One of the most intense and painful types of grief is caused by lost dreams. The bigger the dream is, the more real and likely to be fulfilled in your perception, the closer for these dreams to become reality in one’s mind, and the more unbearable it becomes to lose them suddenly.
As you dream, in worst-case examples, life often sadistically lures you in with certain set of realities and makes you believe that it is no longer a dream, but a good news package to arrive soon at your door. Everything you see and hear around you convinces you that you are getting a few steps closer to enjoying the fulfillment of your dreams, and things may be happening much more beautifully than you ever imagined.
These dreams are like a fake package delivery that you made and desperately wait for. You are given a tracking number, every day tracking this package, following its journey from one station to other, feeling increasingly excited as the package gets closer to its final destination.
You build hopes and expectations and make plans about what you will do once those dreams become reality when your package arrives. You share your plans about this upcoming good news with your loved ones and friends. You invite them to share your excitement about what will happen then. You are so focused on these dreams, so desiring of their realization, so much in need of this fulfillment that you either don’t see the warning signs or ignore them along the way. You selectively read the developments in the way that you want to interpret them.
This is until one day when you wake up and see those dreams fading away on your horizon. Everything and everyone that feeds your hope becomes nothing but a sophisticated hoax, a journey of deception, a cheat and a serious set of lies. There is no package arriving, or if there is, it is at best empty and at worst full of bad news.
The grief and mourning that is triggered by losing something that never really existed, but couldn’t be more real in your own mind, can hurt you more than losing something real. It sometimes cuts deeper than losing a loved one, losing money or property. You are filled with anger and frustration and don’t know who to blame—the ones who made you believe those dreams were true or bound to happen, or yourself for being so naïve to believe a too-good-to-be-true story.
For many Turks and friends of Turkey all around the world, this intense grief is real these days. The dream of Turkey becoming the first modern, homegrown, indigenous Muslim democracy has been lost. The dream of being a beacon of light to the rest of the Muslim world and beyond is increasingly becoming an undeniable reality. The recent political turmoil, corruption scandals, anti-democratic and autocratic moves of the government and one of the ugliest character assassination campaigns in the Turkish media are turning the dreams of these people into terrifying nightmares.
The more closely you followed Turkey’s breathtaking episodic achievements—its economy, political stability, democracy, foreign policy, expansion of its civic space, progression with civil liberties, taming of the military and pushing them behind the barracks, removing the remaining elements of militarist dictatorship from the political system—the more air you pumped into those dream balloons.
Turkey was on its way to be the first Muslim majority nation, recovering from the trauma of a violently imposed Western, secular democracy for decades, freeing itself from the shackles of self-pity and victimhood. Turkey was done blaming others for its failures, breaking the shells of being an insular, closed society and was beginning to build confidence in creating a bottom-to-top secular democracy.
For almost a decade, everything you saw made you believe that a broad spectrum of political and non-political actors formed an inspiring coalition, working tirelessly to achieve these lofty but urgently needed goals in order to put Turkey on the map as a model Muslim-majority nation.
I was one of the many Turks who raised my expectations of the country quite high. Despite being hit by intense grief over my lost dreams, feeling backstabbed and shamefully deceived by so many different power centers in my birth country, despite being troubled by intense shame and embarrassment over the many people I respected and admired enormously for so long, I still have not lost hope for Turkey entirely.
At least not yet. Not because I am an incurable, utopian optimist and Turkish-American male version of Pollyanna. But because Turkish society collectively has yet to speak on the matter and decisively determine the direction of the country in light of these recent discouraging developments. Turkish delights will do so in two upcoming elections this year.
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Although losing your dreams hurts, very few things give you as much joy, excitement and intense gratitude as those lost dreams. Even though it is painful, it ultimately turns into or produces many unexpected blessings. As the Holy Qur’an reminds us in many of her beautiful verses, life can delightfully surprise you by bringing many unexpected good things out of hardship and difficulty.
Let’s hope and pray that what has been going on in Turkey will ultimately be a helpful learning curve to this great nation and will empower its noble people to be in charge of their country’s direction. Let’s hope Turkey turns these recent calamites into blessings by emerging as a stronger secular Muslim democracy.
Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim chaplain and an adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies. His column runs every other Thursday. Send Abdullah a message on Twitter @aantepli.