Tuesday, March 18, 2014
My Inner 6 Year Old is Feeling Vindicated
This is by far my favorite picture of myself ever. Probably because that's the real me. I was never interested in being the prettiest because in case you haven't noticed the pretty girls aren't all that funny. I wanted to make everyone laugh and still do even if it means telling you an embarrassing story about myself or looking ridiculous. You can also see how dark my skin is. I loved being outside and still do. I loved animals and being sweaty and dirty. I still do. I loved to draw but not as much as I liked to look at pictures of art in books and hear stories about artists. My Barbie and Ken were always packing their Malibu van to take a trip and I loved maps. And I like to think the bars are symbolic. This would be the age I was when something happened that I still vividly remember and it helped shape the grown up me.
In the evenings after my father finished watching the national and then local news, I could change the channel to PBS where a woman was doing yoga. It was grainy on our color TV and the studio was covered with orange shag carpet. But something about what she was doing appealed to me and I always got down on the floor and tried to do it along with her. One night while I was in a back-bend my mother remarked to my sister "When Michelle grows up she'll probably move to California and be a health nut." Her tone was condescending. As she sat on the sofa smoking a cigarette I remember thinking that I hoped she was right because I didn't want to be like her, overweight and sitting and smoking instead of moving and doing.
Now to be fair, my mother was just a product of her generation in lots of ways. The dangers of smoking were still being hotly debated and the American diet was atrocious. We simply weren't informed the way we are now, and in rural Indiana change was going to be slow in coming.
So the silly girl behind the bars was influenced by the public television yoga lady, Euell Gibbons' Grape Nuts commercial, and Jack LaLanne. Those small inroads into a little girl's life were powerful. I remember exercising in my room in front of my little black and white television along with LaLanne. Those tiny bits of influence struck a chord. My interest and connection to them were clues to a life long interest, health and fitness. As a matter of fact all the interests I can remember having at this time in life are part of my life today.
I do yoga and eat a healthy diet. I try to walk every day. I'm a docent at an art museum. I keep chickens and bees in my garden. My favorite game to play is still "let's pack for a trip." I'm still going to try to make you laugh. Now that my kids are grown I can look back and see how their 6 year old selves were also pretty good indicators of who they were going to be.
My daughter started sorting things as soon as she could walk and trying to be in charge before she could talk. The very first examples of her handwriting are lists. I would find them everywhere. She literally had shoe-boxes full of them. She saved her money to buy office supplies. She never met a folder she didn't like. Of course she used them to organize her lists. She had lists of her favorite songs, people, potential names for husbands and children and pets(she's a long term planner). A list of cities she'd like to live in. A list of all her lists. Her favorite game was playing school. But in retrospect it was the lists and later labeling everything that were the biggest indicator or her natural strengths. My daughter is a teacher getting her masters degree in education and writes a blog on organization called Organized Charm. She still tells us all what to do.
As a baby my son recognized patterns and designs. His first halting syllables were not to tell me what to do as they were with my daughter but pointing out patterns or shapes to me, trying to tell me about them. As soon as he could hold a crayon he was a doodler. There was no such thing as a math worksheet that didn't come with animals or faces around the edges. His favorite toy was Legos. I finally got tired of finding them all over the house and sold the guest room furniture so he could have a room where he could work on things a long time without having to pick them up. One Christmas he got a Razor scooter and it was the gateway drug to skateboarding. He tried to give skating up in order to fit in at the prep school he went to for high school and it actually led to depression. He picked it back up again in college and is happier than he's been in years. Today, he's a talented artist getting his degree in art history.
Maybe if you are feeling adrift or like you've lost yourself along the way, you should take some time and think about the tiny you. The you that was before the education system molded you, before your parents belittled your innate talents, and life got so busy you forgot to dream. Engage the little version of yourself with uncombed hair and bare feet who had an interest and passion about things that you can't explain. That original version of yourself might know where you went wrong.
You just might remember who you really are and find your way home to yourself.