Today is my birthday. Our house is being watched over by our vigilant housesitter and we are taking a break. As I sit here. on the porch of our Keys hotel, listening to seagulls cry and bulldozers roar (construction next door), I'm contemplating life. It's been a challenging year, but it's finally quieting. I'm struggling to regain something I've lost over the past 11 months.
My sense of imagination and adventure.
Oh, I still have it, but it's lurking deep inside and it's a struggle to coax it out. It stopped accompanying me wherever I went, like a playful child. Instead it sat in the corner as if it were condemned to a long time out.
When your life has been turned upside down, by something unexpected and traumatic, your priorities shift, along with your focus. Even quiet time, down time, is occupied by thoughts of what lies ahead, what you must do. The sense of imagination and adventure gets put on the back burner because your life has changed.
I realized this is what happened with me ever since last May when my father-in-law fell ill and eventually died in Hospice. Our world turned on its axis and left us struggling to carry on, and the main daily responsibilities of home and jobs became the focus, and the myriad of items regarding my FIL's house and his small estate became the secondary focus. I found myself daydreaming, not about werewolves and vampires and stories, but about hiring a cleaning woman to help me clean up 30 years of linens my father-in-law never tossed. No longer was my free time spent in happy, quiet imagination, but immersed in a haze of legal papers, tax forms enough to make the IRS weep with joy, and a blizzard of contractors as we renovated his house to sell.
It's all over now. The house is on the market, the IRS has their fair share and the contractors are gone. Yet I find myself trying to recapture my imagination, my sense of joy at creating stories, and it's evasive, like that imaginary child in the corner who is finally free. She is sullen, but I feel her tug at the corners of my mind like a child who takes my hand to explore the seashore, the cry of a gull, the small waves lapping at the rocks. And finally, she is showing me things I had overlooked in the frenzy of the past few months, allowing me to envision possibilities and finally let my creativity soar.
"See those bushes outside the porch? They're a forest of tall trees, and lost among them is a fairy who got shrunk to the size of a thimble by the spell of an evil sea god, and she's trying to find her way back to her home," she says.
I'm glad she is finally free, and now, at last, with a sense of hopeful adventure, I can take her hand and explore the world and unlock all the playful ideas waiting for me. My well, as Julia Cameron puts it, needs to be filled and at last, it is beginning to bubble with fresh ideas.
It's the best birthday gift I could ever give to myself.