Or, Brobdingnag or Lilliput?
This piece is written with my psychotherapy hat on. Or psychotherapy head on, because I have yet to come across sentient clothes. It reflects many experiences I’ve witnessed, heard or been a part of. (Grammar Nazis, I defy your stifling behests!)
When I was four, I decided I couldn’t draw. It was a wet Sunday after lunch. Dad was having a kip so we had to be quiet. Mum was ironing (hankies! socks! But that’s another story). My sister said, ‘Mum, I’m bored. What can I do?’ Mum said, ‘Draw something.’ ‘What shall we draw?’ I cried, in the voice of a 1950s girl in white ankle socks, because I didn’t want to miss out. ‘A house,’ said Mum. ‘You can both draw me a nice house.’
So we did. Mine looked like a little square with a wonky roof and scribbles of smoke coming out of the chimney. Its windows were littler squares in the corners, with hair-bow curtains. Janet’s was a Disney castle.
So I ‘knew’ I couldn’t draw. Instead I decided writing was the way to go. I enjoyed writing The in curlicued letters. Even with my head all empty of knowledge I realised that particular hobby had a limited future. Especially as I had to do Remedial Writing every night after school. It came from my failing: I was left-handed. I knew that because The Big People told me. Even my left-handed Mum made me write or do chores with my right hand to ‘cure’ me. (It didn’t. Like Mum, I’m ambidextrous in some things but now it’s a choice.) Thus calligraphy did not loom large in the future of my four-year-old brain.
Gradually, though, writing stories did. I sent off my collection of a dozen stories when I was in Top Juniors to a competition for kids aged 10 and 11 to do something academic or creative. I came second. Now I think of it that’s a pretty big achievement. Or did I just get short-listed? I can’t remember. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. For some cock-eyed reason, though, I was hurt. And peeved. It turned out that a Latvian girl who went to Latvian school on Saturdays had done a project on … wait for it … Latvia. She told us she’d done some of it at Latvian school, and the rest at home. So for years I managed to turn my triumph into cynicism and self-condemnation.
On the plus side I turned to Creative Thinking. It was my companion, my guide, the one who led me out into the grand adventures of the universe. This was far better than hanging about in my real life feeling not good enough. Creative Thinking, of course, led to Creative Dreaming. You can always be an ambitious wishful thinker.
So I did find good in that bad decision. I now believe that making decisions by comparing your four-year old self to a six- year old who’s 50% older than you is, shall we say, somewhat self-limiting. And blinkered, because it ignores the possibilities of change. You know what, four year olds? You don’t have to stay four forever. You can make new decisions.
You can paddle about in shallow little dreams, getting nowhere but perfectly comfortable – or miserable – stuck in your familiar limitations. Or you can do something. Because an ambitious wishful thinker will try and strive and work to make their dreams come true.
I love writing. I love therapy. I love painting. Because at sixty I finally realised my four year old self might have been mistaken. I’m loving painting in all its colourful newness. As I come across different techniques I’m probably re-inventing the boneless sausage but I’m having fun. I’ve even sold a modest six pieces of artwork; not bad for less than four years of giving it a bash.
I don’t want to be a giant Gulliver tromping on Lilliputians. But I’m not going to be a tiny person surrounded by Brobdingnagians any more.