Time For Play and Healing
I had a lucid dream conversation with one of my guides. He started speaking as if we’d already started the conversation before we even spoke. The subject was my current reading: Women Who Run With the Wolves, and how I mourned the creative and sensitive folk who had died young, usually because of their emotional wounds sustained in childhood that led them to substance addiction in adulthood.
“Well,” said my guide, matter-of-factly, “That was the old artist model. We have a new prototype now: Artists who are capable of self-healing so that they can live longer and create more. They just have to go back and forth between healing themselves and creating. Though, they should not spend too much time in their wounds in any cycle.” He also gave me the prototype model number (which I’m keeping to myself) and seemed to be chastising me gently.
I was lagging behind. “Am I of the new prototype? Or the old one?” I asked. Because, you know, Important Question.
I didn’t get an answer, because it was also a dumb question; I’ve lived past my late 20s and was already in the midst of a intensive healing course. It also hit me then that my guide was giving me a none-too-subtle message that it was time to return to painting and creating soon.
But it’s helped to know that the way I work is also how I’m meant to work. There are many more successful artists than I, who can work consistently and prolifically; I’m not one of them for now and I’m OK with that, because my time is interspersed with family and other pursuits, including learning, writing, teaching, and yes, healing. My artmaking was a very solitary and lonely journey growing up–it was constantly put down rather than encouraged; “What is this for?” and “You’ll never make any money off this” being the most consistent messages. It was discouraging, to say the least, and it was internalised.
Part of my journey now, as a mother, is having these moments of terrible recall of parts of my childhood I’d shut out for years coming back for understanding. “So this is the effect that event had upon you,” these moments seem to say, and I’m faced with the question of how to process and shift with them. Sometimes I write the memory down. Sometimes I tell my daughter the story and resolve not to repeat with her what was done with me. Sometimes it takes a week of feeling like glass, finally breaking and being put back together before I can revisit the memory without reaction.
I understand this process, and how, in the end, it brings gifts: We become more whole by seeing, accepting and integrating the bad experiences into who we are now, instead of viewing them as cut-off appendages of mistakes or “wasted time”. They are never wasted if the lesson is learned. As children, we are at the mercy of adults who “know better” but really don’t–too many have been disconnected from their emotional centres, and they would choose to do and feel what society expects, rather than follow a difficult inner voice that tells them to play for a moment and to dream like they were still children.
In Chinese culture, there is/was a widespread tendency to push the children towards academic excellence as a means of financial advantage. Unfortunately, the motivation is usually fear–of losing out in earning prowess and social standing, besides, of course, “wanting what’s best for the child”. In this traditional set-up, the child doesn’t have a say. And the more fear-addled the family is, the more the child’s life is controlled and overscheduled. They are pushed towards classes and subjects for which they do not have passion, and sometimes, for which they don’t even have the developmental capacity yet–but it’s for them to be ahead of their peers. If they do not excel academically, then they should at least be well-disciplined to unquestioning and respectful robotic obedience–it would show that they are “well bred”. It was widely acceptable for a Chinese parent to lose their temper and use the cane on their child towards this end. (Things are changing, but slowly.)
I recognised these pressured children even as a child because most of them seemed to have a Jekyll-and-Hyde complex. In front of their adults, you could not fault their behavior, but behind the backs of those same adults, they changed–often to belligerence, even cruelty. Others seemed “tuned out” or dimmed somehow, incapable of enthusiasm, light-heartedness or taking initiative. Disconnected. (Some of them remain so into adulthood and older.) Now, I recognise that cruel punishments and unrealistic expectations are the acts of adults who are projecting their own emotional insecurities onto their children. This unhealed and unconscious parenting leaves damage.
Embarking on a healing journey, spiritual or not, usually entails at some point, the recognition of how we were emotionally hurt and limited in our self-beliefs and esteem as children. Through this journey, I’ve also realised that healing can be easy as entertaining our childhood selves again. Letting ourselves dream, and play, and create, but with the added “adult figure” of ourselves providing the structure, encouragement and guidance that we may have missed out on before.
So I guess I am allowed time for playing and healing–between bouts of work!