I’ve been having this recurring dream, and it’s just about as obvious as they come. I’m taking care of a small kitten—sometimes, it’s a puppy—and all of a sudden I realize I haven’t given it any food. In a panic, I try to put the kitten in a bag while I run to the store so I don’t have to leave it alone.
When your inner child shows up in the middle of the night demanding to be fed, is it always with such a guilt trip?
Adulthood asks so much of us, it can be easy to forget there is a childlike essence in there too. The number of moments requiring self-control seems to grow with each passing year. And while I generally think of myself as having a very active inner child, in the months without blogging I feel like maybe the opportunities for that energy to express itself were fewer. I realize now that this is the place where impulses to play and to imagine run free for me. Without the blog, I may have been inadvertently starving my inner child.
The good news is that once you realize it, it’s actually pretty easy to tap back into your inner child. If, like mine, yours is waking you up in the middle of the night, here are five ideas for reconnecting with it:
1. Do a happy dance. The beauty of a happy dance is that it’s deliberately not a “good” dance. Don’t do it in front of the mirror. Do get someone else to do it with you, as studies show joy has significantly more impact when shared.
2. Make a weekend to-do list. Only put on it things that are fun, like “Make pancakes” and “Go to the movies” and “Run around in the park.”
3. Spend an afternoon doing something no one in their right mind would pay you to do. When you were a kid, you painted or collected seashells or climbed trees for hours without noticing the time go by. But as an adult many passion projects become chores. By doing something you love that isn’t worth money, you’re more likely to be learning or exploring something.
4. Look at large-scale art. Large objects, like these balloon-shaped sculptures by Katharina Grosse, trigger a perspective shift that reminds you of what it was like to be small. Even better if the art is full of color and pattern. The swirls on the balloons remind me of the bouncy balls I used to get from the vending machines at the grocery store as a kid.
5. Go on an adventure. Remember what it was like to go on a nature walk as a kid? I used to come home with all kinds of mundane treasures foraged from the woods: pinecones, oddly shaped stones, red fall leaves, feathers. This summer I discovered trail running. I’m not much of a runner but there’s something so fun about being in the woods and jumping over rocks and roots, I never seem to notice I’m actually running.
How you know when your inner child needs attention? What do you do to get back in touch with it?