Lifestyle / Making Lemonade / Travel

Making Lemonade #11: The art of dreaming

Imagine all the lemonade we could ever make

Cross-posted from SubstackView original post

Hey friends, 

I hope you’re having a wonderful week, and, whatever your plans are for Christmas and New Year, everything goes off without a hitch (or with minimal hiccups, at least), and you manage to squeeze some downtime and rest in there too. 

Given that it’s only going to be me and my partner (and the cat) at home for the holiday this year, I’m pretty much planning to spend it hiding from the 37°C heat – even after four years I still can’t get my head around hot Christmases – eating gluten-free mince pies and chocolate, reading, and daydreaming about a better world.

love daydreaming. It’s hands-down one of my favourite things to do, even despite the siren song of my phone and all the colorful apps, interesting podcasts, and everything else that seems to draw my attention these days. 

(On a semi-related note, I’ve only just started it, but Stolen Focus by Johann Hari is a fascinating read so far).

Here’s wishing you smooth seas and scenic sunsets as we sail into the silly season

Back in my childhood (the halcyon days before smartphones and social media), I was always getting told off for daydreaming. Even today, as an adult, the act of daydreaming – or conscious dreaming – still feels decadent and, honestly, sometimes a little silly. Not that it stops me, though.

I believe that this kind of dreaming makes the world go round – and not only that, it also helps us to imagine a better one, both for ourselves and the collective. One that, once we’ve imagined it, might not seem so implausible, after all.

A bit like how someone sometime dreamed about what would happen if you mixed the tart juice of a lemon with something sweet, and, in the process, created something delicious – and an analogy I can somehow squeeze into every one of these Substacks (sorry, not sorry!)

In all seriousness, though, to me, the ability to daydream and imagine is our human superpower.

It’s what makes us special – for better and for worse. Without it, we’d be like all the other animals, stuck in a place of re-acting to the world around us, rather than pro-actively finding ways to make it work for us.

Without imagination and this capacity for daydreaming, we wouldn’t have the world we do now. We wouldn’t have houses with heating, air-conditioning, and hot showers. Or cars, aeroplanes, modern medicine, and feats of engineering. We wouldn’t have smartphones, movies, TV shows, books, and art that can be shared across oceans in milliseconds.

We wouldn’t have emails, the internet, Sustack, and this wonderful ability to build this big virtual community and find and connect with all our fellow humans who can help us find joy in the world and create a life worth living.

Our skills of imagination are the main thing that has helped us survive – by being able to imagine and prepare for the worst so we’re not taken off-guard if it does come to be (can you tell I’m also trying to make my anxiety my superpower?!). And thrive, by giving us hope and the ability to imagine – and build – a better world.


And so, even despite the tattle-tale-goody-two-shoes in my mind telling me I’m wasting time and should be “doing something more productive”, each day, I try to set aside some time to spend daydreaming. I see it as an active investment in building a better life for myself – one that will hopefully radiate out and reach others, too. To show people that there is another way.

I remember when I first talked about leaving the UK and the dreams I had to travel the world. People said things like “Oh, it’s alright for some”, and “Not all of us get to live such lofty dreams, maybe you should set your sights a little lower”. If I’m honest, it makes me sad to see how many of us do set our dreams too low, or put them on the backburner because we feel like they’re too much or it’s too hard.

The thing is, it’s meant to be hard to achieve a dream. It’s meant to require some sacrifice, some dreaming, some effort. And if it didn’t, then it wouldn’t have that same sense of achievement. Of reaching new heights; of striving for something bigger and better than what’s right in front of us.

Just like how rays of light from the sun can transform the way we see the world, dreams can too, if we let them

But, as those teachers at school showed me – and the highly conditioned voice in my head tells me – we live in a world that prioritises productivity and output over all else. A world that likes it just the way it is and doesn’t want anyone rocking the boat too much.

A world that prioritises easy-to-reach goals over big dreams, and rather than pushing people to have out-of-the-box ideas – like many of mine – has created a “formula for life” filled with pre-determined dreams like check-boxes on a form.

Dreams like: getting your driving license, buying a car, going to university, getting a job, meeting a partner, getting married, having kids, buying a house, buying new cars, new houses, getting job promotions, going on holidays, and eventually, if we’re lucky, retiring.

