How to see the world with the eyes of a child


There’s nothing on earth more here-and-now than the undiluted enthusiasm of a child.

They observe the world around them with fearless, unadulterated amazement. Days are spent drinking in every visceral joy, basking in a sensual utopia of buttercream and moon shadows.

Children have no scars or wounds, no specters of alternate realities unrealized to choke their relationship to visceral perfection. They have an honest curiosity for existence that percolates more with every fresh second that ticks by.

The smell of wild strawberries growing in the field down the lane. Ladybugs and laughter. A terrycloth towel on smooth skin and the way daddy’s face lights up when he walks in the door. This is the marigold quintessence of being alive.

photo 2 (6) photo 1 (9)

Alas, as we grow older, we develop an alternate state of being – an unreality. This is the land of critical thinking. It is a presence of mind rather than body, a state where we make major life decisions, learning and growing as intellectual, emotionally cognizant beings.

With each passing year, we spend more and more time locked in our cerebral prisons, evolving into the people we are to become. It’s a critical and unique marvel of the human condition. However, before long, we forget entirely how to commune with an uncharted moment. We forget what ‘uncharted’ means altogether.

We stop noticing the plushness of the terrycloth in our rush to get dressed, get out the door, get to work, get home, get to sleep. Life is no longer an experience – it’s something to get through. Just a few more minutes until…

How do we get back to living free and in the moment? Living to live? The one link between self-actualized adulthood and our long-lost childhood selves is curiosity.

Living the Curious Life

The dictionary defines curiosity as a desire to learn or know about anything.

This is the key to life because it lies at the heart of all discovery, invention, creativity and intellectualism. What would the world be like without it?

Travelers and expatriates are practiced in conscious curiosity. We are forced to entertain a deeper existential awareness as a byproduct of the adventurous lifestyle. However, many of us don’t exercise this knowledge actively outside of the experiential haze of backpacking life.

As soon as we settle back into the routine of our host city, the existential magic ebbs away and we’re left with the doldrums of everyday existence. We begin to take the specatularity of our surroundings for granted.

We slip silently back inside of ourselves as the silt of boredom and responsibility blankets our mental repositories.

Getting the Magic Back

The first step to breaking this cycle is awareness. How many times a day do you catch yourself wallowing in unconstructive thoughts?

Fear, regret, anxiety, self-pity, self-doubt.

Whether you’re drifting to sleep at night or in the busiest part of your workday, escaping toxic thought patterns can seem impossible. And in a weird way, they’re addictive. The would-haves, should-haves, mights and maybes that lead us to construct grand romantic narratives in our head; playing out a kind of trick-fulfillment that’s ephemerally gratifying at best.

Dear brain, this is how it should have gone…yes to Fritos, no to Ho Ho’s.

Do you ever stop to think about how much of the day you’re wasting by living forever in the stagnant recesses of unreality?

Luckily, there are several tricks to keeping the magic alive and embracing the present moment with the joy and reckless enthusiasm of a child:

Creative Expression: Art, literature, music, theater, dancing, singing. Whether you’re watching, participating, or creating, there is no better way to enjoy the present – even if it’s just grabbing the soap-mic to belt out “Let it Go” In the shower. According to the University of Washington’s Arts in Healing Program, engaging in creative activities or viewing art releases endorphins, reduces stress and boosts self-esteem. You’re transported from the passive condition of thought to an active condition of sensation and desire via the aesthetic form. When you truly throw yourself into the act of expression, there is no room in your head for anything else but the symphony of inspiration swelling inside you like a circus balloon. It’s rousing, tactile engagement that sweeps you into the here and now.

Meditation: Another great way to open your mind to the present is through meditation. Easy enough to work into any schedule, meditating allows you to halt destructive thought patters and reconnect with the simplicity of your inner self. According to the Brainwave Research Institute, meditation increases production of serotonin, dopamine and melatonin, all of which are directly related to positive moods, happiness and relaxation. By doing just a few simple exercises, you are given an opportunity to reawaken the part of your soul that appreciates the details of living minute to minute. You will be surprised at how much lighter you feel.

Laughter: As E. E. Cummings once said, “the most wasted of all days is one without laugher.” Laugh long, hard, and often because it just feels awesome. According to a recent article on stress relief by the Mayo Clinic, laughter not only rockets you’re brain into the present, but it also stimulates your organs, soothes tension, relieves pain, and releases endorphins into your system. Attitude and perspective are 90% of any battle so if you have the choice to chuckle, don’t, hold back. .

Do less: One of the best ways to re-engage with your casually curious side is to simply, do nothing. In the feverish onslaught of meetings, deadlines, and to-do lists, we can forget how important it is to take a time-out. And with technology at our fingertips, we are so accustomed to filling small gaps of time with checking emails, replying to texts, or browsing Facebook – but none of these things allow our brains to fully disengage from unreality and appreciate the present. According to an article in Reader’s Digest, doing 5 minutes of nothing per day can wildly transform your outlook on life.

