Guard Your Dreams: a Lesson From the Garden

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Karen Fisher-Alaniz is a freelance writer and published author. She holds a master's degree in education and taught special education for 14-years. She is a frequent speaker on veteran's issues, and teaches workshops on memoir writing. She teaches a life story writing course at her local community college. At midlife, she found herself dealing with health issues, divorce, and the loss of a job she loved. She shares her journey of starting over at midlife on 8 Women Dream every Sunday morning. Her dream is to build a writing life, and find her writing voice, while restoring her 100-year old home. She dreams of writing best-selling books in her own voice. Karen lives in the pacific northwest with her family.
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Guard Your Dreams: Purple crocus from my garden

When the time is right – your dream will bloom!

The unrelenting winter weather has dominated the news for weeks. What’s interesting, but barely mentioned by most forecasters is that here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve experienced quite the opposite. In my 50-years, I’ve never had crocus, those first signs of spring, completely bloom out and dry up by the end of February.

Though I’m vaguely aware that the unseasonably warm weather might not be all positive, it sure is nice step outside and feel the warmth of the sun, when winter is not even officially over yet.

I moved into my “new” 100-year old house in June of 2014.

So, this time last year, I wasn’t in the house yet. I don’t fully know what spring plants have been waiting beneath the ground, to poke their heads up when the time is just right. I know little about what’s planted here. I do know that at this moment, winter’s rage has left my yard with many shades of brown; broken sticks and limbs, dry dirt, nondescript leaves; a cornucopia of nothingness. It’s disheartening to see the house I love surrounded in dry death.

But as my adopted neighborhood comes alive, I am moved to join my neighbors. Over the last week or two, I have seen a neighbor here and there; pulling a few weeds, bringing out hoses, and bags of bark, and standing back to overlook an area, planning perhaps – what to plant in the coming weeks.

I pulled out some tools; clippers, loppers, and a narrow rake. Careful at first, I clipped back a thick ground cover. But when I realized it was pulling up easily, I switched to my rake. Carefully I raked. Dead foliage easily came up and away, as if being pushed away by this years green.

Thicker vines challenged me; it took two hands, and most of my strength, to pull it out and I marveled at how strong something clearly devoid of life could hold on. My shoulders began to ache. I switched hands often, letting my left hand dominate and then the right and back again.

Then something caught my eye. Color.

Perhaps a toy from last year’s play with Curly (granddaughter), or a broken piece of ceramic pot. I looked closer; a flower? Could there really be color beneath all of this nothingness. Surely not. But there was.

Clumps of tiny purple violets.

Bunches of buttery yellow crocus.

Perfect purple crocus.

Guard Your Dreams: Within the seedling of your dream is everything you need!

Your dream – waiting to be uncovered.

The crocus I’d seen in the garden in February had already dried up. But these? These were just waiting to be uncovered. At first, I hadn’t even been sure that this was the thing to do – removing last year’s waste.

What if this was one of those plants that needs it’s stems and bundles of roots in order to flourish the next year? What if I destroyed what the plant needed? But I took a risk and the reward was great. I stood back, filled with wonder at what had been there all along – these pretty little flowers.

They’d bloomed where they were – beneath the guck, unseen. Because that’s what they were meant to do. Bloom.

With purpose I walked slowly around my yard. Signs I had missed in previous days and weeks were everywhere. Every shade of green pushed through the ground, buds on trees, and bulbs pushing through the ground in greens, purples, and mauves broke ground. As I look at the signs of life in my yard, I think about the women who planted them.

Though my 1910 Craftsman house is more than 100-years old, it has only had a handful of owners. The beauty planted here, by women of another generation, is a gift. It connects me to them, and them to me.

Guard Your Dreams: My dog, Togo.

Togo followed me around the yard – as I looked for signs of life.

There’s something magical about discovering what another woman of vision has sown into my yard, my life. Did she find solace in bringing forth life, as I do? Was she a wife, a lover, a mother? Did she sow her troubles, her joys, her frustrations into this soil that now yields beautiful flowers.

In my imagination, she did.

All winter, these signs of life were working – unseen. Within that bulb or that tiny seed, was everything it needed to produce life. It’s true with people too. Our souls are churning, a work deep within us which can’t be seen from the outside. Why? Because it’s not our time, our season, to bloom. It’s during this time that we are most vulnerable. We don’t look any different on the outside.

