🌞
Podcast Music: My thanks to all the musicians who make incredible music and have the courage to put it out into the world. All music for my podcast is sourced and licensed for use via Soundstripe.
Songs in this podcast episode: Beneath a Whisper by EVOE; Slide by GEMM; Crystal Soul by Wayfair; Lucid Dreams by Craig Allen Fravel; Pyaar Kee Seemaen by Cast of Characters
Resources: The Cultural Gardens at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
LTVF Season Two Music Playlist: Check out the songs that inspire me, and connect with artists from many genres who add to our collective, human soundtrack. [set up this playlist]
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