One of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in the midst of this long emotional roller coaster came up when I was taking a long walk with a good friend, and a fellow sufferer of depression. He told me that I need to listen more to my inner child.
What he meant was that there exists an inner child in most of us, but most times, the inner child gets overruled by the adult that’s grown up in us. The adult is the cynical one, but also the realist. It accepts that the world is unfair, that there isn’t any justice except the justice we make out of life. It does the sums and shakes its head at how much we need to earn for retirement. It is the responsible one. Sometimes, it remains the fun one, and sometimes it’s not that cynical. But in me, the adult one is the one that basically does everything by duty.
But the inner child. In me, at least, the inner child is the one that marvels at one small flower sticking out in the middle of the parking lot. It is hopeful. It has simple ideas and concepts, such as the world must make sense. It has a simple concept of justice and equality. It asks people to give up their seats for the elderly because it knows no shame and embarassment. It believes that for all this to happen, there must be a God. It loves without shame, hopes for love in return without due. Terry Pratchett puts it well in the Hogfather:
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
The child believes that there MUST be some ideal order, as laid out by a Creator who designed everything to interact with one another in a intricate, slow dance. Truth, justice, hope and everything.
That little child has appeared now and then in my life, but it’s been neglected, largely because the adult runs the show. Responsibility and duty comes before fun. Timings need to be met, to ensure life runs smoothly. Financials rule decisions, not the amount of joy that can be gained from a financial decision. Every time the child emerges, someone will stare at me in surprise. Sometimes in pleasant surprise, other times, with distaste.
Such adult concerns of course, are necessary, and good. But my adult is a little too overdeveloped, just as my child is a little too under-developed. As I search myself to try and understand myself better, this narrative helps me to understand myself a little bit better. The child is the one that wants to believe that God’s love is simple and clean, a yoke that is easy and not heavy. The adult makes it heavy with responsibility upon duty, burden upon burden, a gospel of works. The child wants to believe in hope and doing the right thing, trusting that God will deliver and provide. The adult does the sums and throws up its arms in despair because that same path will not provide enough for the children’s toys for that year. The child heads in the right direction, and changes course as necessary, step by step, day by day, laughing in sheer delight. The adult plans and plots the course, and gives up even before the first step is taken, because the end can’t be seen.
The adult has started to compromise on certain things too, to protect me. Things like, work doesn’t and shouldn’t really matter. Things like don’t put so much of your heart into what you do. Little lies are ok, because they’re for the greater good. Things like that.
I veer to the child, actually, most of the time. But with the way things have gone over the last few years, I’ve given in to the adult more and more. It seems both my adult and child sides don’t compromise with each other, and as I gave in more to my inner adult, the more I lost touch with simple joy and trust. The more I gave in to my adult, doing “adult” things, doing “the necessary”, the more I was doing by rote, rather than by experimentation. My ex-boss once said that I liked life predictable and routine, and I was pretty taken aback. How could that be me? I’d given in to the adult too much.
My spirit has rebelled in me, and now I am neither child nor adult. Broken, torn, pieces all over the place.
But as I proceed, picking up each piece and examining it against the light, I find I like the picture more and more. If I decide to live more child-like, then I will find that joy once again, of trusting my Lord, of smiling at simple pleasures, and of finding pride in what I do without being proud. To be grateful as I have been, but with the added pleasure of pleasure itself. The adult will still be around, to give me a bit of check and balance, but I think I’m happier being the child anyway. It means a lot more uncertainty, but with the certainty that I will be whole, and that I will be loving my God in truth and spirit, not trying to bend myself into a pretzel to do what I think is right.
It remains a struggle to love myself. But I think I respect the child more, simply because the child is a call of hope, a beacon of trust, a bastion of joy against the reality that is dark, stark and painful at times. I suppose I should learn to accept both parts of me, and perhaps this oversimplifies who I am. But it helps me to see a possible reason why I fell to pieces, and why I behave differently now than from a few years ago. And it makes sense to my fuddled brain, and gives me a direction in which to go.
Hallo little one. Welcome home.
Pictures taken from Pixabay