It is freezing here in south Texas – twenty degrees on this January morning. Ice covers everything, and we warm-weather Houstonians have been warned to stay indoors and off the roads again, for the second day in a row. School has been cancelled, and I am huddled in my meager home like a bear in its cave. The old house has little insulation and ancient, rattling windows. There is no central heat, only a gas space heater set into a faux fireplace, plus an electric one that I have recently bought from the hardware store. I have lit the burners on the gas stove, something I’ve been repeatedly told not to do for safety reasons. For all my years in Texas I have never lived in an abode where the heat was sufficient against these cold snaps, these Arctic blasts that we get with some regularity. I have always relied on my stove-top burners, the poor man’s solution to braving and surviving the cold in Houston.
It is good writing weather, I tell myself. Yet all my writing mind seems to want to do is what Brenda Ueland calls “moodling”, or daydreaming with a pencil in your hand. It’s a valid practice, but I feel like I must get some worthy words on the page. My intention was to write about the inner child, the little girl who lives inside of me, and who I feel has been misunderstood and actually caged, imprisoned for all her wild ways, her big needs. She needs to come out, maybe sing and dance, I am feeling it keenly.
I know this business of the inner child has been over-played in recent years. I would not harken to those overly-simplistic, so-called experts of the New Age psycho-analytic mind structure. This is very real to me. My Little Girl is a huge presence in my life. She is both friend and foe, she helps me and sabotages me; she is there at every turn. I have worked tirelessly, fearfully, expensively in association with a brilliant Jungian therapist to uncover her, set her free, let her say her piece and have her way without destroying me. I think she is finally finding her path.
She has found her voice and her place on the page with Willowmena, though let me be clear here: she is NOT Willowmena, though I think she and Willowmena could be friends, and I hope they are. I would not try to psychologize Willowmena. But the Little Girl has much in common with Willowmena, her love of animals, for example.
Where does that affinity for animals come from anyway? As I sit here writing I have before me a porcelain sculpture of a land tortoise and a stuffed wolf. My lovable, demanding cat, Tache, and my little, shy sheltie, Delilah, lie snuggled together on the couch against the cold. This I know: I love my animal companions. Or maybe it’s the Little Girl who loves them. I think it probably is. I get the dog and the cat. But a land tortoise? A wolf? And don’t forget Gore, the rhinoceros with the flashing red eye. From where did they come?
I will tell you, they came from no other place but the depths of the unconscious, from whence come all such noble and worthy creatures. They are friends of the Little Girl, and by writing them, I am honoring them, and her. Without the Little Girl there would be no Willowmena, no Gore, or Scout, or Claw, or Tomas the land tortoise, (who you will meet in subsequent books about the Land of Bleak).
The Little Girl makes possible these characters coming to life on the page. Without her there is no story. She is my best friend and my worst enemy. Her dark side is a thing to behold and wonder at in fear and horror, she is so hurt and angry. I won’t go into the why of it; that I will save for the therapy room. Thus, she has been imprisoned in a cage in my psyche, the good along with the bad. The baby has been thrown out with the proverbial bath water.
So, I write, and in writing I befriend her once again. She likes to sing and dance too, so those things I do when no one is looking or listening. She likes the presence of other children, so we sit and watch them play at recess, enjoy their unfettered liveliness, their unabashed and uninhibited joy. I am a teacher of seven- and eight-year-olds, so I am in a perfect position to provide this for her. I think there are no coincidences, no accidents. There’s a cosmic reason for me teaching second grade, as difficult and tedious as being a public school teacher in America can be. But that’s another story, for another day, a different page. . .
I privately teach creative writing to children of all ages, out of my own home. This is a joy to me, and something for which I seem to have a gift, though I couldn’t tell you what it is that is so special that I do. But I do get children to write, where other teachers struggle with this quite profoundly. It is a mystery and, I think, belongs to the mysterious Realm of the Invisibles as I like to refer to it. Accepting mystery in your life is an important part of embracing whimsy and finding your story, a place where the inner child would reside and revel.
Recently, during a Saturday morning workshop for little writers at my house, I overheard one little girl, Sophie, telling another, Adelyn, that she should buy my book Willowmena’s Quest and read it, that it was one of her favorite ones. Let me just say that this kind of love is new to me and very special. In loving my story, you love the Little Girl, it goes without saying. I said to her, “Sophie, you don’t know the good that you do to my heart when you say things like that.” She just smiled at me and said, “Well, it’s true, Ms. Rhea.” In gratitude my Little Girl did an invisible dance and silently toasted Sophie with a cup of cocoa. Then, I ate an Oreo by untwisting it and licking out the icing inside, the tried and true method of every kid. Is there any other way to eat an Oreo?
In closing I would encourage you to find your own inner child. Write, sing, dance, play . . . whatever it takes to find her/him. The inner child is the basis for your creativity, the bridge to your imagination. He/she is your best friend and will save you from a life of dreary meaninglessness. But you must find her/him, give him/her voice and expression. Reclaiming your inner child may not be easy. He/she may be very angry with you or with the world, or simply lost. He/she may be terrorizing you unconsciously from the prison in your mind where you may have placed her/him. But the effort is very worthwhile. It is a path that, once taken, you will not regret. Untold treasures lie waiting for you there.