The power of whimsy
As serious as some of my columns have been, I am actually best known for being a bit of a lightweight. Certainly a person who took a look at any space I have inhabited for any length of time would think so. Look at my tattoos – they’re silly! Look at my art – it’s all cute!
I won’t lie. I love this stuff. It can’t get too adorable for me and I am at my happiest as a melted puddle of doting goo (mop and bucket, please!). However, that this is an indication of any sort of weakness is a miscalculation on the part of any who assume it – and this has been a costly assumption for a few who thought to discount, demean, invalidate, patronize or condescend to me. I survived being an abused kid, a street kid, a juvenile institution, a marriage at 17 and motherhood at 19. I did not get through any of that (including molestation and rapes) without having a solid titanium spine. In fact, there is a Scary Maya/Nana Bear that I keep in a luxurious little internal space and only let out when I need her, like if I think my granddaughter is in danger. I would seriously advise against ever tangling with Nana Bear. Then there’s Smart Maya, who will take you down in an intellectual heap should you be silly enough to treat her like she’s stupid (it’s been tried; they failed).
No, for me, whimsy and a general lightness of being is a choice I’ve made with all due deliberation. For one thing, I would rather be Whimsical Maya, Creative Maya, Cuddly and Adoring Maya than Scary Maya any day, although Smart Maya is always there – she’s just smiling.
Not only does nurturing this aspect of myself bring out the parts of me that I would rather manifest – loving kindness, doing right for the sake of right, the ability to be tender, to nurture, to love, to empathize – it also gives me far, far more strength than any amount of rigid seriousness ever could.
Believe me, I’ve seen what happens to very strong but very rigid people. One of my favorites, a woman I saw as being as powerful as an ancient oak, killed herself after a fight with her teenaged daughter. So many things had piled on her that one more, really quite survivable burden snapped her into shattered pieces. She put a gun to her heart and pulled the trigger, leaving her teenaged daughter with a lifetime legacy no child should ever inherit.
Whimsy is powerful and it gives us strength. It gives us the buoyancy to stay afloat, the flexibility not to break, and the joy to power through the bad times. It’s the acknowledgement that there is wonderment out there for which to reach, that there is beauty that cannot be taken away by pain or difficulty. I look around me, in my fifth wheel office/half-the-year abode and the sparkly stickers, silly pictures and generally childish joyfulness of my surroundings and it lifts me up out of any dank, dark places into which my spirit is all too willing to descend.
After all, if there are pictures of granddaughters and kittens and smiling mousies, mandalas and madonnas with dragons, surely there must be joy still available in the world. If I can create some of this magic from within, then surely there is room for radiance, forgiveness, tenderness and love. Whimsy gives me hope, makes me smile, cheers me up, picks me up, sets me on my feet to toddle on through the occasional sea of cold molasses in which I find myself.
Whimsy injects laughter into my reality, which is the equivalent of blowing helium into the balloon that is my existence. It sets me afloat so that I can soar over the petty miseries, the occasional calculated cruelties, the tragedies and devastations that life will hand out so generously. Life is going to hurt. It already has, as demonstrated by a childhood and youth so painful that my first impulse to suicide emerged at age 6, and by the loss of my only brother, the miscarriage of my long-awaited son, my mother’s death from cancer, my friend’s suicide, my daughter’s husband’s sudden death and the loss of a young man who was my nephew in all but blood. Choosinge whimsy, choosing joy is my way of fighting back. It’s me saying that those who ravaged me will not win. I will triumph in my happiness, I will dance above their heads in a celebration of joyous survival and I will, as I am doing this, have fun! To be angry, to be sad – at least more than occasionally – over what was done to me is to let them win. Mind you, I have to sometimes deliberately remind myself of this, but in the end, I will not let them pull me down for the third time.
Not. A. Freaking. Chance.
Should you see me, then, with my Prismacolor pencils and a stack of drawing paper, sit right down beside me. I will hand you a sheet, share my pencils, and we can triumph over misery together – laughing.