I have no idea how young I was when I started dreaming of flying. I do remember the fantastic feeling of standing in a meadow, surrounded by giant trees, then jumping up in the air. Arms stretched out in front of me, Superman style, my hair streaming back from my head, my dress stretched back modestly along my outstretched legs, I soared effortlessly above the treetops in seconds. The sun was always warm on my skin, the breeze was always gentle and comforting against my body, and the trees were all perfectly shaped evergreens as I flew above them. Then, when I was ready to rest for a moment, I’d glide gently down onto a huge tree branch where I could rest my back against the sturdy trunk. I’d stay there, swaying in the wind, watching animals pass under the tree completely unaware of my gaze. After awhile I’d just leap back up into the air and fly wherever I wanted.
I had the same dream night after night, and found it incredibly soothing. It was my favorite way to put myself to sleep, especially if the day had ended with tension in the house from fighting between my parents or my brothers. I can remember getting lost in the sensations of the dream, until it felt more real than the bed and pillow I rested on. Sometimes I’d go to bed to escape something in the household, deliberately closing my eyes and leaping into the air to find that feeling of peace that I found nowhere else.
One day in school I made a horrible mistake and told my teacher about the flying dreams. They were special to me, and I wanted to share them with a teacher I liked and trusted. She gave a disgusted look and said, “That’s crazy. You know people can’t fly!”
I can remember feeling betrayed and hurt by her reaction, but said nothing back to her. That night, as soon as I crawled into bed, I closed my eyes and immediately found myself in the meadow. Needing the peace my dream always brought, I reached my hands up and tried to leap into the air. But it didn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, my feet remained firmly attached to the ground. I can still remember feeling an incredible, profound sense of loss at finding myself unable to soar into the sky. Instead of the tranquility of my dream, all I felt was the awful finality and truth of that teacher’s words to me.
May times in the months and years to come I’d remember my wonderful old dream, but was never able to recapture the feeling. I’d sometimes even try to conjure up some new flying dream, but was never able to imagine myself getting off the ground. Through the years I stopped trying, but I never lost the faint sense of grief for what I’d lost.
Then one day as an adult I finally absorbed the message that we all create and shape our own worlds through our imagination and desires. I’m sure I’d heard the same thing many times, but it finally hit home. That night I waited until everyone else in the house was asleep, then closed my eyes and imagined myself in the meadow of my childhood dream. I reached my arms up above my head, and leaped up into the air. To my amazement I went straight up above the trees, then flew like a bird right up to the clouds. Then I flew down onto a branch of the tallest tree, and rested against the trunk. Incredible! Not only could I fly in my dreams again, but I also reconnected with the same incredible sense of peace.
When I regained my ability to dream of flying I also understood the incredible power of the words we use. The teacher could have been more sensitive and tactful when she told me people couldn’t fly, but I’m sure she had no idea of the devastating effect her words had on me. This personal experience has taught me how easily a dream can be crushed by a thoughtless phrase, and how difficult it can be to regain it.