And we mean anybody! Leigh Newman names the nine tiny ambitions we can all make real—no striving, stressing or mad dash to the finish needed. 1. The Dream of Stopping Traffic
Most of us have the same little fantasy in our minds that's been playing there since the sixth grade. We walk into the party or the formal or the jazz club...and an awed hush spreads through the room. The music stops. Men in tuxes turn away from their stunning, curvaceous dates to stare. The curvaceous dates stare too, plus the waiters. Because we have entered the room. As life progresses, we sometimes think that this dream only comes to life for the very prettiest or most powerful in the world. That, my friend, is ridiculous. A flirty red hat or a handful of helium balloons will accomplish the task in about two and a half minutes. But if you really want people to turn their heads in your direction, if you want those folks to gaze at you with wonder, if you want cars to come to a screeching halt in the middle of rush hour—a feat that is a hundred percent achievable regardless of your age or the tightness of your so-called booty—you have to break out the chicken mask (yes, this is really me).
2. The Dream of Pulling Off a "Judith"
There are a lot of ways to be an everyday hero. You can donate bone marrow or build a well in Africa, both of which will change complete strangers' lives. You can also help people whom you know well enough to know exactly what they need (bottle of rosé, a coupon for a 15-minute-long rant about a boyfriend). But what about the people you know...but don't know?
I recently met a woman at a wedding. Let's call her Judith. A few weeks after the wedding, the bride threw a cocktail party, and Judith and I chatted a bit more. We were now officially...not friends...but acquaintances. During our conversation, I mentioned that I was struggling on a work project and wasn't handling it the way I would have liked to and...okay, I told her that I had cried at my cubicle. The next morning, without my knowing, she got my number from a friend and randomly sent me this text message at 10 a.m. when she knew I would arrive at the office: "Hello, Leigh. It's Judith. You bring me much joy...and by the way, you will ROCK your project." I was stunned—and moved. She was not my mother, my bestie, my husband or my co-worker. She was a lady at a party. She had to put her name on the text because she knew it would not be in my address book. She had no real reason to offer me support. And yet, she did. Because it is entirely possible to pull off a valiant act of thoughtfulness—not just for friends or strangers but also for those who fall in between.
3. The Dream of Saying No Once a Day
Uttering the big word "no" can be terrifying. We're afraid that we'll never be asked again to do what we can't do right now. We're afraid the asker won't like us. We're afraid that a whole chorus of cackling green demons will pop out from the nearest bush and make a ring around us, singing, "You're a selfish bitch!" Because saying no means we're not going to give somebody what they want.
' 'And yet, we have to use this word in order to make space in our lives for our actual lives. It would be overwhelming to simply tell yourself to say no more often, but ordering yourself to say no once a day is absolutely doable. You only have to do it once a day. When the barista suggests you try the grapefruit soda instead of the orange one, break out a polite no. When the pigeon is about to poop on your bicycle seat, hiss "no"—and swat. This may seem meaningless or even silly, but it will get you in the habit for when those more socially complex situations come up—for example, when your neighbor asks, "Can you make 72 chicken wings for my barbecue on Saturday?" Having conditioned yourself, you not only will be able to say no but also will be able to say no only once instead of yelling it 32 times and running upstairs to hide under the bed.
My dream concerning the sock drawer used to be the time-honored classic: the dream of matching socks. But that, life has shown me, is not a small dream. That is a big fat nightmare, and the only way to achieve it is to throw out all your socks every month and buy new ones.
Let us begin with all the socks we own in our modern age: thick, cozy ones for boots, fluffy ones for slouching around the house, low-cut ones for tennis shoes, pantyhose ones for work slacks, not to mention actual pantyhose and tights. I will admit it right here; I wore a mitten on my foot once when it got all tangled up in that pile of wildly confused hosiery. Considering such extensive variety, the new, far more realistic dream is wearing two mismatched socks of the same type. How to achieve it? The $4 fabric boxes at Target and Ikea that you can squish inside your top drawer. Each box serves as the home for a particular kind of sock. In the morning, direct your hand to the appropriate box, grab two, put them on and walk out of the house on a rainy day knowing that you will not be wearing one cozy winter knee-high on one foot and one thin summer anklet on the other. You will be wearing two knee-highs in wildly different colors, both of which will keep your feet warm as you splash though puddles in your galoshes.
6. The Dream of Not Screaming
There are so many absolutely justified places to scream. Some examples: when you have no Internet even though the Wi-Fi signal has three full bars, and the woman at the cable company insists you do have Internet because you have three full bars. Or when the refrigerator breaks and you call the repairman, and he repairs the fridge for $250 by pushing the "on" button hidden in the back. Or when your 3-year-old boy watches another 3-year-old boy go pee-pee standing up at camp and then comes homes and pees on the walls, in the sink and on the light fixtures.
Screaming in these cases is understandable and fairly easy to accomplish. But it terrifies people. It causes them to cry or hang up or run away from you, guaranteeing that they will not help you or, after a certain point, even like you.
Which is why most of us forbid ourselves from screaming, fail at this goal and then feel bad—over and over. A lower-volume life, however, is very possible, provided you use a small piece of wisdom given to me by the ancients (okay, my mother). Tell yourself you can scream...but that you must drink a glass of water first. Thankfully, we do not carry portable sinks in our purses. So when you are red-hot, poker-smoking mad, you will have to go find a faucet and a glass, fill that glass, drink it down—trying not to let the cool, refreshing, calm-inducing beverage affect you in any way—and then return to you place of origin to scream. At which point, you will find the scream is usually dead (sorry) in the water.
All of us have the fifth-grade dream of being the girl in the song. We want to be Angie or Sweet Melissa or Suzanne or whoever she is that the totally smoking-hot pop icon sings to—offering to throw himself off a bridge or give up his millions if only she would love him. Meeting such an icon, getting him to fall for you and write you a desperate, soul-rending song is just too much work. But it's no reason to give up on the dream. If you take the song "I Will Always Love You" by the always beloved Whitney Houston and play it over and over, you'll hear how she draws out the word "you"...giving it many, many more beats than a one-syllable word needs—and allowing you to insert your own name. As in: I will always love you-u-u-u-Jenn-if-er-r-r.
8. The Dream of Keeping It in Perspective
Things are not just tough; they're boring, frustrating and exhausting. You're working at a job you don't like, or even two jobs you don't like. Your dishwasher is broken, and you don't have the time or energy to replace it. It seems like other people have it all figured out—people with spacious organized garages and exercised derrieres and violin-playing children who attend insufferable schools for the gifted, talented and perfectly mannered. Right at this moment, you know you have lost perspective. You have mistaken real happiness for a grown-up Barbie penthouse. But you can get your head (and heart) back in order very quickly by reading this badass, honest essay.
9.The Dream of Total Silence
Step 1: Let your batteries die—all of them, including the one that runs the teeny-tiny disposable computer inside the very old Mother's Day card at the bottom of your purse that plays "I Like to Move It" whenever you walk too fast down the sidewalk.
Step 2: Go to a church on a Monday, your house during lunch, the basement of your office building during the weekend, or wherever it is that you don't have to listen to a jackhammer or thumping bass or even the joyful sound of children laughing (and there is somewhere, for all of us).
Step 3: Lie down on the floor. Stare up at the weird stain on the ceiling. Be free.