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De File - Learning to Dream
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cbertsch
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Learning to Dream
Lately, as part of her ongoing metamorphosis into a person with an even more complicated life -- and schedule -- my daughter has taken up running for her school. Her first meet is this coming Wednesday and she is both excited and nervous about it. I told her that, from a psychological perspective, it's not that different from a live theatrical or musical performance, which she knows how to do very well. But the fact that she still feels like the proverbial fish out of water with the sporty girls socially is surely amping up her anxiety, since the desire to do well in the race is only part of the pressure she is feeling.

Since she has never done this sort of thing before -- unless you count her single jujitsu competition, when an older boy who was a wrestler thrashed her badly -- I'm not sure what to expect. I do hope it goes well, or at least well enough, though, because she has serious talent. She has always had the long-build that's suited for distance running, but lacked the fitness or the will to put her physical advantages to use. Now, in the wake of the Olympics and her summer of constant exercise, she has both in abundance.

It's both thrilling and a little scary for me. My deeply ingrained habit is to not let myself dream big or even, in recent years, at all. Passed down from my mother in particular, this accession to the reality principle has the merit of warding off future disappointment. Yet as I'm starting to realize, though, the price is often disappointment, though smaller in scope, in the present and an evasion of challenges that ultimately leaves me even more disappointed than if I had tried something and failed. That's why I'm making every effort not to inflict this burden on my daughter. She is a dreamer, but also very determined, and deserves every opportunity to achieve her goals.

Mind you, those goals are frequently the sort that I would have ruled out for myself at her age, much less now. To give the most extreme illustration, she has said that her goal as a runner is to make an Olympic team. That sounds extraordinarily improbable, given the odds and her late start at serious athletic pursuits. Still, although I did tell her that making the team in four years, for Rio, is not very realistic, I also didn't tell her to aim lower.

Maybe if she didn't have the ability I would have thought it an act of kindness to do so. But given the improvements she has already made in her times for the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters and how fast she is currently running -- far faster than any just-started-running-track thirteen-year-old girl should be, by rights -- there's a chance, however slight, that she actually will achieve her goal. And the only way for her to do that is to keep it in front of her as a long-term goal, even if proves to be a mirage shimmering on the horizon in the end.

The more I consider the state of my own life, how hard things have been over the past five years, the more apparent it becomes that one of my biggest problems, if not the very biggest, is my failure to set those sort of goals for myself. When friends ask me where I see myself "down the road," I hem and haw about not being able to see the forest for the branches in my face. But the truth is that I've practically lost the ability to even imagine the forest or at least the sort of forest that I can travel through to a place I really want to be. I'm ever so grateful that the experience of spending time with my big-dreaming daughyter is helping me to see how badly I need a heading if I am to reach that clearing I clearly need to find.

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alsoname From: alsoname Date: August 26th, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
My deeply ingrained habit is to not let myself dream big or even, in recent years, at all. Passed down from my mother in particular, this accession to the reality principle has the merit of warding off future disappointment. Yet as I'm starting to realize, though, the price is often disappointment, though smaller in scope, in the present and an evasion of challenges that ultimately leaves me even more disappointed than if I had tried something and failed.

[...]

But the truth is that I've practically lost the ability to even imagine the forest or at least the sort of forest that I can travel through to a place I really want to be.


Jeez, with the exception of the stuff about your mother, I pretty much could have written this. (My mother told me to study whatever was interesting and not worry about practicality because "everything will fall into place," which also turned out to be lousy advice.) In fact, there's really not much I can say in elaboration, you put it so perfectly. And now I'm kind of depressed, not that I don't think these kind of thoughts every day anyway.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks for commenting.

It is depressing. Part of what gets me down now is that I read a lot about applying mindfulness to everyday life, focusing on the here-and-now instead of the past or future. There's a lot of good that comes from that practice, but it also has a way of reinforcing my failure to dream big enough. I need to have a much more robust and detailed plan in place if I'm going to zero in on the present without letting it become a paralytic state.
barca_k From: barca_k Date: August 27th, 2012 04:32 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is one of the most absorbing posts I have ever read.

Most interesting is your meditation on entertaining - however warily - the idea of "sky is the limit" achievement for your daughter, but not for yourself.

What is remarkable here, to me, is your self-awareness. & the way you explain it. This post works on so many levels that every time I read it, I notice a new thing.

I'll try to pay enough attention at least to notice if she marches in with the rest of the burgeoning American contingent in Rio, dressed in whatever ridiculous outfit it has been ordained that they shall wear. It could happen; every Olympic story is improbable, as far as I can tell.

But... the future. What a cipher.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 27th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
First off, it's so great to hear from you! I know I've been far too scarce here over the past year. I'm still trying to remedy that, though my daily routine makes it much harder than it used to be.

I'm very glad you got so much out of the post. I was working through some things I hadn't even articulated before and not sure I'd managed to make my point. But, from what you say, I did.

My daughter has her first meet Wednesday -- cross-country, rather than track -- so we'll see how things shape up when she's in competition. The distance she'll be running isn't one she has practiced much, but she does have that will to win that I apparently lack.

Or lack at the moment, I should probably say. I'm trying hard to figure out what the impediments to my dreaming bigger. I know that all the atrophying and/or at-risk relationships with people I'm close to are a major factor, but I don't just want to take the advice of certain friends, who tell me that it's obvious what I need to do, as truth without more self-reflection.
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Charlie Bertsch
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ABOUT DE FILE
You're looking at content from my Live Journal, which I have been keeping since 2003. I consider it a personal blog, though it lacks stream-of-consciousness revelations that typify that genre.

That said, if you manage to discern the confessional mode within entries that are superficially tight-lipped, I will reward you handsomely. Or at least pretend to do so.

In addition to reflections, however mediated, on my daily activities, De File features periodic excavations of material from my "files," a revelation sure to disturb anyone who has seen my garage. It's an experiment in integrating past and present, perhaps with a little redemption along the way.

Politics is always on my mind, but rarely explicit here. I’m working on a theory about what personal writing like this does to literary identification and why some people resist its pull so powerfully. But my goal is to make that theory dissolve in my practice, a density in liquid.

You'll note that I have links to blogs not on LiveJournal directly above, as well as assorted websites of note. The blogs I read regularly on LiveJournal itself fall under "FRIENDS" at the top, for those of you unfamiliar with LJ’s workings.

You can write me. I'm "cbertsch" before the circle-a and "comcast.net" after it.
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