“There are four obstacles. First: we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.” (vi)
It’s impossible. I heard Ian say that today about his loose tooth: “I can’t wiggle it enough to make it come out, Mom. It’s impossible.”
Honestly, it hurt my heart to hear him say that. It reminded me instantly of this Alchemist quote. Has the negativity of the world already entered his young life? In a way it has, not just because of his loose tooth, but because people, children and adults, have been telling him his dreams are lies; his imagination is ridiculous; his desires for some day are impossible.
Every day he comes home with a new fear-filled question:
“Mom, did you give me the half-dollar for my tooth? Kids at school say there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy.”
“Mom, why doesn’t anyone believe that I’ll be a wizard when I turn eleven?”
“Mom, do you believe in magic?”
“Mom, do you still believe that I will be Spider-Man someday?”
I’ve been so torn. Part of me wants to fall to my knees and beg Ian’s forgiveness for allowing him to believe these things; the other part of me wants to reprimand the adults that have squashed his dreams.
Bottom line, I don’t want him to stop believing in the impossible. He’ll have plenty of time for that when he gets older. He’s only seven. Can’t he believe these things a little bit longer? We allow our children to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Leprechauns. Teachers and adults nurture these beliefs in elementary schools. Has it ever done any harm? If anything, we hurt our children more by exposing the truth before their minds are ready to accept the truth.
I remember Carol Linn being devastated one Sunday before Christmas when she was five. She came up from Sunday School early and sat in my lap, burying her head in my chest. She told me the teacher said there was no such thing as Santa Claus. She was crushed. Her dreams were shattered with a careless comment from someone who thought it was anti-Christian to nurture the Santa lie. I was livid. I have been able to blend the Santa tradition with Christian faith easily. But Carol Linn had the beloved tradition ripped from her; I fear that in some ways, it has affected her faith today.
I know that people will accuse me of feeding my child lies, that I’ll just end up hurting Ian eventually. But I don’t look at it that way. I’m feeding his imagination. I’m allowing him to be a child who will one day be so moved by his imagination and dreams that he will do great things because of them.
I refuse to tell him that something he thinks about or wants to happen is impossible. Three years ago I embraced the miracle of healing for him. Look at Ian now: Healed!
Throughout history we have inventors who have created the unimaginable for their time, not because they were geniuses, but because they used their imaginations and created the pictures in their dreams. We have telephones, computers, cars, and planes because people used their imaginations. These people were allowed to believe the impossible. Why can’t we let our children do the same?
Could this be why we have so little creativity in the world today? We have remakes of movies instead of original screenplays. Children imitate others instead of creating a unique self. Have we been trained in reality so succinctly that we killed imagination? I have students who are so afraid of looking foolish, they won’t give an opinion about literature because it might be different from other students’ opinions. They are afraid of finding solutions to problems because they don’t want to be wrong; they want me to tell them the answers instead of thinking for themselves.
As an adult, I fell in love with the crazy movie The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl because of the message. Here are two of my favorite quotes: “Everything that is or was began with a dream.” ~ Lavagirl; and “So dream a better dream; then work to make it real.” ~ Max. Where would we be without our dreams?
Ian and I played Trouble today with Lovey, his purple stuffed gorilla. Ian talked to Lovey during the game, switching the sound of his voice when he spoke for Lovey. He helped Lovey press the pop-o-matic, and they discussed what move would be best for Lovey’s game pieces. I played along and gave Lovey a high-five for winning the game. Not only did imagination play a huge part in this game, but Ian said wonderful, unselfish things like, “I don’t care about winning, Mama. I want Lovey to win, since she’s never won before. I’m just having a good time with her and you.”
Do you judge me for letting Ian use his imagination in this situation? Of course not. To me it’s the same thing as letting him believe that someday he will have the ability to use magic.
As a forty-seven year old woman, I still remember an event that happened forty years earlier. I was in the front yard running in zigzag with my arms out to the side like a bird. I jumped in the air and flapped my arms just as a gust of wind hit my back. I flew for a few moments through the air, and I landed five or so feet away from where I had started. I flew. I still remember the sensation of floating through the air.
