Jimmy, Come Out and Play: Releasing Your Inner Child for a Lighter, Happier 2021
My new year’s resolution for 2021 is a simple one, although it’s going to take a little work and lots of daily reminders to put it in practice.
I’m going to do my best every day to see the world through a child’s eyes. To come at each day afresh, as a child does. Curious. Thirsty for adventure. Looking for the simple joys wherever I can find them, and giving thanks when I do.
This past year, I think we will all agree, was a terribly heavy year.
Put it in poetic terms, 2020 was a long day’s journey into night. The clouds moved in early into the year and thickened day by day, blocking out the sun, the warmth, the pleasure.
Sickness and death were all around us. Many of us loved ones. Every day that we donned a mask, we were reminded of an enemy that was somewhere right around the corner, aiming to get us. Simple pleasures and freedoms that we had taken for granted—the ability to go out to dinner or a movie, to travel, to host a party, to give someone a hug—were taken away or severely limited.
And if the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, there was the politics. Oh, the politics! I, for one, allowed myself to get caught up in all the damn politics well beyond what was healthy and productive. But really, there was no way to escape it. Every day that we turned on our TVs or looked at our Facebook feeds, we were subject to a level of political and racial strife such as this country has not seen in decades.
It felt like we were at war, which in a way, we were.
When we weren’t battling a virus, we were at war with each other, with those who held different views about our country and how it should be run.
As a highly sensitive person, I felt the anxiety every day, some days more so than others. I had trouble sleeping. I worried about my loved ones. About the future of the country. About the economy and the stock market. I was not alone. Just about everyone I spoke to felt anxious. How could we not, with the media there every moment to remind us of the dangers?
Live like that every day, month after month, and life becomes dark and joyless. It becomes more like a slog than a butterfly’s dance.
I, for one, am tired of it. I want to see the sun. I want light and lightness and warmth. I want to run and play and dance.
And while the virus is still out there and life has not yet returned to normal, we have a vaccine now – several, in fact – and life is on its way back to returning to a new normal. The sun is peeking back out, there’s a feeling of hope in the air, and it’s time to find our joy again.
And so, on these first few days of the new year, I have resolved to find my inner child and set him free.
He’s there somewhere, I know he is, beneath all of the worry and fretting and political anger and other crap I have loaded on top of him. He’s there, joyful as ever, waiting to be let loose into the garden of delights that is life and have some fun.
We all have an inner child, even if we think we don’t. Long after we have thrown away our childhood toys and assumed the oh-so-serious bag of grownup responsibilities and concerns, our inner child lives within us, alongside the adult part of our self.
Whereas the adult’s job is to work and pay the bills and take precautions against viruses and dutifully handle all of life’s other responsibilities, the inner child’s job is … to just be. Whereas the adult ego-mind lives much of life either in the regret of the past or the worry of the future, the inner child lives always in that wondrous, timeless place called the present where life unfolds like a carpet rolled out just for us.
The inner child has no job but to experience. To look in awe and wonder at the marvels of life, and to jump in and experience them, for no other purpose than to enjoy them.
No matter how much heavy stuff we throw on top of him, the inner child never leaves us. We may deny his existence. We may ignore him, push him away, tell him we are busy and have more important things to do. We may tell him he is being silly, that his dreams are unreasonable. But he’s still going to dream and fantasize and want to run and play, because that’s what he was born to do, and every moment that we don’t listen to him, we are missing out on the joy and color he can bring into the often dull, heavy routines of our lives.
My inner child’s name is Jimmy. He is that blonde-haired, spindly-legged, excitable kid who talks too fast and runs like the wind and has a tendency to trip over himself and break teeth and bones.
Jimmy grew up on a six-acre farmette surrounded by woods and fields. We had horses and dogs and an old leaning chicken barn where every year, stray cats gave birth to mewing litters of kittens tucked deep in the hay. Our drafty old Pennsylvania farmhouse had only one bathroom for eight people, the pipes had a tendency to freeze in the winter, and there was never enough money to go around. But to me and my siblings, that place was Paradise.
Each season offered a different brand of adventure. Fall was for harvesting sweet corn, and cracking hickory nuts in the horse pen, and gathering pears from the backyard tree for our mother to bottle in syrup for the wintery jars that lined the shelves in the musty basement.
In the winter we ice skated on the creek out back and burrowed tunnels through snow drifts and went sledding wherever we could find a hill.
Spring was for splashing in puddles, and planting the garden, and baling hay and picking wild strawberries and searching the yard for the blue jewels of robin’s eggs fallen from nests onto the grass.
And summers – those glorious summer months of playing whiffle ball in the yard. Fishing for bluegills in the creek under the bridge with hooks baited with balled bread. Searching for tadpoles and crayfish amidst the blooming algae.
Lying out in the yard with our dog Trixie, using her fluffy body as a pillow, staring up at cumulus ships making their way across the sea-blue sky.
Feeding carrots to our crazy horse Lucky who’d occasionally try to nip our hand.
Kicking up dust on our hand-built go-cart. Carving my name into trees with my trusty Buck penknife. Or just lolling about in the hammock in the dog days of August, watching the parade of big black ants marching through the dirt, as the vibrato cries of the cicadas rose and fell in the great catalpa tree overhead.
What joy it was to wake up each day. I couldn’t wait to jump out of bed and dive into this toy box of delights.
Why can’t life be like that? Why can’t we see life as an adventure and not as drudgery?
That doesn’t mean we need to ignore the bills, run away from our responsibilities, tear off our masks and pretend there are no risks out there. But there needs to be balance, or else we get out of balance.
We get out of balance when we allow the adult to run our lives and ignore or push away the needs of the inner child. That’s where I—and, I think, much of the country—was for much of 2020. Out of balance. It’s why there was so much anxiety and anger out there.
What better time than now, at the start of a new year, to resolve to lighten up, to have some fun, to rebalance our lives by freeing that inner child who is weary of all the heaviness and wants to play.
So go play, Jimmy. Run with the wind at your back and joy bursting in your lungs. Run without heed of what others may think. Run without thought of the past or the future. I will be there alongside you, with my aging arthritic limbs, doing my best to keep up.
Will you join me in making 2021 a year of joy?
Look for more blog posts this year in peaceableman.com about rediscovering the simple joys of life. I’d love to hear from you as well on what fires up your inner child.