Monday, June 6, 2011
Staying Within The Lines
I had an experience with a class of three year olds not long ago. We were coloring some pictures to take home and one of the children got upset with another child because they were scribbling very fast, in one color and not staying in the edges.
She informed him in no uncertain terms that he was supposed to "draw pretty" and stay in the lines. He just kept coloring in his own way and at his own pace.
I have thought about that as time goes on. I think that we all learn to stay within the edges that surround us. Somewhere along the way, we learn to avoid things that are uncomfortable for us. We hear what others say and we see what they do, we want to fit in, belong and be a part of the group. We learn to back away from the pain of being different. We learn that unique is not something we desire to be. We learn that edges exist all around us, just like coloring within the lines. We learn to stay away from those edges so that we don't get hurt, or ridiculed, or judged.
As time goes on, those edges start to define who we are and even what we are willing to become. We start to avoid those edges in our lives. We try and soften their influence. The really sad thing is that we live in a world that is oh so happy to help us find ways to soften them.
We learn to desensitize ourselves from the world around us. We eat too much, criticize too much, ignore too much. We watch stuff on TV that means absolutely nothing to us. We listen to music that does not uplift us or help us in any way. We soften the edges of our own reality.
Sometimes, it even works, for a while. For a time, it seems as if we are not bumped quite as hard. We can ignore the hard things in life or just move gingerly around them.
The only problem is that as we lose the edges, we also lose the wisdom that those edges are designed to bring. We lose our sense of self. We lose our zest and excitement for living. We lose the intuition that comes from the experience. We lose the discovery of who we are and what we prefer. And we lose the joy that is a natural result of learning about ourselves.
In other words, you can try your very best to stay within all the lines and right in the middle with the exact "right" color and effort, but one day it will occur to you that you have avoided too much and lost too much by staying where it is "safe".
I am lucky enough to finally have a job that I love and a life with my family that I adore. They shine! The laugh! They love! They accept! And because they do, so do I. I have learned that at some point in our lives, we need to choose what it is that we really want to do. We have to learn to follow our own path and make our own way.