Recently, I went to see the movie “Where the Wild Things Are”, not quite sure whether to trust this expanded and re-envisioned version of the classic picture book, since it had received mixed reviews. It was tremendous. Grounded in the mundane life of a real little boy, Max, when the movie takes us across the sea to “Where the Wild Things Are”, it convinces us to believe in the magical world he discovers, even as it is fantastical in nature. Strange, adult-sounding monsters who behave like children become his friends, and Max begins to create a new kingdom fresh from his imagination.
What I didn’t expect is how powerful an experience the movie would be for me. When Max and the Wild Things created a rumpus, or howled plaintively at each other, I felt an echoing desire to take part. I left the theater moved and provoked, with memories surfacing of the wild energy I had experienced as a child and how it had gradually been socialized out of me.
Looking back, I could now remember the early tantrums at the piano, gradually suppressed, as I became a dutiful child who stopped creating her own music and surrendered to scales, exercises and the compositions of the Great and the Good. I remembered the child who fought back against bullies in the playground, even pulling hair and biting, becoming the ‘goody-goody’ with braids who strove to be teacher’s pet. And I remembered the mischievous small girl who loved to play “Doctors and Nurses”, becoming the teenager who was too scared of boys to date. I sometimes wonder if my long-term challenges with pain and inflammation arose through becoming disconnected with this essential part of myself.
As Mary Pipher described graphically in her groundbreaking study of adolescent girls, “Reviving Ophelia”, many girls experience similar changes on their way to adulthood, moving from confident, spunky kids who believe they can do anything, to teenagers beset by anxiety and lack of confidence, whose main goal seems to be to please their peers.
How do we reconnect with our wildness? How do we become free to create? For me, this is an ongoing journey of experimentation, which has so far included free dance, therapy, art, play, writing, improvisation workshops, spending time in nature, learning spiritual practices…..and the odd howl!
What about you?