Last night, I made a proclamation.
“Tomorrow, I grow up.”
It’s a Facebook Status kind of thing to say. Is it true? Will I grow up today? On the one hand, each day is a growing up into responsibility and freedom. Demands grow, stakes go up, opportunities present themselves with alarming swiftness and fickle timing. Our mistakes get bigger, have weightier, longer-playing consequences, and we can cry in our beer or we can stand up and do the heavy lifting being “grown up” seems to require. We progress like bull and bear markets, inching up, sliding back, making huge gains, crashing on Black Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Growing up has been painful, and will probably remain so. (Big deal, so was playing football.) I’ve wept in frustration many times in my life, cursing the brutal frankness of life’s unrelenting demands. Come hell, death, or high water, life just keeps coming. Incessant, the water torture, the constancy of that frickin’ obstacle (whatever it happens to be) that daily bars the way to the big pie in the sky. And the pie is an illusion anyway, right? So what is all about, and why should I grow up at all? Is it really the most awful, awful thing? We see such promise around us in young people, and yet those of us who’ve lived awhile know the depressing commonness of the best and brightest landing somewhere far below the early buzz about their (terrible word) “potential.”
But as I whine about all this, a voice somewhere inside says, “Grow up.”
Maybe someone needs to stand up for “growing up.” After all, it’s the grown-ups who make not only the darkness of the world (easy to saddle them with that), but the light as well. It’s the grown-ups who have to protect the children, make the art, fix the injustice, stop the nuts who kill lots of folks in a row, battle over what “good” really means in both culture and law, and generally make all the worlds the children walk in. And, by the way, it’s a grown-up thing to do to learn to protect the now-proverbial “inner child” (there’s a term to generate a snicker) that still lives inside, still needs the nurture of the adult. Does growing up by definition mean the death of the child, Peter Pan notwithstanding? What if the child is the one who does the growing up, and thereby retains the possibility of remaining present, vital, and alive? “Growing up” does not, by definition, mean the loss of imagination, the loss of play, or the loss of freedom. In fact, the more heavy-lifting the grown-up does (in terms of shouldering the necessary responsibilities), the stronger she becomes, and the freedom to fully realize the dreams of the child grows.
And dreams are grown-up things. Giftedness, vision, hope, possibility–these require grown-up words like commitment, accountability, determination, and courage. Otherwise, all the great stuff of childhood descends into shrinking, crippling fantasy. A child-like heart fully grown is a very different reality than a grown-up’s self-centered, childish heart. The latter acts like a two-year-old and makes nothing. The former works with an intensity that only be described as full-out, full heart play, and makes new worlds every day.
Yesterday, I wrote of creating spaces and experience wherein people could tangibly encounter the invitation to transformation, and gain a bit more faith that it was actually possible.
That’s a grown up thing to do.