A reply to: A letter from Lenora
Your letter has given me so much to think about! I kept wanting to sit down to write and then finding myself postponing the reply because my mind was still spinning the wool from your last letter!
Well, finally today, I feel the wool is spun, the spool is full, and I’m ready to write!
First off, please don’t ever feel you need to hide your magic from me! I know I wrote that it causes a sort of reality-split for me, but you’ve got to know that that’s one of my favorite states! I think I became a folklorist for the sake of cognitive dissonance.
Speaking of which, that’s what I’ve been spinning since reading your letter. It’s not the magic, it’s the hardship. Here are the pieces that I had a hard time fitting: you are such an empathetic, kind, loving, and genuinely–sincerely–happy person. And at the same time, you’ve experienced such loss, hardship, and even trauma.
How is it that you haven’t become bitter, wounded, and full of suspicion or even hate?
When I read about all you’ve experienced, part of me wanted to feel hopeful. But before I could do that, I felt I needed to examine that hard nut to crack: suffering, loss, trauma on the one hand; compassion, healing, love on the other.
Writing it now, it seems so simple: It’s the love, isn’t it?
But it took me a long time and a lot of contemplation to get there.
The other day, while I was cooking lunch, Jena had a melt-down. I mean a royal, weeping, total two-year-old meltdown. One minute, she’d been dancing happily. The next, she was keening.
At first, in one of those instants that feels like it contains hours, my mind raced through a thousand possibilities. Was she having a flashback? Did something trigger her? Was this a recurring of an old trauma? Is this the start of something we should worry about?
Then, she stopped crying and said, “Sammich, Mommie?”
I dished up half a grilled cheese sandwich for her, carried it out to her, and she said, “Tank you,” and sat down and ate. No more tears.
I had to laugh! She was just hungry, that was all!
And I thought back on your letter. Do you know, when I think of what you wrote, never once do you say, “Why?” or “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?”
You simply described what happened with acceptance and trust that everything turned out OK.
I love this paragraph that you wrote:
Awful things do happen, and all we can do is cope as best we can. I believe everything I’ve gone through has made me stronger and more able to help people when I’m needed. I figured if I turned into a bitter old shrew, those events would have gotten the best of me and I couldn’t allow that. I have too much going for me to let it keep me down.
It seems to me that we, and by “we” I mean all of us people, are more resilient than I had ever imagined we might be.
After Jena finished her sandwich, we went out to Cat Castle, which is this play area that I set up in the grassy field behind our house.
Jena asked for a story. She likes stories about animals best: no fairy tales with magic for her! No stories about princesses or princes or witches or monsters or balls or attics! She only likes stories about llamas, ducks, cats, and donkeys! She calls them, “true stories.”
I’ve been looking into the development of imagination in children. Some scholars believe that children’s paracosms tend to be more mundane in early childhood, developing into the fantastical as the children grow older and better able to process the everyday world around them. Alison Gopnik, a child psychologist (whose niece, by the way, had some very close imaginary friends!), writes:
Human beings, unlike other animals, develop everyday theories of the world around them. Two decades of research have shown that children construct and revise an everyday physics and biology and, above all, an everyday psychology. (From The Real Reason Children Love Fantasy)
So I’m trusting that my little “true story” reader will grown into a lover of myth and fairy tale when she’s ready enough!
It’s possible that day might come sooner than I think!
The next day, while I was fixing breakfast, Jena was twirling and chatting away!
“Who are you talking to, little cat?” I asked her.
“Mrs. Goodenough!” she replied.
“And who is Mrs. Goodenough?” I asked.
“My friend who comes for tea!” she said.
So I served Jena and Mrs. Goodenough breakfast for two, and while I enjoyed leftover sandwiches for my breakfast, I felt so happy! You see, I had an imaginary friend when I was growing up (and, don’t tell! I still sometimes talk with Bastion the Butler!), and so to think that Jena will have Mrs. Goodenough brings me so much joy!
Which brings me back to the topic of resilience: If our minds can create exactly the imaginary friends and inner worlds we need to help us navigate this complex life, then I’m guessing our minds have the capacity to help us heal from whatever wounds those complications and challenges bring! Do you think so?
Thank you for being my friend, Lenora!