A friend recently gifted me her unused Kindle. My beloved Kindle broke about 5 years ago and I'd never replaced it since reading on my smartphone was a passable substitute. I celebrated my new-to-me gadget by revisiting one of my favorite books - The Hills of Tuscany by Ference Máté. Like Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun, Máté was an expat who fell in love with Tuscany, bought a run-down farmhouse and converted it into his dream home. He, a writer, and his wife, a painter, had spent their lives on sailboats and traveling the world. They're basically my idols.
So I'm re-reading this book and I come across a note I must've painstakingly typed into my Kindle using the awkward scrolling letter selection keyboard thingy:
Some people have lost their ability to dream, to connect with their own dreams. Told one time too many to stop dreaming until their child’s hearts finally succumbed. And so they need us, the dreamers, the ones who were too stubborn and unwilling and headstrong to listen for long to what the miserable adults told us we needed to do to stay safe, to live in this world, to die to ourselves. So we dream and we share our dreams knowing that with enough of our sparks we will slowly begin to ignite the fallow kindling in the souls of others. That’s what books are for. That’s what art is for. That’s what travel and Burning Man and comedy and sex are for. It’s all a big playful fuck you to every rule imposed from the outside, every bit of well-intentioned advice you’ve ever been given. Because no one knows what you know. No one can tell you what your heart is whispering to you. But we can share our own heart’s whisperings with others and encourage them to be still, to ignore everyone and everything else, to begin to relearn how to hear the voice of their own heart. And this is the only learning we can give another, the only teaching worth a damn. The only way of truly loving another. Shutting the hell up, keeping your judgments and opinions to yourself, and sharing your own honest pure dreams, your own heart's whisperings.
I have no recollection of writing this. I typed it in after the following passage in the book:
“We set a tattered tablecloth among the wildflowers on the ground, laid out our olives and cheeses, and the small, still-warm guinea hen that had roasted beside the fire since early morning, laid out tomatoes, radishes and strawberries, all fresh from our garden. We broke the loaf of bread because we had forgotten the knife, uncorked the bottle and poured the wine, then we drank a toast in that immense silence. Happy anniversary."
Curious as to when I might have composed my note, I dug around my Amazon history and figured out that I'd purchased The Hills of Tuscany on February 20, 2012. At that time I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Two months later I’d move to a remote ranch in Patagonia, and three months after that I’d moved to an ashram in the hills of Umbria in Italy. So I’m assuming I drafted that note while still in Argentina.
Those years of travel were me living my dreams. Moving to Italy had been a dream I'd held for almost 15 years when I finally fulfilled it. Following those dreams was terrifying because I was constantly having to take leaps into the unknown, with little to no safety net. But the leaps always panned out in magical ways that I never could have imagined, planned or figured out in advance.
And yet the paradox of living my dreams is that, though it was amazing and magical and I loved it, it wasn’t ultimately fulfilling. I discovered through satisfying those dreams that I could let them go - their actual manifestation came with both good and bad that balanced itself out and in the end made me no happier than I'd been before; though now those experiences are a part of who I am, and those feelings of yearning and longing are gone. And my Italian is a little more fluent.
So why go through making the scary leaps and following the dreams? Because it freed me. I am free to move towards new dreams without the expectation or illusion that these dreams will actually make me happier.
Now I know through experience, and can remind myself, that happiness, joy, and fulfillment are not found in the realization of dreams. The realization of dreams just makes you see the truth: happiness, joy and fulfillment can only be found in the Now. Not in imagined futures of peace and wholeness and completeness. We can only be whole now, we can only be complete now, we can only be fulfilled now. We must fully inhabit and appreciate this moment if we want to experience that real, lasting happiness.
But perhaps that's the paradox, the game of life - only by pursuing and getting what you always wanted do you realize, in the end, that it's not it. What you've been chasing can only be found - created and chosen, really - in the Now.