rediscovering the joys of childhood
What if our path to joy as adults involves remembering what we really truly loved as children?
Martha Beck, in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World : reclaim your true nature to create the life you want, encourages readers to consider what they loved as children as a way to determine their paths to living a life of meaning. I remember being puzzled by this idea when I read this book a few years ago. It didn’t seem to work for me at all. As embarrassing as this is to admit, for most of my childhood, I played Barbies like it was a part-time job. I also had the following side gigs:
1. riding my bicycle in circles around the driveway (my mother had a serious fear of allowing us out of her sight)
2. roller skating in the basement (see number 1)
3. designing clothes for homemade paper dolls
4. forcing my brother to re-enact scenes from the original Star Wars
5. reading juvenile fiction (I did this a lot)
The idea that I could create a life of meaning out of these disparate and seemingly meaningless activities made me wonder if I’d done childhood all wrong.
What would be the adult version of playing with Barbie, tool of the patriarchy? (On second thought, don’t answer that question.)
I did go roller skating at a roller rink once last summer and it was joyful, when I wasn’t worrying about breaking a bone. And I do love riding my bike around town (ah, the freedom of being allowed to leave your driveway on two wheels is something I still savor.) But, roller skating and Star Wars re-enactments aren’t really enough to create a life of meaning and joy for me.
So all this was bubbling in the back of my mind when I started working on my recent series of artworks a few months ago. Working on my Ancestor Project series, which uses vintage portraits of my ancestors and reimagines scenes for them complete with colorful wardrobes, I was having so much fun “dressing” the figures in the portraits that I realized I felt like a kid again. I was back there as a child playing paper dolls and Barbies, creating elaborate stories about these characters and what they were up to.
I actually felt a bit awkward about how much fun I was having with these pieces— was I allowed to have this much fun? Shouldn’t art-making be a serious business?
I finally got what Martha Beck was talking about. I’d been taking her advice too literally.
But if I could see my childhood activities from a higher perspective, they seemed to fall into three categories: physical movement, imagination/creativity, and stories.
And, actually, that’s a really accurate description of what I love as an adult. I’m a psychotherapist, which I know is related to my love of people’s stories. And I know I feel best when I’m getting a fair amount of movement and fresh air in my day. (Hello wintertime hot yoga and summertime cycling.) My creativity and imagination obviously have free reign when it comes to art-making. And recently, I've started writing and recording some guided meditations which invites the listener to reconnect with their childhood imaginations. I'm going to be going even more in-depth with engaging the child-self in my next meditation album, The Dreaming Place, which I'm hoping to release in May.
So, what about you? Can you find any threads connecting your childhood loves with what makes your heart sing as an adult? Drop me a line below! And check out Martha Beck’s book if you feel so inclined. It’s one of my all-time favorites on creating a life you love.
P.S. If you sign up for my Creative Heart newsletter, you'll receive access to my members-only resource library, which includes free artwork to download and a free meditation.