Have You Lost Your Sense of Wonder?

As a child, I remember being fascinated by the idea of the circus, hot air balloons, and anything else that fit into my idea of a whimsical world. I was delighted by stories and the playful ways words could be rearranged to elicit different reactions from different people. On the contrary, as an adult, sometimes language seems like such a chore, so limiting, almost like it does more harm than good, and can lead to a myriad of misunderstandings. When did I become such a bore? How did I lose that special sense of wonder that used to get sparked by the most basic of things?

Wonder comes from a simple, child-like place. But as you get older, it gets harder and harder to access. It gets drowned out by all the clutter in your mind, all the worldly distractions, psychological fears and insecurities. Only when you make a concerted effort to remove all that noise, will you be left with an empty space inside of you, a space ready and waiting to be transformed by your sense of wonder.

Wonder comes from your search to understand the world around you. It comes from your intense yearning for connection with something or someone greater than yourself. Sometimes you feel wonder at the genius of a new contraption, at the logic behind the chaos that is life, at the beauty of this world and humanity, even at the devastation that plays out on such a grand scale around us. Wonder is what leads us to the questions, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”

I was blessed to be born into a loving family with comfortable means. Yet, at times, I felt like no one understood me. Like, perhaps, I was a child who’d been taken away from her real mother to be raised by some other family. My real mother would know all the answers to my questions, and solutions to my problems. I realize now, of course, that perfect mother I imagined is God, who has always been with me, whether I knew it or not.  I think, like a foster child or someone who was adopted, you never stop wanting to know the truth about where you really came from.

This desire to learn about our origins and, indeed, our eventual destination, is what drives so many of us. This is why people enjoy reading stories and watching films about characters who go on journeys and endure hardships, to find some meaning in their lives. These stories help people to create a lens through which to understand our world. Perhaps listening to stories is one way for us to re-claim our child-like wonder, and be reminded to keep looking at the world with fresh eyes and an open heart.

When you learn something new as a result of wonder – be it a mathematical concept, a better understanding of your partner, or an epiphany about your own life – you feel triumphant, like you’ve solved an important riddle. But all you’ve really done is unlocked your access to the next riddle. As people, we keep evolving, and with each new riddle, or trauma, or trial in life, the way we solve it or get through it determines how much we grow, spiritually.

Some people want to dig deeper and gain self-awareness in order to heal or grow. Others don’t want to dig deep. They’re perfectly happy not facing their demons. Perhaps they’re afraid of opening a Pandora’s box of problems they can’t face. And that’s okay. Each person is at a different level of self-awareness in life. Each person needs to move at his own pace. But if this describes your partner or parent or friend, make sure you don’t let him/her discourage you from doing what you have to do to find your own truth. Don’t dilute your sense of wonder for anyone else. Let it build and grow, and maybe even engulf those around you.

If we live from a place of wonder – not of certainty and control – navigating life’s challenges might become a little more bearable.

Do You Feel Loved?

I’ve been thinking lately about this whole idea of people feeling alone, even when they’re surrounded by a room full of others. We all feel this way sometimes. And it makes me wonder, why? Why is this loneliness such a common phenomenon? Why are we having such a hard time feeling connected to others? Is it that we’re not putting ourselves out there enough? Or are we putting ourselves out there too much, and just not getting any response? Are we hanging out with the wrong people? There are a ton of questions in my mind and even fewer answers.

I’m sure the reasons for being lonely vary from person to person. But one common theme that emerges when I talk to others, is that they are afraid of rejection, which stems from their core belief that they do not feel like they are good enough. If we believe we’re not good enough – because we’re too fat or too skinny, too shy or too hyper, too anything – then we feel the chance of being rejected by another person is high. Before we can experience the pain of rejection, we withdraw. We don’t reveal our true selves, or we pretend to be the kind of person other people would like. And where do we get our ideas about what makes a person likable? Well, I guess it’s all around us, in the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the ads in magazines or on billboards. Sure, we can blame the media for not including more diverse representations of people who are liked and accepted by society, but we continue to suffer. If we don’t make a concerted effort to be more self-aware and reflect on our own thought patterns and consequent behaviors, we’ll never break this cycle of feeling unworthy.

If you’re reading this right now, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine for a minute how it would feel if someone you cared about loved you and recognized you for being exactly who you are? This person could be a parent, a partner, a friend, anyone. Even if it’s not a reflection of your reality, just imagine that person appreciates you for simply being. Not for what you can do for them. Just for simply being.

How does it feel? Does it feel like a relief to let go of all the different masks you wear and people you pretend to be? Isn’t it freeing to disengage with all your fears and insecurities? Do you feel a sense of warmth from the knowledge that you are loved? Perhaps you can’t change how others treat you, but you can certainly change the way you respond to them. If you could walk around with this feeling of freedom from your self-imposed beliefs, and this sense of being loved for who you are, couldn’t that change your entire perception of life?