Dreams that absolutely do not guarantee happiness.

And if I’m honest, it’s that happiness – or at least the ability to dream of being happy and see it as something attainable in this life – that feels like the missing piece to living better, more fulfilled lives, not only as individuals but also as a collective.

But to get there, we need imagination. We need to be able to step outside of those nice, neat check boxes and imagine something different, something new.

We dreamed ourselves into this world and all the problems we’re now facing, like climate change, wars, and endemics of loneliness, but I, perhaps optimistically, believe we can also dream ourselves out of it.

Here’s to dreaming of a better world for all the generations to come – human or otherwise. Also, how frigging cute is this baby quokka on Rottnest Island?

For hundreds of thousands of years, the creative souls, the dreamers, the storytellers, and the imaginers were the wisdom-keepers. They were the ones who could set your imagination alight with possibility with just a few words. The ones who kept the community together, who rallied people together when they needed to be rallied, and took us from caves to cities, under the united dream of a better world for us and for the generations to come.

And yet, while it might feel like we’ve lost these dreaming skills to the sands of life and time, I believe that deep down, all of us have the potential to tap back into that collective thread of imagination that weaves us all together.

I love that storytellers have once again been invited back to the forefront of the fight against climate change, that dreamers are becoming more and more welcome as a way of bringing unity back to a divided world.

As I write this, we stand on the cusp between dark and light, on the longest day and the shortest day, depending on where we are in the world. And, while science tells us the world will keep turning and the seasons will change and bring with them all sorts of doom and gloom; the dreamers tell us that it can get better, and the changing seasons can bring with them all sorts of gifts – if only we can find ways to come together, to see things differently.

Dreamers give us something to hope for, reasons to rally together, invitations to change. They remind us that dreaming of a better world is not just a waste of time, it’s our human superpower, and with it, we can change the world.

And we can change it again. And again. And again.

Every dream begins with a single step

And so, this solstice/Christmas/festive season, I invite you to dream big dreams. To take some time to daydream and imagine how different things could be – both in your life and in the world.

To aim high, and then, to break your dreams down into small, attainable stepping stones.

After all, as the Taoist saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, and, although we may be superheroes, none of us have the ability to leap mountains – or achieve big dreams – in one stride.

Instead, it takes time, sacrifice, desire, and a big and beautiful vision. Something big enough and beautiful enough to carry us over the obstacles we may face along the way. Something big enough and beautiful enough that it has the power to change everything. Something big enough and beautiful enough that it could change all our lives for the better.

Imagine how different things could be if we all believed in dreaming again.

Imagine all the lemonade we could make.

Happy dreaming.

All my love,

Cassie x

Also, while my teachers – and our society – may not be quite up to date with the latest studies on daydreaming and imagination (a lot has changed in 30 years), it turns out that scientists have actually proven daydreaming and active imagining to be good for our minds and bodies.

And so, just in case you needed any more incentive to switch off and let your mind wander, here are a few of my favourite studies:

The silver lining of a mind in the clouds: interesting musings are associated with positive mood while mind-wandering. I just love the title of this study and the way it wraps up the findings and presents them to us in a nice, neatly wrapped nutshell.

I also love this one about how actively imagining doing exercise can actually have a positive impact on the body: From mental power to muscle power–gaining strength by using the mind.

And then there’s this TEDx talk, which references preparing the mind for brain surgery on sharks by imagining it first and talks about how the mind determines what is real and what is imagined.

Note: I must admit as someone who actually has aphantasia and can’t visualise anything in my mind (read an article I wrote about it here), the idea of playing out the act of brain surgery in my mind’s eye feels totally alien to me, just as he notes that aphantasia feels alien to him, but even though I can’t picture anything in my mind, I can understand the concept.

It feels a bit like Doc Brown in Back to the Future when he says “Roads?! Where we’re going we don’t need roads!” Like, I don’t necessarily need a mind’s eye to visualise, but I also can’t exactly run through brain surgery either.

Anyway, our minds – and the differences between them – truly are fascinating! I swear I could spend years studying this stuff and never get bored.

Anyway, that’s it from me for this week. As always, if you want to support me, please like, subscribe, comment, and share with your friends. It means the world.

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