There’s been so much written and said about the “inner child” in the last couple of decades that any mention of it is likely to bring on an eye roll. This morning, though, I was visited by a memory that gave me a whole new view of it (or, in my case, her). I’ve had a lifelong love-hate relationship with the creative, childlike part of me. Okay, mostly hate. And shame. Today, I have a new understanding of how unnecessary that has been. And a glimpse of the sweet freedom that’s available with just a small shift.
About ten years ago, I was at a weeklong program at Integral on Sustainability. Among the many fabulous experiences we had was a guided practice called “Big Mind.” This is a combination of Buddhist and modern Western psychological thought developed by Dennis Genpo Merzel to not only “get in touch” with inner voices, but to embody and integrate them. To feel whole. When he invoked the inner child, I became sad and forlorn. Later, I was surprised when everyone else said their inner child was carefree and playful and joyful.
What was wrong with me? A few years later, through guided visualizations, I found this same sad, lonely, neglected, and rather resentful youthful energy way down in my psyche. Usually, I met her sitting on a rock by a shoreline. She’s been waiting all this time, feeling banished. I’ve been ashamed of her my whole life for bringing on tears at inopportune times—not only weddings and other ceremonies, but movies, gospel music, even sometimes when my father said a particularly heartfelt grace at a family gathering.
We reached a bit of a détente, my inner child and I at that time, but I knew she didn’t really trust me. Nor I her. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I had no inkling that, in a very real sense, she is my creative spirit. She is not The Muse, but the part of me that says yes to the suggestions and promptings of The Muse.
In recent years, I’ve tried a different route to creative inspiration and expression: the page. The daily journal, the creative writing projects. Dreaming up scenes and stories and characters. And steeping in the old, mythic stories. I know I have a long way to go yet, but there is something happening as I work with this.
Today, I drew the Page of Cups tarot card. (It’s not lost on me—even after a lifetime of obliviousness about my inner child—that Page and page are the same word.) The Page of Cups has the energy of the inner child, who “has never been taught to suppress innate emotional and creative power.” I thought, “Oh, yes, she has. She’s been well schooled, from the earliest age.”
And yet! So much creative power still managed (manages) to squeeze through, despite all the many, many constraints and requirements and judgments I’ve put on that power. And I haven’t worked alone. My mother, teachers, the culture at large, every boss and client I’ve ever had, and even my own husband have all pitched in. I’m enlisted help at every turn to suppress, control, and squash that God-given emotional and creative power.
The word that most caught my eye from the Page of Cup’s message is “freedom.” As in, “Allow that sense of freedom to reappear in your life.” Every single cell in my body sings yes, yes, yes, YES! to that. I even know that feeling, have experienced it in those rare times when I was relaxed and focused enough to let the Creative flow through me without judgment or forcing.
Years ago, I had a dream that has accompanied me always. I’m standing on a curb and Liam Neeson pulls up in a red convertible. He smiles and extends an invitation: “Get in! Come with me!”
I worked at understanding that dream, because for days afterwards my whole life shimmered. I was in love with everything, I felt filled with light, on fire with possibility.
Without getting too analytical, here is my understanding of the dream:
- Liam Neeson—a working, successful, respected artist.
- Convertible—no limits, open to the inspiration of the vast sky
- Red—fire of passion and creative life
- “Come with me”—give in to your longing and embrace your soul’s calling to be a successful, working artist.
- Car, motion—this will be the ride of your life. Destination unknown. Adventure and discovery promised.
I will even admit here that my husband was attracted to this very part of me. And, under the glare of his and the culture’s and especially my own judgment to conform and “be a productive, useful, responsible member of society,” I have worked hard to keep that as hidden as I can ever since. It exhausted me into depression and robbed me—and my loved ones–of joy. Worst of all, it created a huge backlog of unexpressed creative work that can only come through me, with my unique perspective.
This is what the Page of Cups has come to tell me today. To remind me that Liam Neeson’s offer still stands.
I think I’ll get into that red convertible now and see what happens.