Rescuing Childhood from the Jaws of Maturity

I am not sure where I got the idea that I was lousy at being a kid, but it is something that I have known for a long time. I realize that is a pretty negative thing to say, but hunches about one’s personality are rarely rooted in kindness or even reality. Perhaps it was when, at about ten, a friend told me that I was in too much of a rush to grow up. I remember feeling the need to abandon dolls for my first lip gloss and silly teen magazines and being shocked at her resistance to such “progress.”

By college, when friends were writing these insightful seeming essays about playground experiences that had changed the course of their lives, I realized how distanced I felt from the early years of my life. Really, who wanted to hear about what I did in the waiting room before I got through the door of full-fledged personhood? As soon as I could I spent a great deal of the time reading novels full of what might be called “mature themes” in a desperate bid to figure out the mysteries of adulthood and, in turn, life in general.

Now, I may lapse into great bouts of silliness and I am known to lose my mastery of complete sentences in the presence of truly adorable puppies, but I don’t tend to have the stomach for cartoons and I think I have the sense to avoid trying to write for the trendy new audience hungry for adolescent fiction. These days I have a bit more respect for the child I once was; in college I was too focused on the future to sift through elementary school experiences for gems of the past. But still, my own ancient history never seems to have the resonance of more recent events.

The lingering connection to my child self became powerfully apparent this weekend, however. A friend’s exuberant canine friend was doing a tour of the house. I hoped it would calm her down if she explored the place a little so the humans could drink some wine unaccompanied by whining (I was confident that the cats were clever enough to hide well out of sniffing range). We chatted for a while, but then my friend showed she knows her dog well enough to get a little concerned when she is quiet for any length of time…

She reached the happy hound in time to save my teddy bear’s face, but not his nose.bear.jpg

Maybe it was the lateness of the hour, or maybe it was that extra glass of wine, but before I knew it, my tears were falling on a fuzzy face already damp with doggy drool. I never would have thought myself capable of such a visceral reaction over a twenty year old bit of plushness, but it was as if the direct line to my girlhood had been tampered with. Of course, I am a woman who brought a teddy bear to her marriage bed, so I cannot claim such sophistication that this eruption of sentimentality was a complete surprise. At the same time, what I thought was a familiar thing to hold while I fell asleep was actually a palpable link to the version of me that existed before all of the books and theories marked my sense of who I am.

This incident brought to mind a half remembered adage about coming to God like a child. I guess I was thinking of that verse that seems to be from Matthew: “Unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingdom.” I have seen this idea surface in so many modern commentaries, mainly to advocate the idea of stripping away the ego and recovering that sense of wonder and trust so that you can be aware of the mysteries of the Divine.

Because I bought into the cult of maturity at such a young age, I think I was really convinced that the way to succeed in life was through amassing more knowledge and shrugging off the mantle of innocence. A missing plastic nose made me realize that I may not be so cerebral and worldly after all. Reflecting on this experience, I realize maybe I might not want to be. My child-self may not be the indistinct shadow I once thought necessary. I think I may finally be getting old enough to embrace her again.

Thanks to Those Who Inspire Creativity and Delight

Sailboat skyThe wise, wise Painter of Blue at Art of the Spirit posed the question:

“How much natural creativity would flow out of us if we just opened completely to the One?”

Immediately I felt the power of that question, the way in which, if followed to its conclusion in the depths of my being I might reveal a new face of possibility I had never dared envision. At the same time, perhaps because her site is graced with such amazing artwork, I could only imagine fulfilling that vision with a paintbrush in hand. Though I suspect that buried somewhere inside me there may be a creature who could fill canvases, she is generally too afraid of making a mess and spoiling a perfect white plane with mistakes and wasting money on paints and paper. This fear seems to be related to the same sort of mysterious trepidation that made me afraid of ruining my shoes when I was young, causing me to leave too many trees unclimbed and too few mud puddles explored.

Of course I know that deciding that such a flow of creativity did not apply to me is just another way that I obstruct the flow of the Divine through my life. I was able to only see my chosen mode of expression – these written words – to be instantly limited and less. Words are cheapened currency – used to curse and abuse and sell fabric softener and describe nuclear missiles. Instantly I longed for a more profound method of conveying whatever it was that the One was trying to say through me, because clearly I had chosen an inferior medium. It had nothing to do with a basic refusal to just open myself up and listen, to become liberated from distractions like my addiction to my own inferiority. No, no, I just careened off in the direction of all I ought to have done: should have stuck with dancing, or the violin of the flute or the saxophone, or invested myself more in art classes, or reveled innocently in nature when I had the chance. And off I wander down a path of regret, negligently slamming the door of my heart shut with a thud that reverberates all the way back into this gloomy past of my own creation.

But I can spot such foolishness and avoid such wasted thought, right? I am too smart to be enticed by such dark detours now that I read the right books and dabble in a new vocabulary of the soul. Sure.

If I have learned anything so far is the intense difficulty and absolute simplicity of opening myself to the One. The process can be forgotten the instant I leave the books or meditation chair. So today I am going to try something simpler and less plagued with the wisdom of the ages. I take a cue from Christine Kane who talks about delight.

How much more creative could I dared to be if I let myself truly feel overcome with delight at:

– kittens finding new comfortable contortions to sleep in
– snoring creatures in my bed (husband included) who just prove to me I am surrounded by trusting love
– a stretch that makes me sigh “ahhhhhhh”
– an unexpected letter from a friend
– the smell of snow
– the glow of the rising sun on my tea kettle
– discovering a new love of classical music and cellos
– the poem that suddenly makes everything clear
– nicknames
– a smile of recognition in a face I barely know
– those free flowing moments of joy when I forget I am on any sort of a journey at all