Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. ~ Antoine Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943
Everything will be OK.
It is the end of another semester — crunch time — which as a college instructor means everything is bound to be absolutely insane, stressful, and overwhelming until early May. I traditionally try to cut myself some slack during the final weeks since I have had the pedal to the metal since early January, and frankly, I am tired. I blindly accept that my house will be a hell hole when the semester is over. My pets will be angry with me. My yard will look like it hasn’t been cared for in months. Lint will collect along the walls, and I will forget to scrub the sink (kitchen, bathroom — you name it.) There will be cat and dog hair on everything. I will forget to do laundry until I run out of underwear. I will manage to load the dishwasher but forget to unload it. I will eat things like marshmallow peeps and wine and popcorn for dinner. (Seriously, that is what I ate last night.)
Yes, this is it: The rush of days that are so cram-packed with activity, teaching, grading and finalizing that I am certain I will drop in a heap on the floor once it is all over.
Take a Joy Break
That’s why, today — I write to my inner child — the part of me that is ever hopeful, playful, exuberant. She needs to hear my voice because it is pretty clear she is also longing to have some god damn fun. She’s pretty upset lately (peeps and wine for dinner; her idea). She feels neglected, overlooked and overwhelmed. She wonders why the adult version of me is such a total drag.
“Why can’t we have some fun?” she screeches from her perch inside my head.
“I want a soft ice cream cone! Let’s go to the garden with all the birds and cactus and stuff. I want to see my mom!”
She is a member of a rather motley crew inside my addled brain. I sometimes call most of it my monkey mind, which is the term that Buddhists use for that chorus of negativity and unhappiness and complaint that can often drown out all other sound — sane, practical or otherwise. But that little girl, she’s not part of the negativity. She’s part of the solution.
You are a Human Being, Not a Human Doing
When she starts to kick up a fuss, it is clear that I have fallen into an abyss of ungraded papers, where I am flailing about like a sailor drowning in her own detritus.
The inner child’s upset is a cue: stop what you are doing and, as Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.”
Life has become too much about responsibility and not enough about joy. And, I do believe we are here for joy, not just to drudge through our days ticking off items on a long to-do list.
So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us. ~ Gaston Bachelard
First of all, my darling little one, I am so sorry.
I am sorry you have to constantly step into the role of teacher when really, that is my job.
I am sorry I forget the power of play and laughter and down time so easily. I don’t know why I am so thick, but I seem to need to be reacquainted with the notion of balance in life about every twenty minutes. Left to my own devices, I want to motor through without food, comfort, or a day off until I cannot get up and do another thing because my body has decided enough is enough.
That’s when you step in.
You always show up wearing your party pants and your little red patent leather shoes, carrying a velvet purse and a tiny kitty. You want to eat rice macaroni and cheese. You want to listen to old Elton John music. You want to dabble on the piano, playing jazz scales and singing standards you are convinced I’ve forgotten.
You want chocolate bunnies and soda and buttered popcorn to devour in the yummy darkness of a matinee. You want me to sleep in and reread The Artist’s Way.
In other words, you are the sane and reverent part of me who gets lost when I take on a tsunami of serious work (seriously draining), forgetting that I do, in fact, need rest and the silly comfort of using my dog for a pillow.
Even the grown up part of me (often) needs a hand or a heart to hold.
Turns out, I am not wonder woman.
I am exhausted woman, and you show up to remind me of the cost of never caring for my body or my spirit. (Illness and resentment, if you are wondering.)
Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. ~ C.S. Lewis
So, yes. I hear you, smarty pants.
I hear you telling me to do some laughter yoga or eat some pudding or watch re-runs of Chuck. I know the value of your expert counsel, even if it does arrive covered with finger paint and smelling like a wet dog. I hear you.
So, today, I will not trudge through a hundred pounds of papers.
Today, I will remember and revere that twelve-year-old girl I still harbor, that six-year-old who loves strawberries and angel food cake with mountains of fresh whipped cream, and that three-year-old who likes to sleep with a purring cat tucked into the crook of her arm.
I will make a plate of scrambled eggs and eat toast with jam. I will watch the cloudless sky and daydream about a man I like. I will write some lines for a current crop of poems, water my tomatoes, and remember what’s good about life.
Everyone has a book inside of them. Everyone has a story. Wouldn’t you love to share yours with the world? Get your free writer’s toolkit, packed with tricks and tips to get you started. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t die with an untold story inside you.
© 2012/2017 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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