Driving with my daughter recently, gazing (or glancing) out at those billowy clouds that seem to have so much substance and a cottony texture, I remarked that when I was little, I wanted passionately to be able to sit on clouds (that was before CareBears but that show lets me know I wasn’t the only one). I had a later phase when I wanted desperately to be able to fly with the birds. A little bit older still, I imagined working on a ship crew, traveling the world.
My daughter commented that she didn’t remember having those longings.
I’ve described to her before that whatever I’m doing, I often feel an audience or group of people observing me, thinking I do that particular thing well (a pretty embarrassing admission). I was the youngest of five with a very busy mother and wonder sometimes if I lacked attunement from my carer. Anyway, my daughter responded that she’s never ever felt observed. Instead, she always saw herself directing or setting up scenes. She constantly created narratives for her stuffed animals and dolls, and little brother and friends. She wonders if seeing so much media as a kid impacted that. Not that we were a family glued to the screen—she had plenty of time outdoors and doing creative things, but in the era of vast entertainment possibilities, she saw much more than I did.
I grew up with a father who allowed very little TV watching, even of the limited programs available during my childhood. He was worried about what might happen to our minds if our thoughts were filled by other people’s productions (not entirely insane). My daughter pondered if having so many more narratives provided by media made her more prone to creating narratives for others and less likely to dream of flying, or sitting on a cloud, herself.
These seem like crucial questions as we contemplate what keeps the mind imagining, and what contributes to one’s relationship to self. I think the tone of our longings is important. It may dictate the tone of fulfillment.