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Healthy Living: Cartoons, naps and life’s valuable lessons

I bottled up emotions, harboured resentment and treated the resulting anger with alcohol and other self-destructive behaviour for too many years. ~ Robert Skender

How can a five-year-old child be the most effective, influential teacher in your life with the greatest potential for healing and growth when, clearly, they have not lived one yet?

Teachers need decades of education and analytical knowledge regarding specific things. Standing behind a large wooden desk with straight backs and confident voices, they tell us how the world works and what we need to do to function and succeed. They should not be three feet tall, wearing a shirt with a purple cartoon monkey on it and continuously laughing with eyes that shine like the sun in the excitement a new day brings.

The world feels upside down right now, so why can’t the most important lessons in life be given while sitting crossed-legged, on the floor in a room scattered with stuffies, barbies and other toys while playing games which only exist in our vast, wild imaginations?

After decades of self-medicating with alcohol and drugs for an undiagnosed depression and general debilitating anxiety hovering around everything, I’m not sure exactly how to behave or interact, and even who I am.

A lot of long-term addicts face challenges with identity when suddenly sober. If I am not the damaged, misguided soul who acted antisocially from a place of pain and chemical addiction for years and years, then who am I?

The new sober me is a child learning to take steps into an unfamiliar, but healthier life full of potential and possibility.

What are the life lessons my laughing five-year-old teacher is guiding me toward? Well, there are many, but here are a few:

Children are infinitely curious about everything. They peak behind things, push buttons, push boundaries to find the acceptable things to do, or not to do, but do it anyway. It is a healthy, deep curiosity about every corner of life, which I lost somewhere along the way. A simple curiosity will keep the energy of life fresh.

Tiny teacher finds joy

My tiny teacher finds massive amounts of joy in the simple pleasures in life. Children do not have unrealistic expectations of life, so the simple things can be the source of large amounts of joy.

Try the waterslide at the lake and feel uncomplicated pleasure when your body splashes into the cool water. Or laugh at someone’s inappropriate burp. It is funny, however, as adults we are programmed not to react, but a smile fundamentally alters our brain’s synaptic-neurochemical movement in a positive way.

I noticed my five-year-old teacher does not judge anything. A child does not see colour, faults or flaws. They see potential for new friends and the good in everything and everyone. I need to relearn that level of tolerance. Five decades of life have made me judgemental in ways which are not healthy or happy.

Life makes you judgmental to survive. We amplify the negative in others to feel superior and, from that dominant position, we get what we think we want to be happy. Do not judge every situation and everyone.

Children express their emotions in real time. They scream when mad, laugh when happy and live in the moment passionately with limitless expectations. I bottled up emotions, harboured resentment and treated the resulting anger with alcohol and other self-destructive behaviour for too many years.

My five-year-old teacher lives fearlessly, in the moment with passion and without limitations. After a life of addiction and happiness, I now can see I have a lot to learn from my little friend.

It is a humbling experience to realize a little child is wiser than me, which is a most valuable lesson in itself.

Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.