The Secret Dream Ingredients of Innocence and Magic

The following two tabs change content below.
Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

Latest posts by Lisa Powell (see all)

It was a chilly March day. We were at his favorite beach.

We had driven an hour down the coast from my house in San Francisco to get there, chatting and laughing with the radio playing in the background, my bare feet propped against the dashboard, flip flops kicked off.

It was our first date, dear reader, and already, I was smitten…

We finished our picnic, and lay down in the sand in our T-shirts and jeans. I crawled into his arms to get warm.

Later, he would kiss me. But first, he held me.

I remember feeling his heart beat, the wind whipping over us, hearing the waves crash on the shore, when three birds flew overhead.

There was something about the simple purity of the moment, the sounds and sensations, the warmth of his body, the elegance of birds in flight, and the feeling of it, the rush of a wild new crush, my heart-a-flutter, that made it unforgettable. It was one of those perfect moments, etched indelibly in my memory, a snapshot frozen in time.

I emailed my sister the next day to tell her, “I think I’m in love.”

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage…
Fast forward a few years. The wedding is in just a few weeks.

And no, dear reader, Steve isn’t marrying me…

Life doesn’t always work out as we hope or plan. Yet even the greatest losses can sometimes turn into the greatest gifts.

Steve would inadvertently turn into one of my Zen teachers, become my “accidental guru.”

Our dance in life taught me more about myself, what I want and who I am, than anyone had up to that point.

Steve helped me find myself, helped me tap into my own deepest sense of joy, and to find a kind of freedom I’d never known before so intensely – the freedom to be myself completely and to live in each moment as it was unfolding, without fear of what was coming next.

They Met Across the Interwebs…
I met Steve not long after separating from my ex-husband. I’d been so afraid to enter the dating world again.

After several months of shying away from men, I wrote down a vision for what I was seeking in a man and in a romance. Three days later I met Steve.

As if I had dreamt him up, he delivered everything on my list – passion, whirlwind romance, laughter, joy and heat – and turned me into a giggling, blushing, frantically texting teenage girl in no time.

Oh we were over the top. We joked that this would be the Grand Epic Romance, that our first date would be one for the movie marquees – the Greatest First Date in the History of the Universe (or, at the very least, the greatest first date between Lisa and Steve).

Before we even met in person (we connected first on eharmony), we declared that the “world was on fire.” Steve joked about baby names.

He told me he didn’t need to see other women. I canceled my date with another eharmony guy before I even met Steve. This made him giggle so hard he spit his water out all over his notebook, just from the sheer hilarity of being “the other man” before we’d even connected live.

It was ridiculous, dramatic, hot, campy fun.

Our lives were going to be the “Endless Frolic.”

We Hadn’t Even Met Yet!
And then we met . . . and yes it was all laughter and sweet kisses, fun and naughty fantasies. We texted or emailed back and forth all day long, joking and teasing and bantering, plotting out what we would do to each other later.

Our emails and texts were so hot that I’m surprised my computer and phone didn’t just burst into flames.

We talked about the trips we’d take – Los Cabos, Whistler, Tahoe, Taos. We gave each other sweet and silly nicknames.

I was in so deep, hooked hopelessly on the Steve love-drug.

The day after our second 12-hour date, I said to a co-worker, “Stick a fork in me. I’m done.”

And Here is Where Your Heroine Loses Her Sh*t…
And then, right before our one-month anniversary, Steve decided that things were too intense for him. He needed space.

I wish that I could say I handled things gracefully and let him take all the time he needed to recover from his own broken engagement (Steve had left his fiancee a few months before meeting me) and just encouraged him to do the things he wanted to do, to go “be Steve” for a while and come back to me if and when he was ready. Given the chance to do it over, that’s what I’d do today.

But in that moment, I had no sense of distance or space from Steve, and I wasn’t ready to give him up. I had become a love junkie. I wanted my fix. 

I vacillated between adoring Steve and excoriating him – how! could! he! leave! me!

I used to laugh with Steve about what a little hippie Zen girl I was, meditating daily. Yet I acted anything but Zen. All I could focus on was that the thing I thought I most wanted in the world – i.e. Steve – was being taken away from me.

