“The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.” –Deepak Chopra
Luke loves to draw. He made a new comic series this week that was *slightly* autobiographical about a boy named Luke. In the first episode, Comic-Book-Luke was starting back to school and his mother made him wear a t-shirt on the first day that said, “Mommy loves you,” with a big pink heart on it. It was hilariously executed and I found myself laughing quite a few times while reading it, and not in a patronizing-mom-way. I was so proud of him for coming up with something so original. His writer’s voice is starting to become more pronounced and he is becoming a passionate storyteller. I have always hoped that one of my kids might take to creative pursuits of self-expression.
Then before bed the other night, Luke was watching a movie with his brother and his dad and the movie had some scary bad guys in it. As I went to tuck him into bed, he was holding back tears and said, “I’m kind of embarrassed to say this, Mom, but I think that movie freaked me out.”
“Aw, buddy, it’s ok. You know what I think happens to people like us? We have a really strong imagination. It’s our super power, if you want to know the truth. So, when we are inspired, we can create these really cool ideas, like your comic books…You’re so good at drawing and creating characters. It’s like you can see the story before it’s even on the paper. It’s a cool feeling, isn’t it?” He nodded.
“But as we know all super powers can be used for good and bad. If imagination is your super power and creativity is how you use it for good, then anxiety is the dark side of your power. You can come up with these realistic scenarios that feel so real and are based on your worries. But what have we learned about a lot of our worries?” He shrugged.
“They don’t usually happen, right? And what usually does happen is, somehow things work out all right, don’t they.” He sniffed and buried his head into my arm.
Anxiety is something we deal with a lot around here. Luke has an extra dose and so do I. Our other two kids deal with it at times, but they’re also easily redirected. Luke takes a little longer to come out of it when he starts going down that road. I feel for him because that’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life as well. As a kid, you just think there is something wrong with you.
“Everyone else can order hot lunch, why can’t I just trust that it will taste good and I won’t be poisoned by it?”
“I want to try climbing the rope, but what if I look stupid or if I fall and get hurt?”
When you become an adult, those worries become more like, “I can’t watch my four-year-old go down the stairs alone because I know one of these times, she’s going to fall. But I don’t want to hold her hand because then she’ll think I don’t have faith in her being able to do something so simple and I’ll ruin her confidence and she’ll end up in therapy for yet another reason.” So you just hold your breath and pray and feel another brown hair turn gray on the top of your head.
I envy moms and dads who let their kids go outside and play with turtles and frogs in the pond and don’t hound them about washing the salmonella germs off their hands in the laundry tub when they get back into the house and then proceed to scrub the laundry tub with dish soap and bleach afterwards (I mean, who does that?!)… I want to be laid back, but I also want to avoid hospital visits and broken bones. It’s such a fine line…
Using my writing is how I keep my imagination powers “good.” When I neglect my creativity, things start to get scary up in here. It’s like someone dumped a bucket of crude oil into my brain and all that comes out is coated with gross black slime.
To fix it, I write. My laptop or my pencil are like the rescue workers with their buckets of sudsy water scrubbing the oil from all the cute little turtles and seals in my head. I write to work out these problems. I drain the neuroses and sometimes the worries sound so ridiculous once they’re out that I have to laugh. So this is one of the coping techniques I’ve had Luke start using as well. To be fair, he kind of came to it on his own, but I’m encouraging him to go with it. We laugh together at his drawings and he realizes his fears are actually very funny at times. And I have started sharing some of my ridiculous worries with him and he laughs. His most favorite recent one was when I had a gassy stomach at a workout class and I was afraid to jump rope because I thought I’d fart in class so I asked if I could run outside instead. He loves bathroom stories.
So we make light of our fear. JK Rowlings did this in Harry Potter with the “Riddikulus Banishing Spell” for battling boggarts which are invisible monsters that turn into your worst fears. To defeat them, you take your fear and make it funny. Ron Weasley was deathly afraid of spiders so the boggart naturally became a giant spider when it was his turn to battle it. Ron cast his spell and made the spider wear roller skates also it would fall all over the floor.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Sometimes our fears aren’t things that could bite us. They can be things like fear of failure or embarrassment, shame or allowing ourselves to doubt our self-worth. Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough.” “I’m unlovable.” “I’m so messed up.” “No one wants to be friends with someone like me. I’m the weird mom at pick up.” “I’m such a slacker mom! We’ve had take out three nights in a row! My kids are all going to have bad eating habits and it’s all my fault.” The list is endless. But this is anxiety. This is how we manifest our imagination in a negative way.
So, what would you tell your younger self? What would you tell a child version of you if you saw her beating herself up about things? What would you tell your own child?
Be gentle with yourself! Ok, so you could work on some things. Who doesn’t need to?! But it doesn’t make you less of a person. We must stop playing small and start believing in our worth.
So what if you’re the weird mom! Embrace it. Hey, you’re not like everyone else—Congratulations! You got take out three nights in a row? Guess what, you made it a priority to feed your kids using any means necessary. Go Mom! Scott’s favorite line lately is, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” He uses that one on me a lot.
Man I’m on another tangent… Anyway, my point is, take your worries and kick them upside down. “Riddikulus” the crap out of them. See the positive side of your overactive imagination. Find your way to get those worries out and see them for what they are. They’re lies. They’re ugly untruths meant to make you shrink down. This is NOT how human beings are meant to live. You are meant to be brave and bold and glorious. You’re not perfect, but you are beautiful! Your mind is lovely and you are loved. Don’t let anything or anyone make you feel like less. Keep your head up high, girl!
Another quote I will leave you with because I loved it this morning and I’ve been vibing off of it all day: “The ocean does not apologize for its depth and the mountains do not seek forgiveness for the space they take, and so, neither shall I.” —Becca Lee