I used to love waking up on a summer morning knowing that my biggest event of the day would be meeting my best friend Beth and determining what we could create that day. Would we play “going to the office?” Would we create a new hopscotch design? Would we get in a fight with Brian across the street? Would we go down to the creek behind her house, declare ourselves Queens and play our own game of thrones on the giant rocks?
Whatever we decided to do, it included the imagination. Creation. And the only limits involved getting caught if we went beyond the boundaries set by our parents.
Looking back, I realize that most of the joy and freedom we felt was based upon perception. Because perception is everything.
I remember getting in an inner tube as a young child at the beach. I don’t remember the beach we were visiting because I was really young, but I do remember getting in that tube, lying back, and falling asleep. My father, who was riding the waves, apparently took his eye off me for a little too long, and when I awoke my mother looked very tiny standing on the beach screaming at my dad and pointing a fearful finger my way.
I can still hear the water around me, and feel the sun on my face as I floated peacefully. Suddenly, I heard my dad calling my name. “Don’t worry, Donna, dad will save you!” he was saying. Save me? I was in a beautiful moment. I didn’t need saving. Thus, as dad swam towards me, I started paddling in the opposite direction. I thought that was hilarious. Dad, not so much. When he finally reached me, he was breathing heavily and prepared to guide me back to the beach where mom stood, ready to pound him.
Until I became a parent, I don’t think I could appreciate how scary that moment was for them. Because it was delightful for me.
The difference in that situation was that I didn’t know the dangers. No one had told me about how many people drown at the beach. I wasn’t worried about statistics on skin cancer. Child abduction was not discussed. “Jaws” had not yet hit the theaters. I felt taken care of and safe. My story was a good one.
Mom and dad knew a lot more than I did. They had more fear, and thank goodness they did as their fear resulted in my rescue. But the freedom I felt on that day is something I will never forget. Because my stories enveloped me and helped me float in the most glorious of ways.
I think we need a little perception tweaking these days. How can we take care of the plants around our house if we’re frantic about the earth dying? How can we enjoy our jobs when we’re freaked out about getting sick? How can we focus on a great hopscotch design when we’re worried that we’ll twist our ankles if we play?
Life really is the story we tell ourselves. And, some days, we need to take a break and just float away, however that looks for us. And if people frantically try to pull us back in, we will tell them we appreciate it but we’re happy right where we are, in a state of sheer joy and safety. Maybe we wake up as Queens, and enter the world with imaginary crowns, gliding through the grocery stores with dignity. Perhaps we become famous writers, sitting at our computer knocking out a blog with imaginary patches on our elbows and pipes in our mouths. Or we simply lie back and see what we can make of the clouds.
We will be saved by our ability to imagine better and play more.
Today, I hope you play. I hope you float away. I hope that you remember how to feel safe, and how to laugh, and how to picnic in the perfect moment that is around you. Unpack your basket, spread a blanket, and lie back in the sun. Life is perception. Use your imagination to create a better lens.