Our break-up therefore was just as over the top as our romance. The day we broke up, we emailed each other back and forth 75 times (I counted).

Steve’s “need for space” became a permanent break, which was hardly shocking, considering the daily barrage of love and hate mail he got from me.

I really just about became the poster-girl for “what not to do” during a break-up.

Revising The Story Of “The One Who Got Away…”
For years I was so mad at myself for “screwing things up” with Steve. If only we’d moved more slowly. If only I’d let him go more gracefully. If only we could have dated longer. If only I had not gone completely crazy.

If only, if only, if only . . .

My “go-to” fantasy whenever I wasn’t happy with my life in the moment was this happy-la-la-land I imagined I would have inhabited with Steve, where every day was full of bliss, hot sex, utter hilarity, endless adventures.

What I forgot, what I lost sight of, was that creating a fun adventurous life doesn’t actually require Steve (and, by the way, case in point, I am living one).

Steve is not the source of all laughter. Steve is not the Universe’s go-to source of joy. Steve is not the only one who can generate passion and heat.

That is the “myth of Steve.”

Paradoxically, Steve was a catalyst for me to remember that my happiness lies in my own hands, and to recover my own sense of innocence and magic.

During our brief courtship, in my state of glee, I tumbled into the happy childhood I never really had (because I was such an anxious, overachieving child, taking the troubles of the world onto my shoulders at a very young age).

Meeting Steve reminded me that simply enjoying life is important, that life is as much about the joy in the journey as about reaching any “end goals.”

Recovering A Sense of Innocence and Magic…
So Steve was my teacher, but not “the one” for me.

And – let’s get real – so much of what I felt for Steve was steeped in fantasy. We dated for one month, which is a blink of an eye in a lifetime.

Yes, it was one helluva wonderful month.

However, a lot of what I grieved was the idea of what “could be,” the plans we’d talked about that never happened, the dreams for my life that started to grow jungle-wild when I thought I had found a willing, dedicated, joyful partner for me.

I am grateful that somehow I have recovered my own sense of innocence and magic again along the way because for a while there, I thought it died with Steve, with the ending of our romance.

I felt like I temporarily lost my innocence again when Steve ended things because I followed my heart with him so blindly, and felt a deep sense of trust and security both in Steve and the future of our relationship. 

Writing my book is such a gift because I get to rewrite not the history of what actually happened in my life, but my perception of it. Writing about the past has helped me to make sense of it, finish healing from it, and to bring closure to what still felt incomplete.

I get to decide what the story of my life means, and learn from what happened to me.

Perception is Reality…
Steve used to say, “Perception is reality.”  If I believe that my life is tragic, I get to live that reality.

If I believe that everything happens for a reason, that’s my truth.

When I viewed Steve as “the one who got away,” it made me sad.

When I look at it instead as a sweet perfect moment in time that taught me about myself, blew the doors of my heart open wide, and allowed me to believe deeply in the possibilities of love, I am filled with gratitude.

I think I learned more about myself from that experience than I have through any other experience in my life so far.

I had to shine the light on my own darkness, and to acknowledge the role I played in how the “drama” unfolded. I had to grow up.

Still Enjoying The Endless Frolic!
Now, that said, “growing up” doesn’t mean not having ridiculous amounts of fun. Steve reminded me to lighten up on myself and to enjoy life, and his version of “enlightenment” still resonates for me to this day. I am all about the fun.

Steve shows up in my book, and yet he’s far from being the main event. The book is about my journey of learning to love myself, as I am, despite the trauma of my early 20s, despite the moments when I fell into despair, despite any mistakes or perceived “failures.”

I am nearly 200 pages into my book now and as I continue to write and revise, I want to focus on the innocence and magic that are at the heart of my life again.

Because my life can be the “Endless Frolic,” with or without Steve. Living joyfully every day, living my dreams, is up to me.

I choose to love my life and to live it fully, giving thanks for the gifts along the way, loving what is and honoring the changes life brings.

I’m grateful that I ever met Steve, grateful that I experienced such a fun, silly, hot, over-the-top romance, and grateful that I learned that the greatest gift that you can give someone you love is freedom.

I’m grateful that knowing Steve ultimately made me a better me.

