Being a kid was hard for me. Not because my childhood surroundings were especially challenging but because, as far as I can tell, I landed on this planet ready to be an adult. To be a toddler, a child, a teenager was intolerable because I was on a mission to get some things done in this life, and waiting for needs to be met or just playing for the sake of play didn’t fit into my program at all. I wanted to be adulting from Day 1.
From trying to change my own diaper (not kidding) as a baby to climbing onto the kitchen counter to make my own peanut butter sandwich at age two (hence the lifelong nickname “peanut butter”) to attempting a full bedroom makeover with a couple of boxes of RIT dye and some milk crates at age 8 (probably would have gone better in the modern age of HGTV and Queer Eye), I simply didn’t have time to wait. Not for someone more capable to help me, nor for my own wee self to grow into those tasks when they might be more age appropriate.
I was and continue to be in a hurry, not so much in a rushing around way, rather, moving with a near-constant awareness of a clock ticking. The slowing down is a constant struggle. Asking for (and accepting) help is difficult. Trusting that I’ll be able to complete all of the things I am here on this earth to do requires regular meetings with myself, usually including Stuart Smalley style pep talks. For many years, my modus operandi was always just one more thing, a little bit more, I can fit it in, I can take care of it. It didn’t matter how tired, depleted, exhausted, without resources or support I might be, I can make it happen at any cost. Why? The ticking clock. The internal imperative to do, produce, create, accomplish.
I’ve spent the past few years ratcheting this back and I have definitely made progress that feels good. In fact, as I grow older, I am beginning to understand that in order to live out my remaining years in a sustainable and happy way, I may actually need to work my way back to childhood. It’s becoming clearer what that looks like, and this is what I’m working on:
Wonder – Wonder and delight, to be more specific. The longer we are on this planet, the more places we go, people we meet, experiences we have, the easier it is to fall into the pervasive mindset of “been there, done that.” How boring. How sad. And so, I have been consciously tuning into the inner channel of wonder. It starts on my mat in the morning with real curiosity about the state of my body and the ever-present possibility for profound stillness. Even after almost three decades, a daily practice is always new—it is—when you approach it with curiosity and attention.
I carry this through my day, living as best as I can with the credo that life is something I get to do, not something I have to do, and I wish to proceed with careful attention to the magic that surrounds me. In this very moment, I hear the hens next door absolutely raising Cain. The wind chime on my front porch, a gift from my second YTT group, is chiming an original melody, never before played and never to be repeated. The occasional car passes with its own tune, and birdsong abounds, each with a different melody. I am delighted by all of this because I choose to be. I feel wonder because I am fully present to the beauty of life unfolding without my having to do anything at all. It makes everything better.
Silliness—I have such admiration and a bit of envy for the people I meet for whom play, silliness and laughter come easily. I am drawn to these people. I watch with wonder at grown adults who play with abandon, without self-consciousness, like it’s part of their mission or agenda. It is not something that comes naturally to me or that I was particularly good at even when I was a kid. But it seems imperative to incorporate this way of being into how I move through the world. It’s taking shape as impromptu disco dance parties in the kitchen, water fights in the garden, jokes, games, general shenanigans, and scheduled time with the people for and with whom play, levity and a bit of irreverence is effortless. I want it. I need it.
Imagination—I’ve talked about this a lot in the past year, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. There are an infinite number of songs to be sung, books to be written, photos to be captured, pictures to be painted, meals to be created– even malas to be designed. We must create; it’s in our DNA. We must find avenues of personal expression for the unique creative energy that lives within. We need to carve out the space to imagine and to then make some of those ideas real, even if—perhaps especially if—it’s not for any reason other than to do it, make it, create it, build it. The imagination of a child is limitless, and it’s still in there somewhere. I want to find that again, and perhaps for me it’s really discovering it for the first time.
Infinite Possibility—No matter what your personal childhood was like, if we think about childhood as the beginning, it’s easy to see the potential for infinite possibility. No decisions have been made, no bridges burned, no paths not taken. The older we get, it might seem there are fewer options available, but I contend there are actually even more. We live in an era where wild adventure, professional reinvention, personal re-creation are not only possible, but perhaps easier than any time before. Life is short and we are only as stuck as we decide to be. I’m paying attention to where is there stagnancy, discontent, dissatisfaction. I want to look out into my world through the lens of infinite possibility, and consider every option, however unlikely, to move toward vibrant, whole living.
I hope you live in these spaces more easily than I do, but if you don’t, consider how you might find your way back to the playful, imaginative, wonder-filled mind of a child. You get to do this knowing all you know now, with all of the skills you’ve learned along the path of life. How might sourcing that energy help you serve your greater purpose even better than overtime, overwhelm, over-productivity? With the burgeoning new life of springtime all around us, it seems the perfect season to try.