The Year I Had Cooties

I read this quote in a message from Jill Martin this morning. If you get time, check out her inspirational website:

“We can look back on our lives and focus on either beauty or pain. It’s our choice. To focus on beauty isn’t to deny the pain. It’s just refusing to let it steal anything else from us.”

This was the ultimate goal when I worked as a Grief Recovery Specialist. No one can truly forget the past. That’s impossible. We can convince ourselves to remember it differently, or we can sweep it under the rug so far it becomes a distant speck of dust. In some cases, a trauma can hide in the recesses of our psyche until some event jars it loose. But even if we’ve reconciled our emotions, and the heart and mind are aligned, our past is still there in the form of memories.

heart and mind

Because it’s my first memory of what set me on this writing journey, I often think about a time in the fifth grade when I had only one friend. She and her family were a terrible influence on my life, and I didn’t enjoy myself when we were together, but what choice did I have? To everyone else, fifth grade was the year I had cooties. (Raise your hand if you know what cooties are?)

One day, while the teacher stood in the front of the class, I began arranging my pencils in my lap and inside my desk, pretending they were people who lived in a beautiful mansion, complete with a backyard and pool. Day after day, I would  play house and dream up extravagant adventures, with one constant–my group of pens and pencils were always the ideal family, happily interacting with one another. I enjoyed this game so much that I never stopped. (I love my office supplies. Some of you do, too. You know what I’m talking about <grin>).

By turning inward, as a troubled kid, I discovered the power of story and how to escape when life became too overwhelming. This served me well as a teenager when I truly needed to escape. Daydreaming never prevented me from being hurt by others or from participating in stupid activities I’ll always regret, but the outlet helped me cope and brought immense joy.

That’s the beauty I choose to focus on instead of the fact I had no friends, an alcoholic dad who rarely showed up, and a mother who had to work so many hours we rarely saw her. My internal storyteller emerged out of hardship. I’m not sure I would be writing now if I hadn’t needed that internal counselor early in my life. And without that internal counselor–the place I retreated to express myself–I’m not sure how my life would have turned out.

Doesn’t matter, because when I recall my childhood, I invite the good memories–the gift of daydreaming and storytelling–to override the negative memories, which no longer define me. And I’m thankful.

happy memories

What is one of your favorite childhood memories? 

If you’re a writer when did you first start telling stories in your head or on paper? Do remember any?

2 thoughts on “The Year I Had Cooties”

  1. My earliest stories, that I recall, were from the first year my mother began homeschooling us. I was in 6th grade and two things happened. I wrote a short story loosing inspired by Kidnapped & Treasure Island (the Disney movies) along with a smattering of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. I’m not even sure if it was an assignment or something I did on my own and then decided it deserved a grade. Someday I need to scan it and share it on my blog.

    I was always looking for ways to turn school assignments into stories. 6th grade was the last year I had spelling as an official school subject. I was supposed to use each of my spelling words in a sentence but I quickly found individual sentences boring. So I started using all the spelling words in weekly letters from one fictional king to his best friend, the king of a neighboring kingdom. The people of his kingdom had some crazy experiences, based on the words I needed to use each week. I was pretty proud of that series and still have a handful of those letters somewhere.

    I remember in 7th or 8th grade, I was supposed to write a report about the earliest American colonies. I turned it into a letter from a colonial law firm presenting the information to the British royals who had hired their services. I even got my dad to buy some kind of ivory resume paper and printed it in a curly font that felt more authentic to 12-yr-old me. lol


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