How do you choose to interpret the things that have happened to you? Can you revise some of your own stories about your life to find more freedom and joy in the now? Can you find the innocence and magic in your own life?


Lisa has launched her dream by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally, and committing to a regular writing schedule — 50 pages completed by December 5th, when she also turned in her first book chapter! She recently achieved another milestone — 150 pages written in her manuscript! Being invited to join was a dream come true, and she looks forward to chronicling her writing process. Lisa is currently bi-coastal with her home in historic Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco.  Lisa’s post day is Tuesday.

  • Rayne

    I think we’ve all had our Steve’s and your thoughts will help others process what happened, why it happened and what it means in the long run. All answers come under the heading: life.

  • I’m confused because I don’t understand how this article discusses how to dream or where to find motivation like your tag line suggests. You write well, but I am looking for specific steps to dreaming. I came here through Yahoo search, so maybe I landed on the wrong article or I am missing something here? Or maybe I misunderstood and this is about dreaming at night when you sleep and not about obtaining a dream? Mike

  • Awww thanks Remy!!!! :) Looking forward to finishing the book, being a mom, and to lasting love whenever that comes along… :)

    It’s amazing how powerful the feelings of a love-crush can be. Incredible that just hearing an old boyfriend’s voice brought that back, right?

    I’m so grateful for the writing/blogging because it really does put things back in perspective for me… Looking back I’m kind of amazed at how hard I fell for Steve, and how long the feelings lasted… considering how short the relationship actually was. Of course we kept in touch and maybe that helped keep the flames burning a bit.

    But goodness, yes, it was a rush in that little moment in time… What fun. I love romance. :) Hot sex, even better ;) (hahaha)


  • Remy, the photographer

    Oh yea not only will you give up the Manolo Blahniks (whatever the hell those are) you eat last, work harder, clean more and put others first for a while. My job is to grow this kid until he can take care of himself…let’s hope that coincides with his leap to college? Yikes.

    I was reminded in your post of someone I recently reconnected with in FB. He was my very first boyfriend ever. Talking with him in 2010 and remembering who he was back then, I find that he’s just a more defined version of his high school self. Which is comforting and strange at the same time. And even tho I we wont reconcile romantically, I can remember ‘those’ feelings and how strong they were, and how crazy that made me…just by hearing his voice.

    I’ll quote 16 candles, one of my all time fave movies – where Molly Ringwald’s character, Samantha tells her father that she likes a boy, and he doesn’t like her, and it hurts really bad. He says, “well that is why they call them crushes. Cause if they were easier, they’d call them something else”

    Thanks for the post. You are going to be a famous writer one day, and an even better mom!


  • Thanks Cath :) I’m looking forward to my completed book too… It is going to be such a joy and relief to be finished. Am enjoying the process of writing it too of course – especially using the story-telling process as a way to reframe how I think about my life.

    I get to write my own “happy ending,” which to me just means being at peace, being happy, enjoying every day, loving my life. I didn’t have that kind of inner contentment for much of my life.

    Some people never find it. I’m hopeful that the stories from my journey will help others find their way to peace faster than I did.

    And here’s to the moms who give up the Manolo Blahnik’s! ;) I’m still single, maybe I should buy a pair now? ;)


    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Please do – they are amazing and I would love to admire them on someone who could do the shoes justice.

      They’d also make pretty weeding shoes … I’d tape a shinny penny on the bottom for you.

      At some point we are celebrating all this in NY!

      • Catherine, Site Admin

        weeding lol WEDDING

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    Ah meHarmony.

    Where you get matched with another side of yourself, which could be why it was difficult to let go of. . . I think it’s better to be matched with someone opposite of us so we can grow. I think that’s the appeal of people you meet in eharmony – it seems you have everything in common and it can be overwhelming.

    But then . . . I’ve been divorced 12 years and plan never to marry again, so there’s that. I have other plans for when I am done being mom. Been there done that. I want complete freedom to go where I want to go and do what I want to do without having to consider someone else.

    I think life is at it’s best (or happiest) when we are giving to others – like when as a parent we buy shoes for our children that they need when you really want those Manolo Blahnik Campari Patent Mary Janes.

    I’m looking forward to your completed book!