A Recurring Dream About Balloons

I have this recurring dream. It’s happened to me at least once a year ever since I was around 8 years old, and every time it happens I’m a little older and it brings out different emotions and feelings in me. The dream is always the same, and sometimes it goes on longer than others. In the dream I’m walking around holding a large number of balloons, and suddenly I start lifting off the ground. At first this terrifies me, but then I figure out that I can control how high I go by how many balloons I let go of and I quickly start to enjoy floating along with the wind. I fly over parks, buildings, houses, lakes, rivers, and people. I fly for miles and miles with nothing but a blue sky and the sun in my face to keep me company, and it’s exhilarating. After a while I decide that I want to come down, so I let go of a couple of balloons to lower myself, but then a strange thing happens: I start going higher. At first I think that it’s maybe just an updraft, so I let go of a couple more, and I still keep rising. I start to panic, my fear and stress level rising with each balloon that I let go and each foot that I climb. Finally I’m down to just two balloons, and I’m still rising. By this time I’m in full panic mode. I’m crying, I’m freezing, and I’m begging for the balloons to start going down. Finally I let go of one of the last balloons, and a funny thing happens: I stop. The one balloon is holding me up. My relief eventually turns into fear because I realize I’m not going down and instead I’m just stuck, hovering, miles and miles above the ground. I’m freezing cold, the tears are frozen to my face, and my grip is quickly fading, until it finally breaks, and I start plummeting back to earth. I fall for what seems to be an eternity, and for the first few years that I had this dream I would wake up in a panic the second I started falling. But later on in life I started letting myself fall more and more before I would make myself wake up. Finally, the last time I had the dream, I allowed myself to fall all the way. Before hitting the ground I closed my eyes, and then suddenly I open them. In the dream I’m laying on the grass, and I sit up and I’m in the middle of a big picnic full of people of love. Friends, family, special individuals who have influenced my life. They’re all going about their business and having fun and everything is normal.  Then I joined in with everyone and the dream ended happy.

For the longest time I didn’t understand where this dream was influenced from, or if it was even influenced by anything at all. Every time I saw a balloon my subconscious would start reminding me of the dream, and it would always bring about a feeling of strange emotion in me that I’ve always found really hard to explain. And then one day I opened up one of my Calvin and Hobbes books and I came across a story where Calvin gets carried up into the air by a balloon.

I have been reading those comics since I was in 8 years old, and I had never made the connection till now. And when I finally did it made me feel like a complete idiot for not seeing it. For some reason the concept of being carried away by a balloon just stuck with me in the back of my brain for a large part of my life, it’s just always been there. And then whenever I saw the movie Up, it brought the dream back into my nights again, because the imagery reminded me of it. Then one day I sat thinking about the dream after watching the movie (which I love) and I had an epiphany.

The balloons represent the things we’ve always thought would make us happy but never would. Think about it. You hold on to those things and you fly high for a while. You enjoy yourself, you find happiness and you coast along enjoying the view until you get tired of it and then you let go, only to realize that those other things are pulling you away from where you really want to be. You frantically start letting go of those frivolous things that you think were making you happy, until you’ve finally gotten down to the last single thing that you can’t bring yourself to let go of. Whatever that may be depends on the person. For some it may be feeling important, for others it may be control, and for some it may even be the their own ego. But whatever it is, it’s left you hanging out to dry, and you can’t bring yourself to let it go because the fear of falling terrifies you. But then you do let go and you fall and panic and cry and struggle and fight against the reality that life is bringing towards you at terminal velocity. And that reality is that life is never going to turn out exactly how you hope it will.

The reason I had this epiphany while watching Up is because the story said to me exactly what the dream was trying to say to me.  In Up the character of Carl is desperately trying to get his house to Paradise Falls in South America to fulfill a promise he made to his late wife Ellie. His entire purpose is driven towards getting that house there so he can hopefully feel some sort of peace because he felt that Ellie never got to do any of the things she wished because she settled down with him, and he feels if he can just get that house there then it would all be worth it. So he ties hundreds of thousands of balloons to his house and takes off to Paradise Falls. What exactly he planned on doing once he got there I’d rather not think about, but the grim reality is that he would have probably just waited to die. But things get sidetracked and he goes on an epic adventure, and at the end, he learns that Ellie didn’t ever want him to stop living the greatest adventure of all: Life. Carl discovered after looking through her scrapbook that the greatest adventure of her life was not the things she dreamed of doing and never go the opportunity to, it was the life she had with Carl, because at the end of the day its the people (or person) that you love that make life worth living. Carl ultimately finds a new lease on life in his twilight years because he’s able to let go of those feelings of failure and grief after Ellie’s death and embrace the life she would have wanted him to have. Ellie was personified into the house that he carried like a burden to an end that would have never satisfied him. It was only after letting go of the pain and disappointment and focusing on the reality of his love and life of happiness with Elle that he was truly able to live again. This spoke volumes to me because we as human beings often don’t focus on the positive aspects of our reality. We focus on the negative while continuing to dream about things that will never happen or ever satisfy.

Having a talking dog was definitely one of those dreams.

The reality is that none of us are going to get the life that we always dreamed of. Things never turn out the way we expect them to. The higher we try to go by trying to control every facet of our lives only puts us in more danger of being hung out to dry. We have to let go and keep our feet planted on the ground. Focus on the important things before you try chasing your impossible dream. Carl spent years of his life after Ellie focusing on his failure to help her fulfill her dream instead of the life of happiness he truly had with her. Every Carl needs an Ellie to remind him to live the life he has, not the life he feels he missed out on. If you live your life feeling like your missing out on the good stuff because things aren’t exactly the way you hoped, then you’re missing out on the actual good stuff. Take a minute and look and around. Quit trying so hard to fly. Why don’t you walk instead? How about an even better idea: find someone special and take a walk with them. It’s something so simple and yet so comforting and fulfilling all at the same time. Don’t ever take it for granted.

Random Thought of the Day
You know the Maury Show? They had a woman on there who was scared of balloons. Seriously… Look it up on YouTube. Thats totally messed up.

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