I know it’s easier said than done, but you cannot stop trying. Even when you are at your worst, you must remember that you are loved. Maybe not by the person you desire, or in the way you desire, but by the someone or something that created you. You are loved. That is the belief I have started carrying within me, to replace all the previous lies I used to tell myself. And this belief emerged after many years of struggle and despondency. It started to grow in me, the moment I made a conscious decision to lead a meaningful life in a quest for connection, with the world and God. The moment I decided to cast off the masks and be my true self.

Maybe we can start our road to feeling worthy by doing the exercise above from time to time, and imagining what it feels like to be confident in our own skins, and let go of all the emotional baggage weighing us down. If we spend enough time thinking about it and relishing in the surge of love that comes from within, maybe we can take small steps in our real lives to be our true selves. If we feel like we don’t even know our true selves, then we must commit to a journey of honesty and self-discovery. Let the Universe do the rest.

Mad-Hatted Courtroom

*In a departure from my usual posts, I’m sharing the beginning of a children’s story I wrote. I’d love to read your comments. Thank you!

 

“Order! Order! Order in the court,” yelled the restless judge with the rainbow colored robe and the purple top hat. “Mr. Rabbit, please explain why we’re here.”

“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” said the jumpy prosecutor with the white fur and pocket watch. “We are here today, my honor,” he stated, as his hand swept over the courtroom, revealing all the people of Wonderland, “we are here to charge the Cheshire Cat as being an absolute failure.”

“Failure?” asked the mad judge, as if it were a word he’d never heard before. “Prey tell, what is a failure?”

“It is someone who has not made any meaningful contribution to society. Someone who hasn’t amounted to anything, and never will.” The prosecutor’s tone was emphatic. He kept glancing at his watch, though, as if he had another important meeting to attend.

“Your honor, forgive me. I’m in quite a rush. I have another client to represent soon.”

“Of course, of course,” said the genial judge. “We wouldn’t want you to be late, now would we?”

The rabbit hopped off his seat and trotted down the aisle of the courtroom towards the exit. The residents of Wonderland erupted in confused murmurs.

“Order! Order, please,” said the judge, as if he was inviting everyone over for tea. “Well, now, Mr. Cat,” said the judge with a mischievous smile. “How do you plead?”

Suddenly, the cat, who had up until now been invisible, appeared in his bright pink glory with a beauteous smile arching across his face.

“My lawyer will represent me, your honor.”

The doors of the courtroom slammed wide open, as the Cheshire Cat’s lawyer made a grand entrance. It was none other than the white rabbit, making his way down the aisle, as if he was a very important man of heft. One foot pounded the floor, then the other, like a cowboy ready to start a shoot-out. When he made it to the seat beside the cat, he hopped on and said, “We plead Not Guilty, sir.”

“Well, I never…,” chuckled the judge. “What is going on here? You cannot represent the prosecution AND the defence, Mr. Rabbit.”

The courtroom could tell the judge was trying very hard to sound serious, but was really more tickled than tart.

To Be Continued…

Adulting

Most days, I’m like a scared six-year-old who hates having to sleep alone in her room, who will make every excuse to invade the sanctity of her parents’ bed. Other days – and these are my best – I find delight in the little details of life, like bubbles reflecting rainbow colors or origami butterflies taking flight. But in between my deep need for comfort and my unadulterated joy, there are moments when I become an adult, and those are the moments I dread.

Ironing the wrinkles out of my husband’s shirts. Folding my child’s freshly laundered school uniforms. Driving to work in rush hour traffic. Apologizing for mistakes I never made, yet trying to justify the insensitivity of others. Making sure I return favors, remember to give gifts, wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook. Acting like everything’s going to be okay in front of my child, when I know they’re not okay at all. Smiling through depression. Remembering to pay the bills. Feeling the need to stay on top of current events and participate in drawing room discussions. Struggling to keep up with everyone else who, conveniently, seem to have their life sorted out. The list is endless and, when you put it together, feels insurmountable. “To Do” lists used to help me stay organized. Now they just give me anxiety. Is this what it means to be an adult? Really? Why was I ever in such a hurry to grow up?

What bothers me is that we’ve branded “adulting” as being this terrible condition where life is all work and no play, and the only time you can let your hair down is when the kids are in bed, or there’s a babysitter available, or you’re holding a cocktail in your hand while lying on a beach chair in Puerto Rico (although that would be nice). Why can’t we reframe the narrative and think of adults as being these awesome people who have the same level of curiosity and imagination as children, only with more resources at their disposal to transform some of those dreams into reality? We all grew up thinking about what we wanted to be as adults – writers, artists, doctors, astronauts. But many of us ended up basing our career choices on what made sense for us at the time or what would earn us the most money. And now many of us are stuck in these jobs we hate, taking care of these families we resent, feeling like the joy has just been sucked out of our lives.

Imagine always being able to see the world through a child’s eyes. Close your eyes and really think about what that would be like. Where do you still find wonder? What excites you, or makes you want to know more? Where does your inner voice lead you, when you’re half awake and half dreaming? I love stories. Even when I’m not reading a book or watching a movie, I’m making up my own stories. Sometimes they’re projections of me in the future, imagining myself becoming the person I want to be. Other times, they’ve got complex characters and intriguing storylines. Should I be writing these down? Sharing them? Publishing them? Maybe. I’m not sure where my sense of wonder will take me next. Do you think it’s possible to make a career out of chasing wonder?

