When I was a young girl, my dreams and expectations were magical and full of grandeur.
During the lazy days of summer before electronics and cell phones, I relished the simplest of moments.
Laying on the cool green grass of Colorado, I’d look up in the sky and watch the animals, angels, and faces floating above me in the fluffy white clouds overhead.
Swinging on the creaky, moaning swings at the school playground, I would press my ear up against the chain and listen to the grinding moan that emitted from the metal as I swung higher and higher. The sound must have been the sound of bellowing dinosaurs! I’d imagine myself exploring a massive underground cave with dripping limestone and pools of glimmering water where a brontosaurus lay trapped, waiting for me to discover him and free him from the mud so that we could be life-long friends.
It seemed that adults were overly burdened with things that just didn’t matter, and certainly nothing that I could understand. I’d laugh and be silly when they weren’t looking because I learned that if you were silly in front of an adult, it wasn’t seen as being silly. For some reason, they just didn’t seem to see the humor in it and thought that uncontrolled behavior was rebellion or disrespectful – certainly not funny.
As time passed, I learned, as did my classmates and friends, to behave ourselves and to not express our share our dreams, our thoughts or our silly ideas. Over and over, mixed messages would confuse and frustrate me when my parents would tell me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up, but when I would tell them what I wanted, they’d say, “anything but that … you can’t make a living with that.” Naturally, the thing I had hoped that would be never changing in my life was life itself! The wonder, the beauty, the joy of life … that comes from really enjoying what I loved the most to do. In my case, I loved to draw and tell stories and make people laugh. But, evidently, a person couldn’t make a living doing that .. so I was steered in other directions by well-meaning adults who themselves, had already experienced their dreams being crushed by “the reality of life”.
As the years passed, the messages became more and more confusing. Instructions that constantly contradicted themselves came at me from every direction through the lips of adults that were supposed to have all the answers. Nothing made sense anymore and nothing was simple either. “Earning my way” was never explained in terms that were clear and doable in such a way that the rewards of labor would be evident.
With each year in school, the kids got grumpier and bullies came out of the woodwork to make fun of my buck teeth or the way my hair was fixed or the freckles on my nose. Little did I realize that there probably wasn’t one kid in the school who wasn’t being made fun of for one thing or another. We’d talk on the playground and compare notes about where babies came from and what was it like to kiss a boy.
The dynamics of growing up was mysterious, confusing and complicated. Our bodies constantly changing and along with them, our emotions, thoughts, and opinions about ourselves and others. The biggest question that was on most of our minds, as I look back, was whether or not anyone really loved us. Did anyone love me for who I was inside? Because trying to fit everyone else’s expectations just made life so much more challenging than it had to be.
If I knew then, what I know now, I would not have listened so hard to what the adults said around me. Children know how to live life a whole lot better than adults do. Adults are just hurt little kids in big bodies with big heavy burdens on their shoulders. Those burdens are not the bills they have to pay or the upkeep of their life as they like it. Those burdens are all the messages and negative tapes that constantly play in their heads and make a child’s laughter or silliness irritating to listen to.
One thing is for sure … no matter what happens to us, we never really lose who we are. Who we are WILL manifest in our adult life, just maybe not like we thought. There were a few decades where I never drew a thing. I yearned for the days of storytelling and coloring in coloring books. Whenever I’d walk into an art supply or school supply store where there were arts and crafts supplies I’d get so emotional I thought I’d explode with deep heaving sobs of sorrow and grief for what was lost by the time I left the store.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and started to draw again. Fearing that I’d forgotten how to draw, I was thrilled to learn that it was as much a part of me as my humor.
What have you given up because it was not recognized as having value or was inconvenient to others? What secret desire do you have that you are stuffing and grieving over because it can’t come out? Is it a desire to sing? Write a book? Travel? Dance?
What would change in your world this week if you gave yourself permission to be who you were born to be?
What burdens are laying on top of your shoulders that are stealing your joy? Begin by noticing your mood, emotions, reactions to various things. It’s staggering to me to realize that it took over twenty years for me to connect the dots that my grieving when I was passing through an art supply store was connected to what my nature as an artist was, not what time of the month it was!