Do you remember 6 years old? Hair blowing free in the wind, swinging so high you felt dizzy with the thought that surely you were flying? Do you remember imaginary friends, tea parties, tree forts and running barefoot through soft, green grass? I hope you do. I hope you have mostly joyful memories of this age. I hope you were still innocent, and full of wonder. I hope the world was still kind to you. I know that isn't always the case.
Sometimes I laugh, imagining what it would be like if adults acted like 6-year-olds. What if we ran everywhere - like literally, full-out ran, skipped, jumped, danced and cartwheeled our way through life, just because we could? How I wish it were socially acceptable to maintain some of that child-like exuberance into adulthood. Picasso said that "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." And Julian F. Fleron said that "The creative adult is the child who survived..."
I believe that childhood begins to die its inevitable death at the onset of self-consciousness. When a child begins to become aware that others might not just be watching, but judging their actions, and they learn to feel shame. That shame molds and changes beliefs and behavior. We start believing the lie - that if we act a certain way, dress, speak or look a certain way, then we will be accepted and we won't feel this shame any longer.
Brene Brown is a psychologist, researcher, author and public speaker who devotes her entire career to the study of shame, vulnerability and authenticity. She writes that the only real antidote to shame is empathy. But where do we find empathy? In my opinion - empathy is found in honest, accepting and understanding connection with others, and with ourselves.
I am working every day on showing up, being my most authentic self. It's humbling, you guys. I pour my heart out into my posts and some days the response is...crickets. And that is OKAY. It's okay, I don't need validation. I need to keep working, keep writing, keep digging for new depths of authenticity within my own soul - and for each new level I reach, I must learn to greet that version of myself with acceptance, understanding and empathy. I think we have to learn to extend this grace to ourselves before we are able to genuinely and consistently extend it to others. For that is my ultimate goal - not to simply combat my own shame, but to undo any damage I've done as an imperfect parent. To protect the innocence of that six-year-old girl flying high in the bright blue sky. To guide and guard the heart of the child, so that the artist within her survives.