Friday, January 18, 2013

The Smell Test

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
-Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

My children’s imaginations are highly active this week, which I hope rubs off on me for the better. 4-year old Hadley now likes to go fishing at the dog park. Every day this week, we cast out a leash and put up a great struggle pulling up fresh catches over the park bench. We have caught a polka dotted whale, sharks, mermaids, manatees, broccoli and green bean fish and a few pirates.  Don’t worry. We always cut them loose. Meanwhile, my 13-year old son imagined a knock at the door saying “it is the police, open up.” But instead of those sworn to protect and serve standing outside, you open the door to find Sting and his band the Police.

Cole also wondered out loud “what if we could eat pain”. He said “like on a dare.” This sprung from his imagination shortly after he accidentally hurt his sister.  So maybe he was thinking about wishing he could somehow take her pain away, or maybe not. But it got me thinking that some of us do eat pain. I have swallowed so many emotions over the years that it is a wonder that I have room left for food. Ingesting guilt, shame, regret, doubt or blame is a bit like Chinese take out. It puts the weight on but leaves you feeling hungry. A steady diet of feeling unloved, ignored or unworthy can leave you down right starving.

This realization came about this week as Hadley started cautiously sniffing everything before she eats it. No one told her about the “smell test.” It was her own natural conclusion that if something doesn’t smell good, it probably won’t taste good and may even be poisonous, like these stinky seeds that we found in our yard today. I wouldn’t dream of popping one of those in my mouth. But sometime long ago, I imagined I could clean my plate of things far more unsavory than foreign seeds or brussel sprouts. Even if it is as unrealistic as believing that you can catch a polka dotted whale with a dog leash on dry land or Sting knocking on your door. Your imagination is powerful when you persistently think something  over and over again in your mind. Eventually it becomes your reality.

Changing your reality is as simple as imagining something different. Imagining it often and with attention to detail. What does it look like? Taste like? Hadley would add, what does it smell like?

Does your imagination pass the smell test?

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: Dear Abby. 94-year old "Abigail van Buren" aka Pauline Ester Phillips died yesterday. The identical twin born to immigrants in Sioux City, Iowa started her column 60 years ago after giving advice to her twin, Esther Pauline aka Ann Landers. In addition to sharing a reversed name and a career calling, they shared a double wedding ceremony and a double honeymoon. I find it fascinating that a 1950's housewife turned a hobby of giving advice into an American Institution that earned her a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Long before the Internet, just one of Dear Abby's reply letters once generated 300,000 responses. Today, the Dear Abby column, which is now written by her daughter, appears in 1,400 newspapers worldwide with daily readership of more than 110 million and receives more than 10,000 letters and emails a week.

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