One of the suggested topics for the Ultimate Blog Challenge was to share a video. So I’m sharing one of my own, from my YouTube channel.
When I was very young, I made up stories that I acted out with my dolls and stuffed animals. Sometimes I shared those stories with my parents; more often, I just kept them to myself. I lived in a very elaborate imaginary world, populated by imaginary people who sometimes seemed more real than the people I knew. I learned to read early, and I was determined that someday, my stories would be in books like the ones I read.
When I got a bit older, I learned how to make those little squiggles called “letters,” and that unlocked a whole new dimension for my stories. I could put them on paper and keep them to read later! Not only that, but I could share them with more people! The first story I remember writing, when I was five, was about a girl named Maria who went to live with her uncle. I wish I still had that story, but alas, it was lost to a flooded basement when I was eight or nine.
In kindergarten, I had a wonderful teacher who allowed me to read books from the classroom library and draw pictures about the stories as part of my reading curriculum. One day, I wrote my own story based on a picture I’d drawn, and she began encouraging me to write more stories. It was the first time an adult had told me my stories were good and had acted like they were something to be proud of.
So basically, I’ve been creating stories my entire life, and I’ve been writing them down since I learned how. Obviously I haven’t been published that entire time. My first published work, a phonics-based reading comprehension program, came out in 2002 (and 16 years later is still available!), and my first novella came out in 2009 (and is no longer available). But as a child and teen, I wrote dozens of stories, some novel-length, many of which I still have. They aren’t as good as I thought they were back then, but I’m still proud of them. Especially since I wrote them all longhand…computers weren’t available to me back then!
Playing is a normal part of childhood, and it’s a big part of how children learn about the world. Whether it’s make-believe in which they pretend to be a parent, or playing a board game in which they have to follow rules and take turns, or sitting down with crayons and paper and creating whatever comes to mind, playing is important as a child.
It’s important as an adult, too, but we don’t always see that. For me, “play” was usually something I did alone as a child. I created elaborate worlds and used my dolls to act out roles in stories I wanted to write. Sometimes my dad played board games or card games with me, and very occasionally I had a classmate who was willing to be friends for a while. But mostly, play was a solitary activity for me.
As I got older, I learned that play wasn’t a good thing. I should do my homework, try to get good grades so I could get into a good college, clean the house, etc., instead of playing “make-believe” games that I was supposedly too old for. I learned that I couldn’t draw or color well, so I shouldn’t even try. About the only thing I continued with as far as playing were the stories I created.
Then I became an adult, and other things were more important. Things like making money. If I wasn’t earning anything from an activity, it was a waste of time.
That was the downfall for me with writing. I started earning money with it, but didn’t earn enough. It became a waste of time because it was something I was doing instead of working a “real” job. And I’d already long since lost touch with the playful side of myself, to the point where I didn’t usually even play with my own children, I just watched them.
I didn’t only lose play. I lost joy.
Playing as an adult isn’t a waste of time, though. It’s part of self-care. Whether it’s playing board games with your kids, or mucking around with markers or paints, anything that brings you joy and creativity helps to recharge and relax you.
That’s something I’m trying to shift my mindset about, and it isn’t always easy. I take things too seriously sometimes, and I have a lot of years of “don’t waste time, earn money” to get past. “I don’t know how to play and shouldn’t anyway” has become an ingrained part of the story I tell myself, and it isn’t as easy to rewrite as I would like.
But I definitely want more joy in my life, so I’m trying.
Most children have the power to dream. And some of those dreams are pretty elaborate. Dreams of who they are, and of who they want to be when they’re older.
Some are fortunate enough to have parents or others who encourage those dreams, no matter how improbable they seem. (How many people actually get to slay real dragons?) But many times, well-meaning adults tell children, “That’s just a silly dream. You can’t really become that. Why don’t you be a (fill in the blank) instead?”
In my opinion, dreaming is a way for children to explore the world. Having daydreams about their future lives helps them learn to believe in themselves and in the probable and improbable. So what if dragons don’t really exist? A child who wants to slay dragons might become an adult who, as a lawyer, helps imprison criminals who hurt children. Not a literal slaying of a dragon, but definitely the ending of something harmful.
Some of the dreams that adults say are too unrealistic are completely realistic with work and belief. Becoming an actor, a musician, a writer… any of those are things that a child could easily become if they take the time to learn the craft, and are willing to put in the time it takes to build a career. They aren’t the “traditional” ways of earning a living, but that isn’t a reason to discourage a child from them. It’s a reason to help them find ways to make it happen.
Instead of discouraging children from their dreams, it would be wonderful if adults encouraged them. Even the unlikely ones. Let children reach their own conclusions about whether they can actually fulfill those dreams, instead of telling them they can’t.
At this time of year, many people spend time with family members they might rarely see the rest of the year. That can be good, but there are times when it’s easy to remember *why* you don’t see them often. They question every choice you’ve made in your life. Argue with you about right and wrong. Judge you for not living your life exactly the way they live theirs.
And unfortunately, some people’s families are so judgmental that they don’t see them at all.
