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.

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.