In fact, we may look more haggard than ever.

This is the time that our friends, family, acquaintances will do one of two things; water our seeds, providing sunshine, or stomp our new beginnings into the ground. They usually don’t mean to. In fact, most of the time, it’s quite by accident; a word here, a reaction there. But this too we can learn from.

Dreams are precious. As you do the work to change your life, you must remember this. Not everyone deserves to know your goals and aspirations. We must be ever-so-careful who we let into our life and even more careful about who we let speak words into our lives. You must guard your dreams.

3 People to Avoid When Growing Your Dream:

1. The gossiper: We all have friends who like to know what’s going on with everyone. They are often the very people who will speak untruth about others, and don’t kid yourself. They’ll do the same to you.

2. The Know-it-all: She lives a small life. In conversations, she starts arguments about things she knows nothing about. Or if she does know a lot about the subject, she isn’t open to new ideas. Her mind will never be changed.

3. The Negative Nilly: Her problems are always worse than yours. When you come down with a cold, she has the flu. When you’re having relationship problems – hers are worse. When you see her number on your caller-ID, you know the ensuing conversation will be all about her.

Unfortunately, we can be drawn to these people. As I strive to create a life I love, I’m aware that I have far more control over things than I ever imagined. If someone I enjoy spending time with is also someone who brings me down, it’s time to modify the relationship. I don’t mean you have to stop being friends with everyone in your life, or everyone who doesn’t “get” you.

What I mean is that you need to look honestly at the people you spend the most time with. In your mind, sit them down at your kitchen table for a cup of tea. When you stand up an hour later, are you refreshed? Do you have new ideas? Are you encouraged? If not, it might be time to set some boundaries around those relationships.

My world as a newly single woman could get very small.

I’m challenged to find women my age who are striving to learn something new, create something different, and not just go with the flow that got them through for the last 40 or 50-years. That’s not an easy task. That’s what I love about 8 Women Dream! This website isn’t just another place to spend a few minutes reading or looking at the pictures (Yes, I can see you – haha).

It’s not even solely about Catherine Hughes dream to create a place for women to document their dreams, while others follow along. To me – speaking only of myself – it’s about creating a movement. Just because you’ve done X-Y-Z for the past 20-years, doesn’t mean you have to stay on that trajectory.

Change is good. It’s painful. It’s hard.

But it’s also rewarding. Imagine what a wonderful world we would live in if women from every walk of life – pursued that thing that she dreams about. And when that happens – imagine our influence on our friends, sisters, our daughters and granddaughters.

As you go about the next week, I want you to think on these people in your life:

3 People You Need to Grow Your Dream

1. The Relentless Encourager: This is the person who is overflowing with encouragement – she just can’t help it. When you complain or lament to her, she is quick to always recognize all that you’ve accomplished. You sometimes leave her presence thinking that she never lets you complain. (that’s perfect)

2. The Thinker: This is the woman who is educated, whether in the traditional sense or otherwise. She reads about something and curiosity arises; she has to know more. She’s interested in what you have to say. She wants to know what you know. Regardless of her age, she is a lifelong learner who spends time at seminars, workshops, and lectures. She wants to know things, and she sees you as someone who has something to teach her too.

3. The Action Hero: This is a woman of action. While others dream or start and stop a hundred dreams, she is a do-er. She not only puts feet to her dreams, she sticks to it. She takes action steps toward her dreams each and every day. Outside forces don’t deter her. She wants your dreams to come true too.

As you think about the people in your life – you’ll probably see what’s lacking. Maybe you have encouraging friends, but none that take action. Maybe you have friends who are lifelong learners, but not friends who encourage you. Whatever the case may be, just by being cognizant of who is in your life, you will begin to gravitate toward people who will lift you up.

Remember: guard your dream. Protect it in it’s infancy. Honor your dream by carefully, and thoughtfully considering who you will tell about it. Your dream is sacred. It’s yours alone. Like the bulbs in my garden, you have everything you need within you – for your dream to bloom and flourish.

What’s your dream?

Karen Fisher-Alaniz
Starting Over at Mid-life

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