Coping through Imaginary Friends

(warning, this post contains Inside Out spoilers)Bing Bong

I cried while watching the new Pixar film, Inside Out. It’s a tearjerker, full of childhood nostalgia and coming-of-age emotions. But there’s one part that I didn’t cry at and I’ve discovered from reading others’ reactions is that I must have a cold, hard heart.

I didn’t cry about Bing Bong. Bing Bong’s demise didn’t tug at my heartstrings. I mean, I know what it’s like to have imaginary friends. But the thing is, they haven’t disappeared into a “Memory Dump.” I still interact with them, probably every 1-2 days.

Now, they aren’t what you’d think of as a stereotypical “imaginary friend.” In fact, I didn’t really think of them as “imaginary friends” until after I was trying to figure out why I didn’t like Bing Bong in the movie. He’s not representative of the sample of the characters I talk to in my head. He’s a caricature of what adults thinks children’s imaginary friends look like, not what they really are.

So how does an adult end up with “imaginary friends?” Mine started in books I read in my early teen years. As a form of escapism, I would try to imagine myself in the books I read, interacting with the characters, having conversations. The ones I enjoyed most turned got turned into various story lines and I’d “act” them out or speak the conversations in my head while walking home from school or driving to work. My favorites suck with me and now I have a few regular characters in a story that I play in my head when I want to: while commuting to/from work, while doing dishes, while falling asleep at night.

I kind of imagine this is how people write fanfic, though these little story lines in my head aren’t anything that would be publishable. Mostly they are self-indulgent and escapist. As a teen, whenever something big happened that I couldn’t handle such as 9-11 or major family emergencies, the story lines and characters would change. They change less often now, but if there is something coming up in my life that I anticipate be stressful, I’ll imagine the characters showing up dramatically in the middle of that future event and asking me to run off with them and saving the world. There are other stories, but that’s the main one.

So it’s absolutely a coping mechanism. Maybe it’s not healthy, but I figure it’s more healthy than other coping mechanisms. And I know they aren’t “real” and they are just characters in my mind. But I like having them around. I can’t imagine not having them around.

It was only recently that I told my husband about my “imaginary friends.” It’s not something you really talk about! When I was in my late teens, I tried asking my mom if she ever “imagined things” and she said no. I felt like an anomaly because even at that age, I couldn’t imagine “growing out” of imagining these characters. And so far, I haven’t.

In an effort to make myself feel more normal, I found this Ted Talk titled “Adults Need More Imaginary Friends.”

And in an effort to make the rest of you adult-imaginary-friend-havers feel more comfortable, I wrote this post.

 

Do you have “imaginary friends?” Do you use escapism to cope with the unmanageable parts of life?

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Emergency Substitute YW or Sunday School Lesson

5597146442_193cc9af0a_zI teach a combined class of Laurels and Miamaids. A couple of months ago, as I was planning a lesson, I kept getting emails saying that my lesson time would be cut short. They had song practice for a special musical number. And the girls needed to be taken out one by one to work on a going-away gift for one of the leaders. My usual 30 minutes was down to 15- and even those would be interrupted. I needed a quick lesson that was “on topic” but that the girls would like. This was my solution.

The week before, I had asked the girls what they wanted a lesson on. It was the month about the Restoration, so I suggested the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith. They told me they just wanted food. Noted.

With only 15 minutes of intermittent lesson, I decided to go the easy route. I’d bring food. But it would also be loosely based on the Book of Mormon. I mean really loosely. So loose that you might not even need to mention the Book of Mormon at all.

I wrote a list of scriptures (from the Book of Mormon!) on the board. They were these:

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Introducing our Heavenly Mother’s Day Series

CW: Suicidal thoughts

I moved to Oakland five years ago. One of my first outings in the Bay Area was a gathering at Carol Lynn Pearson’s house where she gave each of us copies of her play, Mother Wove the Morning. It sat on my shelf for months because I didn’t want to open up Heavenly Mother-less wound I had.

When I finally read it, half a year later, I discovered that I was right in that it was an intense experience. I loved reading it and yet I ached. I wanted a relationship with Heavenly Mother, but I didn’t know how. Unfortunately the bigger question for me was “why.” Why should I have a relationship with Her?

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May Young Women Lesson: How can a patriarchal blessing help me?

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation

by Lawrence OP on flickr https://flic.kr/p/q91R5DBefore the new Come, Follow Me curriculum, the 12 and 13 year old Sunday School classes studied the Presidents of the Church for 2 years. In that time, I remember hearing about prophets who received their patriarchal blessings at the ages of 13 (George Albert Smith and David O. McKay, precisely) and wanting to be righteous, I thought it would be good to want a patriarchal blessing just as early. However, every time I asked my parents if I could start the process of receiving a patriarchal blessing, they told me I ought to be older and needed to wait. I waited until I was 16 and it is very special to me.

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New Series: #VisibleWomen: You can’t be What You can’t See

My years in the Young Women’s organization were rough on me. Part of it was just teenage awkwardness and the rest was teenage cliquishness. As soon as I turned 18, I switched to Relief Society. I have a December birthday, so I spent the last half of my senior year out of Young Women’s. For me, Relief Society was a level playing field filled with a rich history of strong women. Age didn’t matter, we were all women together.

I was called as the Relief Society pianist and paired with one of my seminary teachers as visiting teaching partners. We were assigned to teach one of the other seminary teachers. I’ll let you all imagine how odd it is to refer to your seminary teachers as Sister So-and-so on the weekdays and by first names on Sunday.

Very quickly I learned that all was not well in Relief Society Land, either. The seminary teacher I was supposed to visit teach didn’t like the visiting teaching program and requested that we not visit her. My companion would do lunch with her (and obviously was in constant contact because of sharing the job of teaching seminary) and that was my extent of visiting teaching.

It was both shocking and good for me to learn that a person that I looked up to as a spiritual leader didn’t follow all the programs of the Church exactly. I think it has helped me be more compassionate with people whose needs must to be addressed differently. I still very much believe in Relief Society and its attempt at its expansive mission, but it’s obvious that it isn’t reaching everyone. From Ordain Women to Mormon Women Stand, Mormon women are creating organizations to fill the gaps that the church programs are leaving behind. Of course, Relief Society can’t be everything to everyone, but I believe it, and in turn the Church, can be more to more people.

This Sunday is International Women’s Day and for this, the Exponent is starting a new blog series: #VisibleWomen: you can’t be what you can’t see. In addition to personal stories of Mormon women, this series will come with calls to ask the Church, “Would you please consider…” ways to make women more visible in the Church and feel more include. Hopefully a few of these suggestions will speak to you and you’ll participate in your own ways.

Friendship

 

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