"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." ~Pablo Picasso
Lately, someone said an insulting thing to me. She said, "If
you ever got your life together, you'd probably have nothing left to
I took this year off from teaching. I needed to know if I still
wanted to be a teacher. These days I sub, tutor, and write.
One thing I didn't bet on when I chose subbing for the year: I am
tired of pompous, tired of ironic, tired of sarcastic... tired of
adults. And I am one of them. I miss earnestness, curiosity, and
honest confusion. That is kids. I knew I'd miss kids. I didn't know I
would miss them in this way, too.
It's a safety measure, I think. We adults: our pompousness, irony,
and sarcasm. We think we need to know. We think we need to be certain
of ourselves, our surroundings, the world. And when we don't know, we
think we need to seem that we do.
The truth of the matter is that I don't know ANY adults who
have "their life together." To use that phrase is a
falsity. I have come to think that true adulthood is when you feel
comfortable in knowing you will never "arrive," that
attention always must be paid to being balanced in life. Adulthood is
peacefulness in our own skins while charitably coaching ourselves to
the next "new normal" in our lives.
Not so with childhood.
There are less self-coaching skills, less ability to be patient
between the now and the not yet.
In childhood, everything seems huge. It is the first time
things have ever happened, that changes have occurred. The feelings
and disorientation can seem overwhelming. The first vaccinations, the
first day of school, new friends/old friends, the first love... the
part where your heart swells and you can't quite breathe because HE
walked in the room. These are the normal changes, but they are a
milestone, each a giant leap away from the world they used to know.
For some children, they have had to deal with cataclysmically
abnormal changes: death, divorce, moving schools, moving cities.
ALL changes are disorienting. ALL change takes us from
paradigm to paradigm. It's confusing.
Whether we are adults or children, confusion is a clash
between the heart, the head, and changing realities. Confusion means
your heart rises up, wanting things. Wanting to be safe. Wanting to
be brave. Wanting to chase what feels beautiful, feels free.
Your heart rises up, and gets itself tangled in the brain: How
do I take care of my responsibilities? Can I find my way to a
both/and point of view? Can I move on from this anger, from this
grief? Do I want to?
A storyteller named Tommy Oaks once said, "Sometimes I
think the best way to get well is to go ahead and be sick." This
is what adults miss out on with all our sophistication. We think we
need to know, so we pretend to. But confusion itself is beautiful.
Confusion leads to action, forward movement. Allowing ourselves to be
good and confused... to really NOT KNOW things leads to crying out
for comfort, for wisdom. We cry out in our hearts, our heads. We cry
out to friends for support. We cry out to God. Sometimes only letting
ourselves feel the humility of being totally confused is the thing
that will lead us to answers. And there will eventually be answers.
But before the answers, there is value in the mere questions,
the confusion. There is a brightness in loving and wanting so many
things at once. There is earnestness in being bent down to our knees
and crying out. There is a connection to our own frailty that is
precious. There is life.
So, fellow adults: When confusion comes, let's not smother it.
Let's not pretend to have it together. Let's not shellac it with
false confidence, irony, sarcasm. Let's let the moment be, as it is.
Let's be alive.