Being around family, or being reminded that everyone else is with family while you aren’t able to be, isn’t easy. Even if you have a life with which you’re happy most of the time, hearing your family’s opinions of it can cause you to doubt and question the way you live. Some family members also have a knack for making you feel like you’re ten years old again, and they treat you accordingly.
If your family doesn’t welcome you at the holidays, that too can lead you to doubt yourself. You might feel as if they would love you if you just lived/acted/loved the way they want you to, and might think there’s something wrong with you for not falling in line with what they seem to want.
Whatever your holiday situation is, and whomever you’re spending it with, practice accepting yourself this holiday season. If family members judge or question you, face it with acceptance. You are valid and lovable as you are, and it isn’t your fault that some people choose to place conditions on their love. At the same time, you can’t change who and how they are, so even when it hurts, try to accept that it’s something about *them*, not you, and that they don’t define who you are or should be.
I wish everyone the best of the remainder of the holiday season.
A Story You Tell Yourself is based heavily on my own experiences of working to overcome my past and start telling myself a new story. This program is designed primarily for those who have dealt with abuse, bullying, and other trauma in their lives, and feel that their experiences and the impact of them are holding them back.
We all tell ourselves stories about our lives and ourselves. “I can’t do that, because I never went to college.” “I don’t dare to talk to her, because she reminds me of one of my abusers.” “I don’t know enough to even try that.” And so on.
Some of these “stories” are our own creations based on our experiences, and some are things that were told to us by abusers, bullies, or others. But we can tell ourselves new stories if we work at finding them, and that’s what A Story You Tell Yourself is designed to help people do.
I’m currently accepting new clients into the program, which is an 8-week program that includes weekly meetings with me in person or by video chat, two Chios Energy Healing sessions (distance or 30-minute “mini-sessions”), and two guided meditations. If you’re interested in enrolling or learning more, comment on this post or visit the A Story You Tell Yourself page on this website.
I’ve been doing a lot of studying over the past few months. So much that some of it kind of leaks out of my brain. It’s a good thing I take notes!
When I was in school, studying was something I tried to avoid at all costs. I didn’t care about the things my teachers were trying to drill into my head, so I sat in class and mostly listened, took notes if I thought I should (or if the teacher required note-taking as part of the grade), and pretty much took tests from that. I often did homework the morning it was due, as I sat in the school cafeteria chatting with my friends.
The traditional school structure didn’t work for me. I didn’t fit in as a student, or as a peer. I wanted to do and learn my own things in my own way.
As an adult, fortunately, I have that option. I’m taking some courses, but they’re online home study courses that move at the pace at which I decide to move. I’m reading a lot of books and taking notes about the things that resonate for me, or things that I believe will be beneficial for me to know.
I wish I’d had the option to learn this way when I was in school. For years, I daydreamed about starting a school where kids could do exactly that: Learn at their own pace in ways that made sense to them.
There are schools like that in existence, and may well have been when I was growing up. Some forms of homeschooling, such as unschooling, operate on exactly that concept.
I hope someday it’s widely recognized that people are not cookies cut from the same cutter. We learn in different ways, and have different interests and needs. One thing we do have in common, though: We can all succeed if we’re given the right tools and opportunities. I wish that happened more often.
When I was a child, I believed in magic. Completely and wholeheartedly. I heard voices when no one was around. I had conversations with the wind and with trees. I felt things changing. Sometimes, if I tried hard enough, I felt like I caused change. And I had “imaginary” friends who knew a lot more than I did.
Of course, growing up with very literal, science-minded parents, I was taught that those things weren’t real. I was also, unfortunately, taught not to say anything about those things to others, or I might get locked up. I didn’t have resources then to find out more about witchcraft, or energy healing, or anything along those lines. Though to give my father credit, a few times he surprised me with books about psychic phenomena and other metaphysical topics. But none of those had anything that rang true for me.
I grew up. I forgot a lot of what I knew and did as a child. My imaginary friends never went away, which I couldn’t understand, but since I didn’t have many friends or people to talk to, I was kind of glad they were there.
When I was about 35, I became friends with someone who taught me about channeling and guides—and I realized my imaginary friends might not be so imaginary after all. He taught me about energy healing, and I remembered the times when I was injured and held my hand over the cut, and felt heat and then the pain went away.
He and I weren’t friends long, but he made a pretty big impact on my life.
About a year and a half ago, I became friends with someone who taught me about witchcraft—and I realized I wasn’t the only one who talked to trees. That the voices I heard as a child might not have been my imagination either.
I’ve realized over the past decade or so that all the things I thought made me weird, and my parents thought meant I was crazy, weren’t exclusive to me. Other people believe the same things. I’ve learned things as an adult that I knew instinctively as a child, and I’ve felt like I was coming back home.
I tried to raise my own children with open-mindedness toward things like magic, energy, and guides. Whether or not they talk to guides or trees or anything like that, I wanted them to know they weren’t the only ones, and there wasn’t anything wrong with them for it. I hope I did okay with that.