As a child, I frequently thought that I was an absolutely unremarkable person. I am a middle child in my original family, which means that I was not necessarily remarkable in my birth order or in my point of view of life. I was naive and idealistic; I was introverted in social situations but outspoken in small group settings. I was shy but had courage in my convictions, even at an early age (probably to the dismay of my siblings, lol).
Now having my own children, I can see the reckless abandon with which they live their lives. They are each incredibly remarkable in and of themselves; they truly are individuals. They surprise me with their innocent and beautiful views of the world, and they remind me of the things that were important to me as a child.
Some of those things I still do, but many I’ve let go (mostly due to lack of time and effort):
1. I loved wearing pink. It is, in my eyes, the most cheerful color in the world. Then, I loved all forms of pink. Now, I really love a blush pink; not too “bubble gum,” which conjures almost a cloyingly sweet reaction from some. Rather, the blush is more subtle. I would love to paint a room in my house Magnolia Rose. Unfortunately, in a house full of boys, I haven’t carved out a space that is just mine.
2. I had large swaths of time to read- for pleasure, not limited to studying only. I have read mountains of texts, literature, and articles in recent years, but reading for pleasure is a rare occurrence. Yet, it was such a beautiful way to escape from reality, even for just a small while.
3. Prayer/meditation- I used to watch the sunset in the painted desert sky, or watch the stars twinkle over the lake. There was something very grounding about this, something that brought peace and order to my days. The sunset had always brought a sense of peace to my days, until I suffered from Post Partum Depression. Suddenly, this symbol of the end of yet another day felt like I had not accomplished enough, that the day had slipped quite through my fingers.
4. I allowed myself creative and athletic time. In school, we had “Art class,” which was always one of my favorite times of day- I could forget everything but the canvas. “Gym class” was a little harder, since I was very self-conscious, was always picked last for any team sport, and frankly, I looked a little different, being taller than my other classmates (so awkward). In college, I finished almost all of my required courses in the first semester of my senior year. The second semester I filled with classes and I wanted to take, but felt there wasn’t time: pottery, particularly, but also racquetball and athletics. I had a blast, even in the athletics class- and began walking regularly with my roommates. In med school/residency, there were not classes for these things; so I did various things over that timeframe: I played volleyball for a short stint (I was again, one of the worst on the team), I ran a half marathon, I painted at a wine/painting studio.
Here is my theory: when we are children, we are the purest form of self. I believe that those years are useful to help teach us about ourselves, about our core beliefs and values. Thus, for those of us who are burning out and exhausted, perhaps it is time to rediscover our truest sense of self, and rediscover our inner child. Look for those clues, those things that still call to us, even after all this time.
In the spirit of this theory, I sat with my older child yesterday and watched the sunset over the mountains. It was gorgeous, as if the skyline was on fire. There was a sense of beautiful poetry with my son watching the sunset, just as I had many years ago. We both sat in awe of the beauty before us, not speaking (much) but absorbing.
The world demands every minute of our time, but we need to take back the control of how we choose to spend that time. Look for the clues from your childhood, take your younger self by the hand, and follow your heart.