Give Yourself a Break: For most of us, the mental to-do list never ends. There is always the next thing after the next thing, after the next thing. So…in the words of Idina Menzel, “let it go! It’s good to have goals, plans and agendas for what you need to done, but don’t let it get out of control. It’s not healthy to constantly harp on yourself for things you haven’t had a chance to get to. This email, that phone call, a bill, an errand, a meeting. Eventually it will all get done so don’t compromise more of yourself than you have to in order to get there.

No matter what is going on in your life, make a commitment to curiosity – cast off the shackles of un-actualized intent and live for today! Because life is what happens while your making other plans.

Saying goodbye.


Image

The first thing we are taught in this world is how to say hello, but nobody ever teaches us how to say goodbye.

I am not talking about waving to your kindergarten teacher as you cross the hallway to the first grade classroom. Or the way you feel when your older brother goes off to college for the first time. I am referring to the soul shuddering farewells that shift the polarity of your known identity. The kind of partings that make you question all the decisions you’ve ever made in life.

Crouching beside my fourteen-year-old dog, her milky eyes teemed with liquid trust. Steeling me with her caramel gaze, she took no notice of the suitcase by the door. I cradled her silver muzzle between sweaty palms, trying to strike a balance between denial and an overwhelming appreciation for all that she is.

This is the kind of goodbye I’ve encountered from the moment I left for Australia, two and a half years ago.

Travel-hungry expats understand this kind of raw reality better than anyone, as by the nature of travel we find ourselves meeting and parting, perhaps forever, from a multitude of exceptional people. But what do you do when these periphery encounters become a significant part of your life?

After several years living and working abroad, I find that there is no such thing as goodbye. You can’t produce an equation or cook up a recipe to soothe an ethereal sense of loss. If you could, I feel that would be doing a great disservice to all you have known and experienced.

While time, space, and the waking world may separate us from the people and things that we have known and loved in the past, they are never truly dislodged from us once embedded.

Goodbye is a graveyard that I spend life speeding by, only glancing at from the heated seats of my volvo station wagon. But every now and then I have to pull the car over, stop the engine, and take a saunter through the old parts of myself.

Greeting others is one of the most beautiful tokens of social expression and the true goodbye is an eternity of hello’s to the past.

 

Inspiration attacks with Titanic force


RMS_Titanic_3

My favorite comedian Jack Handy once said, “I hope some animal never bores a hole in my head and lays it’s eggs in my brain, because later you might think you’re having a good idea but it’s just eggs hatching.

Good for you, Jack, for figuring out how to put what that feels like into words.

Have you ever walked into an art gallery or seen a really good film and thought “Why didn’t I think of that first?”

It’s the schizophrenic rush of inspiration, the feeling that the demonic heat of your own creative potential might actually set you on fire.

And then you see the gelato shop across the road and the idea that was so fresh and clear in your mind crawls back to the larval sack of ambivalence from whence it came.

For me, this moment came yesterday after watching Titanic for the 10,000 time.

Although many fans ‘abandoned ship’ in an effort to distance themselves from the poisonous haze of romantic stereotypes and pre-teen obsession, my loyalty has never wavered.

Before Titanic, nobody had the tools to communicate the shock, terror, and devastation of this infamous night. By definition, history is removed from our sense of reality and is therefore inaccessible.

Since April 14th 1912, people have relied on written accounts and imagination to connect with the horror of this legendary disaster.

Then came James Cameron’s Titanic, a sensual tsunami that allows people to experience the sinking for themselves through the eyes of authentic, relatable characters.

The story is communicated with such flawless accuracy, counting a plot laced with faithful depictions of true passengers.

The stark class differences and political dissension of the era are meticulously represented in every dialogue. The boundary between present and past is shattered for 194 minutes.

All I can think is, why didn’t I do it first? Never mind that I was 10.

Born frisky but not foresighted


Grownups

Twenty seven years old. I have written it the long way, because it takes the visual impact of each syllable to fully appreciate the longevity of the age. As anyone who has made it past a quarter of a century knows, the birthdays flit past with less ceremony and twice as much reflection.

With each year gone by, the line between  retrospect and regret is increaslngly more defined and I find myself in a state of naked awareness. Everyone has moments from their past they would like to forget, but there is no greater lesson than failure.

For me, this is not a time to agonize over the cliff not scaled or the half baked cake. It’s a time to bask in the honesty of my darkest moments and gain a more realistic sense of self.

Reviewing  the frenzied scribbles of my journal, I find it littered with comments like “future Jessica slaps you here” or “indoor scooter-ball will never be a good idea”. Looking back, these are the notations I value most.

Where would I be if I didn’t take something away from a good crash and burn? Surprisingly, dead baby jokes are never the way to go on a first date, although terribly effective screening. Lately, I prefer confronting animal memes.

Present Jessica knows now that drunken sledding is only ok if your not tied to the dog. Careening down a hill, one boisterous beagle fails to appreciate that zig zags are not a part of the plan. You live, you learn…and then you unhook the leash.

Most importantly, moving forward in age is not a departure from the frolicsome abandon of youth, but an incorporation of it. The stark optimism of a 5 year old, the deviant curiosity of age 10 and the foresight of 27 rolled into one.

May yesterdays floor-cookies bake me a brighter tomorrow!