The Night Before Tomorrow

I begin to prepare.

Mentally.

Physically.

Never knowing quite for sure what it will bring. But knowing that once I close my eyes. For good. It will be here. Whether I am ready or not.

Back and forth I go. It will be a great day says one part of my brain. And I mentally create a list of all the things that I hope to accomplish tomorrow. A smile spreads across my face. Because I know it is definitely possible. Why wouldn’t it be? I have had days like this before. Recently even.

But then doubt creeps in the back door. Uninvited. But making its presence known nevertheless. Why does it always show up uninvited? It plants unwanted seeds in my subconscious that always push and shove their way to front. What if this happens? What if that happens? It’s happened before. Recently even.

Focus Jon! Stay positive!

You can beat this!

Anxiety stinks!

But it’s real!

And I experience it. More often than I’d like to admit. Usually it hits me the moment I regain consciousness in the morning. How is that possible? I have just had the entire night to dream of rainbows and unicorns. Yet they disappear the instant the possibility of the new day becomes real.

I don’t get it. I went to sleep happy. The last words spoken to my family members are usually I love you or involve my son making some sort of butt joke. Five year old boys. You gotta love ’em.

So what gives?

Why do I wake up with feelings of anxiety? Is it because I fear what might go wrong more than I dream of what could go right? It’s certainly possible.

Sure. Tomorrow may not go well. But it may very well be the best day of my life.

Is it because I am making it too easy for doubt to creep in the backdoor? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s it. Doubt is something that every single one of us experiences. We have heard time and time again from successful people, whatever that means, that they too, go through periods of self-doubt.

And yet they persevere!

I need to start spending more time thinking about the possibility of all the awesome things that could take place in my day. Yet, instead doubt and negativity creep in the back door and take a seat right at my kitchen table.

It’s as if I have set the table for them and have offered to make them a plate!

What I need to start doing is leaving my front door unlocked. Better yet, why not leave it open? So that dreams and bucket lists can pull up a chair. I know they have been knocking. Why have I been so reluctant to let them in?

No longer!

Starting tomorrow I am leaving the front door open. I know that doubt and anxiety will still sneak in the back door. But from now on they are going to have to sit across the table from my dreams. And my bucket list that has had to wait outside for way too long. I am curious to see what happens next.

So will this mean that I will no longer experience anxiety and doubt? Of course not. That’s part of human nature. But I am going to start dreaming out loud and I am going to start working on my bucket list!

It is the night before tomorrow.

And I am excited for what the next day may bring. I am a little nervous too. But so what?

That’s life!

It’s time to open the front door!

 

Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you have tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.

Pope John XXIII

* I wrote this post over 2 years ago. Before I started blogging for BAM Radio and before my podcast My Bad. So while I still experience anxiety and doubt—it’s not as bad as it used to be. And you wanna know what else? I am going after my dreams. Each and every day!

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Tonight You Dream

Photo taken by Andreas Wagner

Photo taken by Andreas Wagner

Do you happen to remember the very last thought you had last night before you fell asleep?

Highly unlikely.

But what about the moments leading up to it? I’m guessing if you’re at all like me, many of the your last conscious moments are spent thinking about what you have to do the next day. It’s human nature to mentally prepare for what we know lies ahead. Yet, oftentimes this mental exercise can lead to stress, anxiety and difficulty falling asleep.

What if we flipped it? What if, instead of thinking about what we have to do the next day, we try to think about what we want to do the next day? Or the next week? Or the next year? In a sense, we’d be dreaming before we even fell asleep.

I have been trying. I’m not always successful. But I am getting better. One of my dreams is to one day publish a book that many people value and find pleasure in reading. So as I begin to drift off, I imagine all that needs to be done to accomplish this goal. I know that it will take much hard work, effort and support. And I am able to picture what that will look like. I am also able to picture what it will look when I have accomplished my goal.

I am not naive enough to think that other thoughts won’t creep into my head and interrupt my reverie. They do. They will. They have. But, if I stack my dreams high enough, thoughts of obligation and worry will have a much more difficult time breaking through.

Let me tell you, it is a much more pleasant way to fall asleep. As educators, we have a lot on our plates. And they are increasingly becoming more and more full. We spend a lot of time second guessing ourselves and thinking of ways we can be better tomorrow. And there is nothing wrong with trying to be better each day.

Yet, there comes a point when we must accept that we are doing the best that we can. Constantly aiming to get better does not mean that we are currently not good enough. It simply means we are are where we are. And that’s okay.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

We must afford ourselves some time to feel good. Because it is too damn easy to feel bad. That is why I am suggesting we attempt to fall asleep differently. Try it tonight. Start small. But each day add on to your stack of dreams. Until eventually, they become so high, that worries don’t even stand a chance. At least not until the next day.

The cool thing about this approach is that the conditions are usually just right. It is quiet. It is dark. And it is still. No matter what we have going on in our lives, we all have at least a few sacred minutes before we fall asleep to build our castle of dreams.

I think of my son who is only four years old. And I wonder what he must think about as he is drifting off. The other day he slept in bed with us. And with the lights out and the room still, he asked my wife and I questions that I would have never thought crossed his mind.

So who made Jesus?

God, we said.

Well then if God made Jesus, who made God?

What!?

My son is four and this was what was going through his mind as he was drifting off to sleep?

Clearly my son was not worried about the next day and he was not dwelling on the day that he had just had. Magnificent!

Oh to be four again. Maybe we can be. If just for a small portion of our day. Maybe we can spend our last waking moments dreaming and thinking and pondering. But not worrying or stressing. Not mentally going through our to-do lists. There will be plenty of time for that when we wake up.

And once we learn to do this. Once we become master architects and are able to stack dreams skillfully. Then maybe we can teach our students to do the same. Because I know many of them go to bed like us. Filled with worry and anxiety. But maybe, just maybe. We can earn our wings together. And give ourselves the gift that is long since overdue. I think it’s worth a try. What do we have to lose? Sleep?

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!

J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Fairy Tales