What do you hear when you close your eyes and listen? Where does your mind journey, when you allow it some freedom? It doesn’t matter how seemingly ridiculous or far-fetched it might sound. We need to re-claim a little bit of our childhood, in order to become cooler, better, and ultimately, happier adults.

New Chapter

This summer, I moved with my family from one continent to another. And so began a new chapter in my life. I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities, paralyzed, really, by all the different ways in which I can reinvent myself. What will most likely happen, though, is that I will stay put in this exact same persona, doomed to carry on the same cycle of negative thinking. I’m trying so hard for this not to be true. To be a stronger, more emotionally resilient person. Not so dependent on any one person to make me feel loved or special. The love lies within, I keep telling myself. The strength lies within.

But who am I kidding? This is easier said than done. The frequency of moments in which I feel overwhelmed just keeps increasing. The potency of those moments, too, and their ability to just shut me down, completely. I always feel a hair’s length away from falling apart. Why am I like this, I often wonder. God made me this way, so I can’t be all bad, right? God made me sensitive and caring to a fault. There must be some way to be sensitive yet strong. To not lose heart every time I hear the news, or talk to my son about what bothers him, or see my spouse vacillate between moods. I want to find this wellspring of strength within me. I need to find it. Because I don’t think my life can go on this way.

A new chapter means new beginnings and endless possibilities. I hope I find that strength so that I might be the surprise character who emerges from this next chapter, the one who will carry the entire story through to its glorious end.

The Wind

What is wind but the air in transit,

from one part of the world to the other,

constantly on the move,

thoughtlessly sweeping across deserts and meadows alike,

not knowing where exactly it’s going, but going, nonetheless?

How does wind decide where to go?

Does it go where it is needed most?

Where it can provide a respite to people drenched by the heat of the sun,

or a gentle breeze to lovers by the lake?

Does it go where it can blow seeds from one section of the soil to another, to maintain the cyclical nature of life?

Or does it go where it can do the most damage?

Awe-inspiring, beautiful chaos,

an upheaval of everything we hold dear?

Where it spirals maniacally and sucks up everything in its wake,

or thrashes the shores like an abusive parent wanting to teach his children a lesson,

one they’ll never forget?

Where it joins forces with other elements, like rain, electricity, and fire,

creating the perfect storm,

a thing of magnificent power, destruction the world could never anticipate?

But most days, the wind is just the wind,

sometimes pleasing, other times a nuisance.

It moves thoughtlessly through the world, with no understanding of just how much power it yields.

On noiseless nights, if you listen very carefully, you might hear what the wind is saying.

“Look at me. Feel me. Hear me.”

Just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I don’t exist.”

So look. Feel. Listen.

Is that the whisper of the wind you hear, or a stirring in your soul?

Do you feel the uneasiness that comes with realizing how much power you yield,

and how little you’re doing to channel it in the right direction?

If you’re reading this post,

then you know it’s no longer good enough

to just get by in life,

like a light breeze picking fallen leaves off the ground and scattering them willy nilly.

It’s time to wield your power,

to gather your invisible forces,

and channel them with intention,

always listening to the silent stirrings of your soul.

Don’t just let the wind whip you around at its will.

Hold strong.

Pay attention.

All around us are signs

for those who can hear.

No One

The thing is, I keep telling people that the world needs more “unmasking”, that we need to stop “posing” and acting like everything’s all right when, in fact, we’re breaking down inside. But do I follow any of my own advice? Nope. Hardly ever.

There’s a comfort in knowing that, even if I’m breaking down today, maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. And why bother someone with the details of what I’m going through, why ruin the flawless impression they have of me, when I don’t really need to? I’ll bounce back in no time, on my own. Right? Or, maybe I won’t. And I’ll just suffer quietly for as long as this exterior mask will last. The question is, how long can I keep the charade going?

And what if I do tell people how I really feel? They’ll most likely say the most inane things, which, despite being well-intentioned, will just bug the shit out of me. If I am a little too honest about how I feel regarding my mother, my spouse, or my best friend, those are words I’ll never be able to take back, and relationships forever altered. I want to be comfortable being me, but without any of the collateral damage I fear it will incur. Perhaps the biggest fear is that, in being me, I’m really being no one. Because, let’s face it, I am no one. The voices in my head have done such a phenomenal job of convincing me of this. No amount of therapy and medication has been able to undo this belief. I am no one, and all I want is to be a someone, a me who I can be proud to represent.

I’ve always thought I had great faith in God. He will get me through this. Every night or day I cry, I beg Him for some help, some strength, a sign, perhaps, of what my next step should be. “Please steer me in the right direction, so I can climb out of this black hole.” I have lost interest in everything, even the things I used to love – movies, books, family. Writing. The things that used to make me feel a sense of connection with the world. They just don’t make me feel the same way, anymore.

I think I am craving connection. In this world of 7.5 billion people, why is that so hard to find? Do any of you feel the same way, too? Is anyone even out there?