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The Inner Child

Maybe it's when you are about to enter adolescence, and fear the added responsibilities and restrictions in your life.

Or perhaps you're a teenager and think it's all work and no play.

Or worse, well into adulthood with no time to waste, places to go and pyramids to climb.    WebMDHealth warns All Work and No Play Is Bad for Your Health;  Workaholism Can Cause Mental, Physical Problems.

Or fifty or sixty and beginning to realize that the things you dreamed of have not been accomplished-- and maybe never will be.

And after sixty or seventy, you realize (sometimes with horror) that you're still you, the same person, trapped inside a body that's starting to slow down and give out.

Almost all references to the "inner child" on the web deal with healing it, understanding it, loving it, being brave enough to take it out and look at it... whatever happened to just letting it out to play?  That's quite possibly the most therapeutic solution of all to life's stresses and distresses.

Here's a bunch of stuff on this subject that I've read recently, and some that have been contributed.

Next, here's a poem by my granddaughter, Jackie:  Who Am I?

A few years back when Jackie was visiting, she and her friends had pitched a tent in the yard, and had eaten, rioted, played and generally acted like a swarm of monkeys all day.  In the afternoon one of her friends asked me,  "Bess, it must be awful to get old, 'cause you can't have fun anymore."  

I was astounded.  Then I pointed out to him that while the exact nature of the fun sometimes changes, especially if you learn skills that will stay with you, one can have a lot more fun later in one's life.  For one thing, there's fewer people that can tell you what you can and cannot do!  (I'm afraid I have a few relatives and in-laws that may criticize me for my ideas of fun, if not now, at least in the past).   

I had fun in school, many times inappropriately when the teacher was boring us all to tears.  Sometimes it just took the form of asking a question that side-railed the class or threw the teacher into a funk.  I worked throughout my teens, but I had fun then, too, even trekking cross country with a small brother or sister to have a picnic in the snow, for instance, or playing baseball or touch football with the boys, or browsing through junk stores, Goodwill or flea markets for hours.   

When obviously pregnant, I was surprised to find that people were horrified to see me ride bicycles or horseback, climb under a car to do repairs, climb a tree to pick fruit or trim branches, or engage in sports.  No harm done, easy deliveries.

Once when my children were babies, we were expecting a major hurricane.   We boarded up the apartment windows, got lamps and lanterns, stocked food, etc.   Many neighbors refused to take it seriously; some just got some extra bread and put masking tape across the windows (an almost totally useless procedure, and universally practiced for some reason).   Others became totally hysterical, moving in with relatives, trying to leave the county on crowded highways or just crying and taking nerve pills or turning to booze.   Our upstairs neighbors asked if we were afraid.  I told him no, although apprehensive, as it was our first hurricane.  They too were boarding up as much as they could reach. 

"Are you afraid of thunderstorms?" the husband asked.

"No," I replied, "I actually find storms sort of exhilarating.  

"So do I," he replied.  "I've been through some minor hurricanes in Cuba, but I always wanted to see what the wind really felt and sounded like."  I agreed that walking in a rainstorm or blizzard had always been fun for me too.

We continued preparations.  The electricity failed as the storm moved in.  The battery radio announced sustained winds of 75 miles per hour with gusts much higher.  Things were starting to bang around outside.  Then, incredulously, we heard a knock on the front door.  We had put boards across the top half of the doorway where there were jalousie windows.  Opening the door, my husband and I peered out from underneath the boards.  There was our neighbor.

In his halting English, he asked my husband, "Can your wife come out and play?"   To my husband's credit, he didn't protest.  (He already had me pegged as an inner-child taker-outer).

I put on a long leather coat with a hood, and high boots.  We linked arms and went for a cautious walk, watching out for power lines and tree limbs.  It was horrifying and stupendous.  We got blown across the street twice and knocked down a couple times.   After about fifteen minutes he delivered me back home, thanked my husband and crawled up the steps to his home.

DON'T TRY THIS!   The next day yards and streets were full of glass from solar water heaters, blown out windows and Exotic Garden's greenhouses a few blocks away (See Allapattah - a Mix to the Max).  My husband just looked at me and didn't say a word, bless him.  My neighbor's wife just went around muttering about "un par de retrasados mentales" (a couple of mental retards).   Was I glad I did it?  Unfortunately, yes.

Here's a quote that defines my position to a degree:  "Excess on occasion is exhilarating.  It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit."    --Somerset Maugham

I really had fun with my kids, once they got old enough, playing and teaching them games, riding bicycles, walking on tightropes and so on.  Then I went through a period when I had to work really, really hard and couldn't take time off for a while, except for intensive piano playing for an hour or so when I got home at night (for me that's fun, too).  Afterwards I took up  a former mania, playing pool, and was, I am told, "the terror of the neighborhood pool halls" for quite a few years.  I've engaged in sometimes questionable performance art, a milder example of which was finding a stuffed, cloth, 14 ft. boa constrictor in the trash and winding it around a branch on a tree that almost overhung the sidewalk.   Great fun when a passerby looked up. 

Once in a while a neighborhood kid will be showing off his new bike, scooter, basketball and hoop or whatever, and I'll ask "Can I take a turn?"  They are usually too horrified to turn me down, and the expression on their faces afterwards affords me a lot of fun!  (Older ladies and gents, if you never have ridden a bicycle or scooter extensively, don't start now!!)

I have always liked to play with words and make puns, but that of course takes cohorts (or a website!).    A lot of inner child comes out then, too.

As you can see, your idea of fun is probably not mine at all.  Nobody's fun is just like anyone else's.   The bad thing is not to have fun.  Take your "inner child" out as often as possible.  Forget your dignity-- that and a dime won't even buy you a candy bar any more. 

Cynthia MacGregor, in addition to books about helping kids adjust to life's problems, writing haiku and a new cookbook, writes books about having fun, too.  She also is a punster and has won some contests.

Take a moment and write down all the things you consider fun.  Put in a few more you've always wanted to try and haven't.  Then put the list into action - let your inner child loose on it!

Have mealtime fun too.  Read Ten Commandments for Serving Variety with your Food.

For those in middle age angst, don't think life has passed you by.  According to the "Little Known Facts" column in AAA magazine,  "Oak trees do not produce acorns until they are fifty years of age or older."

For those past that stage, take a look at this poem forwarded by former Fuller Brush Rep Linda Mann, about taking things in stride:  Gentle Hugs.  Grin and bear it - there's lots of good stuff still to come for the inner child (and the outer one).

And don't waste too much time regretting the past or worrying about the future.  That distresses and suppresses the inner child.  I found this quote in a Tips du Jour newsletter.  I had forgotten it, but it's advice is priceless and ageless:   "Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. --James Thurber     

Last, a poem from my Aunt Amelia's scrapbook, instructing us:  How to be happy.

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