I ran in to tell my mother. She laughed and told me I didn’t fly. It was impossible. I remember being perplexed. I flew. I knew I did, but my mother’s insistance and others whom I told agreed with her; they convinced me that I didn’t fly. Did that moment start a trend of self-doubt? Can I base the last forty years of my life, a life filled with second-guessing myself, of doubting what I knew to be true, on this one impossible childhood memory?
You be the judge, but before you do, know this: Today, I allow myself to believe that my seven-year-old self flew like a bird on the wind. I am now confident in what I know to be true. I believe in myself and what I see with my eyes and what I feel with my heart. The fact that I have a blog testifies to this. Through this blog I have found my voice again. I am making the impossible dream of telling stories that change people’s lives come true one post at a time, because now I believe in the impossible.
So when Ian asks about the tooth fairy, wizards, and Spider-Man, I support his dreams. How can I deny him his imagination when I know the danger of not doing so? Who am I to say that Ian won’t someday invent a web-shooter, when he can already climb walls? Would I deny him the beauty of faith in an other-worldly being when I want him to trust in God? Should I stop the belief in magic when I know that true magic lies within our hearts? If we believe in ourselves, if we believe we have the power to achieve the impossible, then we will.
Ian asked me the other day, “Are you sure you believe in magic, Mommy? Nobody else does.”
“Do you believe in magic, Ian?”
“Then that’s all that matters, Buddy.”
Ian threw himself into my arms and hugged me tight. I gave him permission to believe in himself, and that’s all that matters.
January 2010, after 5 months of chemo
6 thoughts on “The Alchemist: #2 The Obstacle of Impossibility”
I remember once I was watching Maggie and the Ferocious Beast with Justin when he was a little little baby and they had this episode about how you can’t really find the end of a rainbow and that rainbows are just illusions that don’t have a pot of gold at the end of them and they even sang this song that went something like “the joys a rainbow brings, like the song a bluebird sings, will soon all disappear into the sky.” And that seemed very horrible and twisted to me. I got very angry, and I told my son “You go out there and chase rainbows!” and he was like a few months old so he just kinda drooled at me, but I think he got my point.
Honestly I learned about santa claus when I was like 10 and it was still pretty devestating haha. Another one is finding out about sex. But that is kinda a different topic, parents shouldn’t shield their kids from sex completely and come up with stork type lies. Because there IS a difference between lies and imagination. Lies, mask the truth. When a child asks about sex and we give a stork story, we are lying. Imagination on the other hand is as close to truth as we’ll ever get in this life. Life is about chasing rainbows, its about flying, and being spiderman. I went into class the other day with a beard and superman cape and said I was Edmund Spenser for a presentation I had to give (superman cape because of “S” for Spenser) and people love that stuff but of course I constantly get comments like “I would never have the guts to do that” DO IT. You only live once. Who’s to say what reality is? Who is to say its not acceptable for women to wear beards in public or for seven year old boys to believe in magic? Honestly if you try to break everything down “logically” then even color doesn’t exist because it is just the way that our eyes reflect light that creates color in our brains. If color is all in our minds then lets live our lives comfortably with the other things that are in our minds as well. I wish I didn’t have to wait until I was 23 to be this comfortable with myself and its great that you are raising Ian so that he can be comfortable with himself now and not miss out on great experiences.
Jessie, I’m so angry about that Maggie and the Ferocious Beast episode right now! But your drool comment made me laugh, so I guess I’ll get over it:) Thank you again for your wonderful comments. I’m comforted in knowing I’m not alone.
Inspirational. A beautiful entry. If everyone could just do so much for their children. Ian will be a man of dreams for the gifts you’ve given him, just for believing in him, for believing in the dream of what he can become.
Thank you, Sandy! I’m frustrated with the people who have tried to shoot his dreams down, but I know I don’t have control over what other people do.
I agree with you whole heartedly. The only time I have ever felt annoyed — and I think I actually shared this one with you — was when my nephew’s teacher told him that if he said “leprechaun” three times a leprechaun would appear. That to me is too much because it was proven to be a lie right way and in that context actually weakened his trust in that kind of story. But I’m all for the santa dream — and I secretly still believe in him myself by the way — and the tooth fairy dream and the Easter bunny dream …. The saddest part of some of your anecdotes is that your children heard the “truth” from adults.
I agree with you. The magic behind the dreams is the use of their imagination. Your scenario took all the imagination away and replaced it with a lie. Sad.
As always, thank you for your support of my writing:)