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  • Writer's pictureRachel Swanick

Longing and Finding Reflections in Art

When I was younger, I used to have flying dreams. In them, I knew I could fly and that once, before, I had flown. The dreams were always frustrating as I could never get off the ground. I felt I had these magnificent wings that were waiting to be unfurled and I didn’t know how to make that happen. I had a belief that I was more than I was… I had a longing in my heart to be more; for something else.

This feeling of longing has stayed with me even though the dreams have dissipated (they stopped around the time of me having children and I can’t quite pinpoint why or when). The feeling drives me to achieve my, often, crack pot ideas – whether that is starting this blog and website, making art in the forest, creating a huge arts project in a gallery or finding a way to play tango music with a friend. It is a sense of wanting to be more than I am; of potential. It is expansive and encompassing and there are moments when I feel my wings around me.

Longing isn’t always a positive drive. I am a child of divorced parents and the feeling probably stems from that early time as I imagined the ‘what-ifs’ of having an absent parent. In therapy, clients will often describe a feeling of ‘not knowing’ but that has an energy to it and I think it is often a longing for something. It could be a person or a parent, a life experience or imagining a different way of life. Longing for something or someone can negatively affect you – unrequited love or the feeling of a life unlived are both products of this. And there are elements of grief here too. Of letting go of people and places, of hopes and dreams, of missed chances and unspoken moments.

Sometimes, the reality of your longing doesn’t meet up to your expectations. This can be especially true in therapy situations. By the time someone has been referred or self referred to therapy, they will have spent quite a while in their current behaviours. Day dreaming about potential situations as a saving grace to your feelings may mean that you hold that saviour high. The dream job that would save your daily routines or the distant lover who will rescue you from meaninglessness suddenly has a lot to live up to. I often watch Fraiser on TV (of course I do – I am therapist!). Niles and Daphne’s relationship is built on this longing to be saved and, if you remember, there are many ups and downs as they both navigate the ideals that have been created. I realise this sounds like a flippant example, but it is a very clear one explored in a sympathetic way (comment below with your more high art ones, if you like – I did just read The Hummingbird and there was a lot of longing and resolution in there). For a child in therapy who has been adopted or is missing an absent parent, helping them to exist in the here and now whilst understanding that imagining about another life is normal becomes the aim as they start to accept their current world and bring a sense of contentment. I like the word contentment for therapy and life- happiness has too much of an expectation and there is a peace or calmness with feeling content.

As we build up our lives again after the pandemic, many people are trying to make sense of their unlived life or the loss of someone special. If taken separately, your unlived life is repairable and there will be chances to explore the world or create opportunities again. But when we think of the unlived life and loss, they are one and the same. When we grieve, part of this is about the person (or situation) not being there anymore. However, it can also be about the times we will miss with them; the words we haven’t said, the celebrations or hard times we will not be together. This type of longing is much harder to resolve as there isn’t a direct solution. We can’t see that person again and tell them that we love them. Everything we feel about it hangs in the ether. I could give you some trite solution about making sure you tell people you love them but life doesn’t work like that.

I will quote Oscar Wilde though and say, “it is never too late to be who you might have been”. If you do have regrets, acknowledge them to yourself. There is a big movement in therapy and wellbeing about being authentic and how you should really tell people what you feel all of the time (well, kind of). I am big believer in being authentic with yourself – that is all that matters. If you can be honest with yourself, you not only really know who you are (and sub consciously, pass this on to others), you can also make changes and be the truest version of yourself. Attend to your own music before you starting making music with others.

I have digressed slightly here…. This post is directly related to my last blog post when I had been listening to my music and how this affected my sense of self and energy. And it was compounded when I read The Hummingbird – a family story over decades where the main character tries to remain still as all around him changes. Some people will move mountains, constantly creating and others will use everything they have to stay still and steady. I am still trying to make sense of my own longing and how I can turn that in to creativity at this point in my life. We are limited presently in some ways with the world still being precarious and uncertainty prevailing. And yet, in the words of Morrissey, I’ve never been surer... To someone, somewhere, we all matter and it is up to you how you use your energy, your day dreams and your longing to connect with your unlived life. So, tell me, what do you dream about?

I am putting my dreams out there:

Writing a book – reflective, therapy type

Living and working somewhere different for a summer – Rome, Vienna, Paris…

Performing more music – tango, Morrissey with Strings (!)


The Hummingbird – Sandro Veronesi

Songs of Longing (I am not sure what the longing sound is… suspended 4th, dominant 7th?):

Jaydu – Burning Heart

Philip Glass – Violin Concerto 2

Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto 2

Morrissey - Alma Matters

Lisa Hannigan - Undertow

Death Cab for Cutie - I dreamt we spoke (or any from that Album)


Try Dragon sequence… open up your wings to the sun.

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