All the fun of the fair – There’s no fun and it’s not fair
Would you like to have more fun? Do you not quite remember how to enjoy yourself these days? Has your life become more routine responsibility and less carefree play?
If so, you’re not alone. There’s so much advice out there on how to rediscover how to have a laugh. And one recurring tip is to ‘find your inner child’. And then, reconnect! If you believe the hype, all you have to do is remember what you used to enjoy doing as a kid and do it again.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
But it’s not always that easy, as I found out. Here’s how the Corkscrew threw me. (Not literally.)
My not very Merry-Go-Round
One of the best parts of having mental health issues is recovery. Kind of an obvious statement. If you hit a real low, emotionally and mentally, the best choice is to investigate the reasons and ultimately turn your life around. It’s an arduous process which takes time, tears, a tantrum or two, and then a lot more time. But you really do grow and benefit from what you’ve learned. You can go on to lead a far more fulfilling life, be more in tune with who you really are, what you need, what you can ‘give back’ and your personal values.
Have you ever been grateful to wake up without the headache that’s been lingering for days, and it makes you appreciate life more? Recovering from mental health issues, for me, feels like that times a hundred. Most days.
On the Ghost (of myself) Train
Whilst searching for a path towards healing, I read many articles, grasped at a variety of straws (some made of paper which, although better for our planet went a bit soggy, while others, the more traditional but highly unethical plastic variety, just didn’t feel ‘right’) and tried different ways of feeling better. More than once I read the advice that to find a place of joy we need to tap into our inner child and rediscover creative play.
I have taken this advice. I always loved writing, so here I am, with my blog. As a child I enjoyed taking photos… the pics on my blog are almost all my own (bar the first couple of articles). The advice works and I feel good.
The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.Stephen Nachmanovitch
How do you remember how far you’ve come?
It’s not always easy to remember how far you’ve come (how low did you go?), because once you’re feeling hunkey dorey again, it can be difficult to recall the bad times. We are all in the ‘now’ (and that’s a good thing) and it’s sometimes tricky to put yourself in your shoes from last week never mind, say, your slippers from three years ago, when your head was in a totally different space. Time’s funny like that. So how do you mark your recovery? How do you remember that you feel better?
By revisiting time markers. Or landmarks.
Sometimes these places and occasions are easy to spot in advance. Annual events such as Christmas are the simplest time markers to notice any progress in your emotional health, as is meeting up with certain friends you might see only occasionally. When you revisit a place or a situation, you can gauge a comparison.
But every now and again, there might be a surprise.
All kids love fun fairs, right?
I had that surprise this summer when I went to the fair. It felt amazing and not only because we were giving the kids a fantastic day out, but also because I felt so differently to how I’d felt last time. A couple of years beforehand, at this same fair, I was a nervous wreck.
But this time, I felt sane, happy. What a buzz!
So delighted was I to be able to join in with the kids and feel fun rather than fear whilst walking around the amusement park that I got a bit carried away. What an excellent opportunity to let my inner child have some fun!
So when my internal voice asked me to proceed with caution, did I listen?
No way! We were going to go crazy here.
Instead, I told her to be quiet and stepped into The Hurricane. After all, every child loves fairground rides, right?
Wrong. As I strapped myself in, my internal protestations grew louder.
vom fun of the fair
I endured the ride because once you’re strapped in, you’ve no choice. But I felt my skin turn grey as my head spun. My body screamed. My voice groaned in horror.
‘Just… breathe.’ I tried to comfort myself.
At the end of the ride, stomach churning, I stumbled off to find a drop of water and a seat. A couple of hours later, I still felt as though the ground was moving.
In my excitement, I had forgotten that even in my youth I didn’t like roundabouts in little parks, never mind Helter Skelters.
I got carried away at the fair. That surge of positive emotion (‘Look how far you’ve come, Eilidh!’) made me forget that ‘little Eilidh’ never did enjoy fairground rides. Instead of listening, I told myself that children ‘should’ enjoy being hurtled around by gravity-defying roller coasters.
I forgot that every child is different.
It wasn’t the end of the world. But it was the end of me feeling great, that day. My stomach literally felt as if it was inside out. I lurched slowly around and probably looked how I felt: drunk and hungover at the same time (not pleasant at all).
Did I listen to my inner child?
Nope. I frightened her out of her wits!
Afterwards, I made a promise to myself (‘little Eilidh’?).
A promise to myself
I’m okay just watching them have fun at the fair
A couple of weeks later I found myself, again, at a funfair. This one, in Belgium. It was my daughter’s birthday celebration and she took two friends along with her.
After the initial caution exercised with selecting some easier rides, Lily and H were egged on by her dad (who never has a problem accessing his ‘inner child’) to rock on to some scarier stuff and a bit of thrill seeking. The third child, A (not counting Lily’s dad), was a bit left behind.
While A and I watched and waited, A said to me, ‘I’ve already tried that and I don’t like it. It’s not for me. If I hadn’t already tried it and I didn’t know that I don’t like it, then I would try it now. But I know I don’t enjoy it so I’m not going to do it again.’
Wow! Such clarity at a young age.
His big brother was at the fair that day too, and he spotted little A as he was clambering aboard the Wipeout. He began to take the mickey, as older siblings do, knowing just where to poke and how hard. I could see A’s self-assurance begin to waver.
I jumped in and said, ‘A, you are so right. I know just what you mean. I do not enjoy those rides either. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. I do like thrills – like skiing, but when I have a modicum of control. You are brave, little A, to know yourself and to recognise and respect your internal voice. Stay brave!’ (Or something along those lines.)
Remember your own advice as you grow older, dearest A. You wise old little boy, you!
Who is your inner child?
There are plenty of reasons (excuses) we can find for not doing things we used to love. Now that we’re adults and all, serious grown-ups with responsibilities.
But if your life is missing a bit of fun, then why not try to inject some childhood play… Forgotten how? Here is a simple exercise for you to try to awaken your inner child once again.
An exercise to reconnect with your inner child
List as many things as you can (at least five) that you used to love doing as a child. Write them down… begin with the first things that come into your head as a stream of consciousness, and then go a bit deeper, when you start to flounder. Sit and really think.
When was the last time you did these activities? If it’s been a while, what are the reasons you haven’t given them a go lately?
Now pick one of them. Find some step you can take towards actually doing this activity. If you used to love painting but haven’t picked up a brush for 20 years, go and buy some paints and plan in a couple of hours of painting (put it in your diary so you have made the commitment). Even a small step counts as long as you plan in the next one.
But a word of caution: When you do the exercise, dig deep. Remember what you really loved as a child, not what children are supposed to enjoy. Not, for example, what your parents might have pushed you into doing. Not what your friends liked to do. Remember the activities that used to light you up on fire.
You might need to think a bit harder, sit with yourself and your memories a little longer.
You could use triggers to help take you back to that special space of childhood? A perfume? A particular song or a tune. You could even watch an old cartoon to take you back (‘The Magic Roundabout’ perhaps?).
The Tunnel of (inner child) Love
When I was a girl, I used to love listening to the Top 40 on a Sunday. I’d record it on my cassette player and then edit it and invent radio shows with my pals. I used to learn the lyrics (from record sleeves – none of this Internet nonsense back then!) and sing my heart out.
I still love singing. And now it’s so much easier to learn the lyrics (with this Internet nonsense at our fingertips!). Does anyone else remember this cracker?
What are your favourite things from childhood that you still enjoy doing? I’d love to hear in the comments.