I miss few things about my childhood.
One is the starry sky at night, a bottomless abyss in a world that got its up and down all mixed up.
Another one is the ability to experience the world through a child’s eye effortlessly.
You may have heard that expression before. Understand what most don’t: it has nothing to do with nostalgia and avoiding responsibility.
When I was a child I didn’t want to grow up.
Pippi Longstocking was one of my favorite characters for a reason. (Unlike Peter Pan, which I found entirely too predictable.) Now I realize the reason is not just the obvious one.
I didn’t want to grow up, but not because I liked my childhood that much. It was, at best, mediocre and I didn’t have many illusions about that at the time. No, that wasn’t the reason and I was well Aware of it.
I didn’t want to grow up because I was afraid of the big bad world. More than anything – of getting old and sick.
I won’t lie. I was afraid of death, too, but mostly because my parents and grandparents would die. There’d be no-one to… like me, I guess? No-one to take care of me and make me feel safe. Yes, safety and comforting was the deeply selfish and utterly mediocre reason to fear death.
What really scared me on a personal level was the sickness and frailty of old age. I was often imagining all sorts of horrid diseases and what they could do to me when I got old.
It was a life based on fear. Fear at home because my parents were always just barely scraping it together. And fear in my head because I was too comfortable in this terrifying and mediocre existence.
I know it makes no sense, but that’s exactly what it is – a deathly comforting one can find in one’s own terrors.
It took many years to get out of the safety-and-comfort loop of thinking and existing, but being comfortable in one’s own mediocrity is a thing that I have fallen for over and over. Fear is not a necessary ingredient by any stretch. Mediocrity has its own powerful undertow, a black hole of comfort in its own right.
A lot of people take the child’s eye metaphor as another excuse to justify their own escapism in their self-inflicted miserable lives. They hate their jobs, their family, their own kids, but don’t have the courage to be honest with themselves.
That they made a mistake in their life choices.
Because if they did, they might actually have something they can do about it. They might have real options and tough decisions to make for themselves and people they say they love and other semantics.
Honesty with oneself is too much to handle for most. So, instead, they skirt responsibility and sink their hooks into every opportunity to rationalize their acting infantile.
It’s all because of all the “adulting”. They are unhappy just because they’re at that stage in life when it’s all about taking responsibility and taking care of the kids and the mortgage and the car payments and the divorce settlement and yada-yada-yada.
No, it is not.
If you were actually taking responsibility, you would never even pay lip service to such a moronic narrative.
There’s always something you can do to make things better. There’s always something you can do to Be better.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
Pippi Longstocking is amazing and different because makes the ordinary extraordinary. The book spins miraculous adventures out of everyday events.
Which is exactly what the child’s eye is about.
Everything the child sees is different and new because – in that disgruntled “adulting” narrative – the child is cheating! – Why? – Because everything is actually new and different to the child’s eye (unless you’re one of those people with the “old baby” look, born to presuppose and be grumpy).
The child’s eye is about freshness and opportunity and a little bit of danger – just the healthy amount. When you go into the same situation for the millionth time and see it in a completely different light and maybe even start laughing at yourself – that’s the child’s eye at work.
In the ordinary and mediocre life of the lo-awareness grump, as time goes by, one’s perceptions slip into familiar reaction patterns. Habitual reactions begin to shade all your perceptions and you become locked in a prison of your own making. Lo-awarenes grumps react defensively before anything has even happened.
You see, hear, smell, taste, touch nothing, you assume everything.
You don’t know anything about the situation and you already have an opinion about it. Worse, you’ve already decided that all is lost and you can’t do anything to make it better.
Paranoia is the classic example of this. Everybody is out to get you because you think they are, and your energetics and behavior actively incite people to dislike you and punish you for your toxicity. What you perceive is what you actually inflict on yourself.
The child’s eye is the opposite of this horrid world of self-torment. It’s always open to a crisp and fresh experience, to be entertained and fascinated, to find value in a pile of manure.
I kid you not, spreading manure to fertilize the garden was one of my favorite things to do when I was a child. Put that as number three on the list of things I miss.
In adulthood, there’s only one way I get to experience the world through a child’s eye without making an effort. It’s why I’m absolutely addicted to traveling, and few things in life delight me more than arriving in a new city, in a new corner of the world.
But that is just for pleasure and entertainment. That’s when I get to create an experience without trying too hard.
The real deal, as always, is in the inner work – in approaching your thoughts and perceptions with the child’s eye of an outside observer.
Do they serve you or do you serve them – out of habit and lo-awarenes?
If you don’t like the results you’re getting, keep doing things the exact same way you always have.