“Cara has quite an active imagination!”
Now, when you’re nine, and your 3rd grade teacher writes this in the comment section of your report card, this is very good news. Because you’re then encouraged to go home and let the mind soar, wheels churning out letter after letter from head to finger on your piece of wide-ruled piece of notebook paper.
But when you’re 34, and said active imagination finds itself creating a new reality of sorts, this isn’t very good news. Case in point: shoe-bugs.
Last week Baby Cancan and I were getting ready to head out for a walk; he was dressed, and I was already in my Mom Uniform [ie: yoga pants], my shoes the final touch. Baby sat on the floor of our bedroom, “sorting” all the books from bookshelf to floor – what a helper! I grabbed my running shoes, throwing them on the bed as I leaned against the bedpost with the right side of my body while bending down with the left in an attempt to un-sort his growing stack of “to-reads.”
(Should I make him a Goodreads account now, or wait until he’s two? He totally gives five stars to The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon, by the way).
Then, grabbing a shoe, I heard the sound: ticka-ticka-ticka, ticka-ticka-ticka. Shoe-bugs! Horrified at the aliveness just inches from my fingertips, from my Baby, I chucked the shoe into the hallway, evidently scattering and freeing bugs into every crevice and corner of the house. Cancan giggled heartily, eyes dancing, baby hands clapping, at my tremendous throwing skills: Do it again, mama, do it again! We’d tromped through the playground’s sandbox the day before, and in the course of 24 short hours, little tiny jumping sand creatures had nested in my Nikes, certainly already invading the rest of my shoe collection and closet to boot. Is Parks & Rec aware of the buggy-infestation problem? Should I call them now, or wait until I’m lying in the hospital, one toe at a time slowly being eaten away by the rare strain of shoe-bug disease?
Cancan signing More! More!, I inched my way over to the hallway, and putting on Brave Face, I bent down and peered inside the shoe: sand.
It was sand.
Pure playground sand that makes a ticka-ticka-ticka sound when there’s a bucketful nesting in the bed of the shoe.
A couple days later, the mailman knocked on our door, resulting in this Facebook status update:
“Postman knocks at our door, attempting to return a large, declined, return-to-sender package. That’s our address, but no one by that name lives here. Mr postman questions the address again, and again I tell him that my name is not Ingrid (nor is the HBH’s). Postman then runs down the steps, holding the package in front of him, yelling ‘suspicious!’ as I’m left standing in the door.”
Still standing in the doorway, in the course of 3.5 seconds the following internal dialogue soon ran through my mind: Surely we’ve become involved in some intricate postal service scheme. Someone pretending to be named INGRID – a solid, innocent Swedish name, at that – had used OUR address to deceptively mail a fake package to be returned to us because they knew we’d open it out of curiosity! Is it drugs? A bomb? Sweet Baby Jesus, someone is out to get us, and it’s all because I deleted over 1000 people on Facebook! They’re gonna make a movie out of us, dead or alive!
It was then – about 3.5 seconds later – that the HBH appeared beside me, his, “Uh, honey, hello?” interrupting my thoughts. Imagination awry, I’d again created the most untrue of scenes, mind still wandering over who I’d wronged that’d be angry enough to send me a package of poo in the mail. (Poo, too, was a part of the 3.5 second mind option).
Now, don’t get me wrong: there is a time and a place for the thrill of imagination. As a storyteller myself, I value its gift and desire an explosive use of its powers – especially when it’s time to explore a story. For there is wonder and magic and childlike awe in between the pages of the imaginary.
But when my mind has needlessly chosen to read into what isn’t there, creating an unhealthy second world based on assumptions, with a false, made-up world somehow have more weight and bearing than the Reality in front of me, the value of imagination is lost.
I once attended a retreat by a man named Father Rock; whether he was actually a priest, or just a really, really wise man, I’m not sure – but this I do know: he was in his 80’s, and having loved God and life itself for a good long time, wisdom was his to share. Giving us handouts of his own Father Rock Aphorisms, I took these pieces of paper to heart, wondering what the old man had to say to me.
I remember soon thereafter, holing up on Whidbey Island with Lizzy-friend, Father Rock’s handouts on my lap as I sat on the back deck, water just inches from my toes. I was finally taking the time to sit and be and still my mind, when I read something like this from him: The Spirit is Reality. Don’t read into what isn’t there and stop jumping to conclusions.
Whether it had to do with work and ministry, friendship and dating, or even (at that time) God’s greater will for my life, I’d created solutions and scenarios in my mind, believing the made-up stories of my own active imagination more than the reality in front of me.
I realized how I’d begun to live not so much in the ever-present reality of the here and now, but in my mind’s built-from-scratch island. And that wasn’t where I wanted to live anymore.
Staring out into the perfect, stormy Puget Sound water in front of me, eyes filling with tears, I remember uttering something of a prayer: Spirit, center me and help me BE. Jesus, let me creatively use my imagination when it’s appropriate, and when it’s not, help me slam the door shut.
I guess I’m uttering the same today. So, sand-bugs, be gone. Suspicious return-to-Ingrid-sender, see ya. I’m using my God-given imagination, but when and where it’s appropriate.
Mrs. “I’ve got nothing but sand in my shoes and an old lady who doesn’t remember her address and keeps using mine” Meredith.
What about you? Does your imagination sometimes get the best of you? Do you jump to – albeit – silly conclusions?