House front of my childhood home
Growing up an only child can often unleash a myriad of feelings. In me, the negative ones were fear, loneliness, and often being the victim of bullying. My late mother used to help combat this by setting up a restful situation which I now call “rebooting my life”.
I was still in grade school, around eight years old. On sunny summer mornings when no one was around to play with, Mom would set up the card table, a chair, my big box of crayons, my colouring books and me outside on the front veranda. I could colour to my heart’s content. But more so, I got the chance to look around at the green grass which my Dad (sometimes with my help) mowed with the push mower, at the shrubs and roses and at the quiet neighbourhood. Occasionally I heard a bird chirp. Seldom would a car whiz by on the street which I faced and never would a wasp dare to come near me – at least not that I remember. But once in a while someone, maybe a neighbour I knew or didn’t know, would walk by on the street below. We would give each other the friendly eye and smile.
Today I do my own version of Mom’s rebooting my life. When things get overly problematic and/or busy (which they have this summer) I go out into my garden. I may dig in and remove weeds, pick berries or collect vegetables, but often I sit outside to eat my meals at the patio table in the backyard. Sometimes I sit in the shade of my neighbour’s overhanging black walnut tree and look out at the garden or read. Sometime I take photos of my garden. And yes, I do sometimes sit out front on my veranda, but I don’t colour. The recent trend (probably now passe anyway) of adults colouring in adult colouring books never caught on with me. Could be because I am a professional writer and amateur photographer. You really wouldn’t want me drawing anyway. I can’t even draw a straight line – with a ruler.
View of today’s backyard garden from patio
Dusk view from my current front veranda
However, looking back at my childhood (I know – my age is showing), I realize Mom had cottoned onto a good idea. We all need to reboot from all the stuff in our lives.
Only Child’s home and garden for her health circa 2011
Do you reboot? If you reboot, how do you reboot?
Only Child Writes
Wasting time rebooting my laptop countless times yesterday thanks to malfunctioning software got me thinking. Why can’t we reboot ourselves when life’s stressors, overwhelms, etc. attack us full force?
My late Mom sure had the right idea for a little girl with no brothers and sisters but a Bully for a friend. In my memoir, in Chapter 4, “Protecting the Princess,” I write:
She (Mom)must know that the others treat me like a pariah. On sunny summer mornings, she parks me outside with my colouring book and crayons at the card table on the front veranda. I sit there in the slowly receding shade from the house and carefully pick out crayons to colour in the trees, flowers, people, and cartoon characters of my vast colouring book collection. Boxes holding only eight crayons are not good enough; I prefer at least 24 crayons because then I can pick out different browns for the hair and different greens for the grass and trees. I pull out a crayon, lift it to my nose to inhale the waxy smell, then apply it to the drawings of people and places. I make sure my crayon stays within the outline and that I shade evenly. No wisps or coloured lines scattered all over the page. Already I am realizing that I need some order in my life. But not without the spontaneous sweetness of nature. Often I lift my head from my shading to stare at the green grass and trees along the block and listen to the birds tweeting. Occasionally, a neighbour strolls by. We don’t wave or say “hello,” but I sense the peacefulness, not just between us, but overall. The neighbourhood is quiet now and I need to absorb this. It is more than just breathing – it is my reboot into living after confrontations with the Bully. Of course, I don’t figure this all out then. I am just content to soak up the moment without any angry outbursts.
I know now that Mom sensed this need and this was her way of getting me back in gear. Perhaps she realized that because I had no brothers or sisters, I had to go it alone. Perhaps she felt guilty because she and Dad had not “given” me a sibling. It certainly had nothing to do with Dad’s cancer because the summer of his diagnosis was still a few years down the road.
(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).
So, what’s stopping I or anyone else from doing a reboot? I have finally finished planting and transplanting in the garden and weeding is never-ending. I’ve started sitting out on the backyard patio or the veranda – not to colour with crayons (I still like the waxy smell), but to read a mystery or memoir book or the newspaper. It is my way to connect with nature, with summer and even my youth. As I grew older and moved away from crayons and colouring books, I would sit out in the backyard or on the front veranda and read an Agatha Christie or teen novel – whatever I borrowed from the library. Often I did this instead of studying for high school exams. It was a way to de-stress and disappear into another world, not mine. The characters in the novel might have had difficult situations to deal with but they would be solved by novel’s end. And they were not my problems. The big key to reading fiction is escapism. And most of us need some of that in this aggressive fast-paced technological world. I could add many more adjectives but you get what I mean.
Take the time to reboot in your garden. If you don’t have a garden or a balcony with containers of flowers and herbs, go to your nearest park or public garden. And sit. And read. And just absorb the surroundings. Reboot. Your psyche will thank you. So will your family, friends and anyone you come into contact with. Beats an angry you flying off the handle at every slight or big conflict.
Only Child Writes
Filed under Anxiety, Balance, Burnout, Crayons and coloring, Health, Only child, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Peace and quiet, Reboot, Stress