One of my younger selves got into a tizzy not long ago. She was upset about something that happened in 1997, I think, or maybe it was 1998—before she started working and was still spending her days taking care of the kids. They had left their toys all over the floor again, and hubby stepped on a crayon and got grumpy. As she saw it, he was unnecessarily rude to her—after all, she wasn’t the one who had been coloring. What did he think anyway, that she just sat down on the floor and played all day with the kids?

She stomped down that anger into her overflowing subconscious trash can, along with all the other emotions that never saw the light of day. If she had talked with anyone about her feelings, she’d likely have been able to put them in better perspective; but she didn’t, and so the old rancid anger from that particular incident was still sitting there fully two decades after it should have been taken to the curb.

One evening last week, that annoying memory popped up. It left me wandering aimlessly around the house, muttering to myself, “How RUDE he was! What a JERK!”

Well, this certainly wouldn’t do. Maybe Younger-Me thought she was entitled to hang onto her gripe forever; but from my present-day vantage point, it was high time for her to get some much-overdue therapy. So I decided that she would be the first visitor to my imaginary Channelwood Sanatorium for troubled past selves who needed a little time to rest and recover from their worries.

I took her hand and stepped with her into the mirror on my dresser, which magically transported us both to the beach near the peaceful little village of Channelwood. Unlike my past visits, this wasn’t a beautiful clear day with birds singing. Instead, we found ourselves standing under an overhanging cliff that gave us shelter from a steady rain. The rhythmic roar of the surf breaking against rocks blended with the drumbeat of raindrops on the sand, blotting out all other sounds. It felt like we were alone at the edge of the world.

Storm over the ocean with waves breaking against rocks.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Younger-Me looked around for a moment, taking in the scene. Then she turned to me with a slight frown and said, “You know, I was just about to start cooking dinner.”

“No problem, this is all just imagination, and you’ll be back home soon enough.” I gestured toward a driftwood log in the sand at the foot of the cliff, which made a naturally smooth bench. “Please, sit down and rest for a little while. I’ve brought a coloring book and a new box of crayons for you.”

Sitting to my left on the driftwood bench, she read the coloring book’s title out loud. “‘Mandalas and Dream Catchers: Coloring Book Therapy for Adults.'” She sounded more than a little perplexed to have come across such a curious thing.

“Coloring books for grown-ups are very popular in 2017,” I informed Younger-Me as I handed her an unopened box of 64 crayons. “A lot of people have too many busy thoughts cluttering their minds and don’t take enough time to just relax and have fun. The idea of coloring when you’re an adult is that it’s good to set aside all those worries and play like a child sometimes, making pretty things without caring about whether or not they have a purpose.”

She opened the box, selected a blue crayon in the color of a brilliant autumn sky, and tentatively started coloring part of a feather on a dream catcher with it.

“And coloring or other creative fun refreshes your mind even if you don’t put a lot of time into it,” I went on to say. “A few minutes before you cook dinner, or in between other chores, is enough to shift your perspective and get your thoughts out of their everyday rut.”

Filling in teardrop-shaped speckles on the feather with a bright vibrant green, Younger-Me said pensively, “I’m not sure how I forgot that…”

I gave her an encouraging smile as the beach scene started to dissolve around us, sending both of us back to our respective timelines. Although it had been only a few minutes’ interlude, I returned to my own time feeling much invigorated by this brief exercise of imagination, with my perspective newly refreshed in just the way I had described.

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