Big Dreams, Wild Imagination

I love discovering recurring themes that seem to bubble up as little nudges from the Universe. Over the past few days, the concept of “dreaming” has been weaving its way into my meditation, inspirational quotes, music and conversations. I have been sorting through a box of old keepsakes recently and found a brightly colored slip of paper with “Dream Big” scrawled across it. It brought back a flood of memories and the impetus to encourage myself to “dream big”.

It was a time of great struggle in my life. The dream I’d been living was now broken, a thousand jagged pieces scattered on the floor. My dear Skip had passed away so suddenly and I entered a year long fog that was thick, heavy and murky. I asked myself a million questions about what I was supposed to do with my life now. I’d lost my compass. As I slowly processed my grief, I found that I was also asking bigger questions about life than I had previously pondered.

Just before he died, I had confided to Skip that I was growing discontent with my banking career and he listened intently to my thoughts and feelings. He agreed that it was probably time for a change and said “whatever you decide to do, Amy, I will support you. Dream big.

I wrote DREAM BIG on a brightly colored piece of paper and placed it on my desk in the home office Skip and I shared. Skip’s desk was neatly organized with folders, tape dispenser, pens and cubbies full of small note pads, envelopes, stamps, bills to be paid. My desk had inspirational quotes of assorted shapes, colors and sizes randomly taped all over it. I had colorful journals, art supplies and a boxful of blank cards for all occasions. There was a small part of my desk that mirrored his, with tidy organization for serious things like work, bills and household to do lists. The “Dream Big” quote was smack dab in the middle of my desk.

A year after his passing, I found myself staring blankly at that quote and thinking mostly of a broken dream.

What I have learned about sitting on the floor with your broken life puzzle is that you often linger with more questions than answers. I believe this is a meaningful part of life and it must be done alone. I was attempting to put my life back together without pieces that were no longer a possibility. The questions that I found myself asking could only be answered by me. It was a leap of faith to follow what my heart was urging me to do. Oddly enough, what once scared me, or held me back, from taking action on a 15 year dream now seemed to be my saving grace. That dream was to have my own business.

I realized that all the fears I once had about the possibility of failing at my dream of having my own business paled next to facing the reality of both breast cancer at age 40 and the loss of my husband at age 50. It put fear in its place — the rearview mirror. I boldly took a leap of faith and I quit my 25 year career in financial services.

My business idea came from imagining a beautiful lingerie boutique for women who were facing breast cancer — a feminine, compassionate environment that was the polar opposite of the “impersonal and clinical feeling” medical equipment supply store that I had relied on for years. I had a bulging file full of ideas and a wild imagination for my vision of a better approach to help women ease into their “new normal” after breast cancer surgeries. Ironically enough, my timing for actually implementing my dream business was probably the best it could have been. I opened Annabella’s, a lingerie and breast care boutique, in Main Line, Philadelphia just when the local hospital systems were launching comprehensive breast care centers.

Dreaming big and imagination go hand in hand. Collectively hospital systems, business owners, medical teams and breast cancer patients had a bigger, better vision in mind for delivering holistic health care. Fifteen years after my own diagnosis, I witnessed a transformation in breast cancer care unfolding across the country. In my own community, I was able to be an active participant in the process. The opportunities I was given to both teach and learn far exceeded my wildest dreams.

This brings me back to this present moment, January 2021. My current meditation pack in Headspace has been encouraging a “dreamlike” quality to the meditation practice. A Toni Morrison quote turned up in an inspirational email. It read, “dream a little before you think.” As I walked the dogs in the morning, I listened to a song that was begging to be heard — Rainbow Connection sung so sweetly by Kermit the Frog. I found myself singing along about finding connection….the lovers, the dreamers and me. I was captivated by a study that revealed that small children are so much more innovative than adults about the plethora of ways a simple chair could be used for a variety of purposes. What might we learn from them when we give ourselves the freedom to DREAM BIG?

My answer to that question came while listening to Caroline Myss’ engaging presentation entitled “It’s Time to Imagine Something New”. Caroline is a New York Times best selling author and an internationally renowned speaker in the field of human consciousness, health, energy and a diverse array of personal development programs. Her discussion about our capacity to imagine was so enlightening and I found myself laughing as she pointed out that when it comes to negavity our imaginations know no bounds.

If you doubt that you possess a creative imagination, here’s some food for thought. Do you lie awake at night thinking about your worst fears? Do you come up with worse case scenarios for things that are happening in your life? Do you ever say “I cannot imagine having the courage to say or do that?” Caroline points out that some of our most creative and complex imagined scenarios come from the shadows of fear.

Rarely do people go over to the positive side of their imagination, she says. What if we could shift — and imagine the good, the better, the best – with the same wild abandon that we do for the worst? Imagination used this way sees what is possible. I was reminded of the phrase “the possibilities are endless”.

Caroline stressed that a lot of the problems we have in life require something new, something we have never thought about before. We often get stuck with only things that are familiar to us or limited by our worst case scenarios. This is true not only for our personal lives, but also for the larger complex problems that our communities and country are facing. The time is right for “out of the box” ideas that our most positive imaginations can conjure.

Brene Brown has been telling us for many years that the birthplace of creativity and invention is vulnerability.

Brene defines vulnerability as risk, uncertainty and courage. When I think of the people I most admire who are willing to risk for a good cause, who are unshakable in their integrity in the face of uncertainty and who show courage to face hard things, I think of them as fearless and brave. Maybe this is just what Brene is striving for — a reframing of what it means to be vulnerable.

Little children don’t limit their imaginations with negavity. They don’t consider risk, uncertainty and courage. They frame their adventures and innovations as opportunities, possibilities. They are fearless, inquisitive, playful. Caroline Myss points out that adults are the ones who place limitations on their imaginations and it is often out of fear. Fear blocks creativity.

Every day I witness evidence of the power of positive imagination, vulnerability giving birth to creativity and innovation, and a big dream of creating a better world. It unfolds before my eyes as I watch parents raising children in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. The creativity and patience they bring to a series of unique circumstances is heroic.

We can chose how we frame our problems. Consider a colorful, expansive frame that invites you to tap into your wildest imagination and see what is possible!

Dream Big. Imagine the world you want for your children and grandchildren. The possibilities are endless.

Recommended Resources:

Dream Big: Engineering Our World

Caroline Myss, It’s Time to Imagine Something New

Mental Reframing

Rainbow Connection, by Kermit the Frog

Greater Good Magazine – Purpose