Have You Forgotten How To Play?

Conversation: “The last flower of civilization…our account of ourselves” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Children obviously need their play time, a time away from loving/helicopter parents to discover worlds of their own. But I think adults could use a little more play time too.

Prioritizing playtime fuels our productivity.  Play allows us to tap into our creative and intuitive abilities which in turn have a contributing effect towards working performance. I often get my best ideas when I spend quality time relaxing, socializing and having fun.  It reminds us why we are all here.

Let Yourself Feel Joy

An older lady once advised a hand-wringing young college girl, “I would tell that skinny, starved, self-absorbed girl to stop moping -- and eat and play more.  Also, use more brainpower for algebra and chemistry instead of counting calories.  Most important, I would tell her to stop worrying so much and have some fun!”

When I worked with the elderly in the past I’d ask many seniors, “do you think we’ve forgotten how to play?”  I believe joy and playfulness play an important role in our life.  Many didn’t get a chance to play during their last 40 or 50 years. In the past, there was often little leisure time on the farm / at home / work – and even now, we think that we’re too busy for quiet time.

But just sit down and journal how you spend your time and many of us will see that much of our full schedule is filled with choices and not definite obligations [as, say, a farmer that must bring in the harvest this week!!]. We just have to make it to pilates, then Target, call / text our life-coach, get back and Facebook, zip on over to daycare, then soccer practice and lastly Karate, before we watch the Bachelorette and try to sleep with the TV on. And our generation may be better for it; but I wonder???   

It is understandable.  In the scramble of our jobs, ambitions and obligations; it is easy to forget play-time and think-time.  Have you found you have been under someone else’s rules for a long time?  At the very least other’s rules have occupied far too much of your most precious and finite commodity: time.

Too many of us literally don’t know how to have fun, so we end up filling our free time with passive entertainments that, ultimately, aren’t very satisfying.

Why Wait? Master Having Fun Now

Do not perform a good job at your employment, be marvelous at your profession.  But I believe it is possible to be brilliant without losing perspective. And yet in this economy, it seems that we just must work like devils to avoid job-loss. Even so, there must be a balance. Just look at what dominates TV commercials today [pharmaceutical ads regarding depression, migraines, upset tummies etc]. Is it any wonder as church time, play time and think time drains down next to nothing; and then when we’re 70, we wonder… ‘now why am I here again’.   

Many of us measure ourselves by work output and job status, rather than our worth as a human being.  Considering our entire lives, living here could be for such a short time.  How long do you have here on earth?  In truth, none of us can be sure, but if we get to the point that we look at life as a gift and each day, a treasure; then why run around like the proverbial chicken [remember, they only do that once the head has been removed].

Research shows that life’s most gratifying experiences come from really living –not the result of working longer at your job and worry about stuff and new snuff.   As soon as we invest everything into the job or external things, (undue time at our jobs,  cars and toys), we wind up being bitterly disappointed.  It is grand for a while though, isn’t it? I’d sure LOVE a new Corvette; but I’d still ponder life, suffering, love and meaning. I’d still wonder if there isn’t a better way to embrace my family and friends. But I’d still LOVE the Corvette; I’m human. And yet, as we teach children, I defer or displace gratification.

Are you programmed to receive joy and validation out of what you produce?  Sometimes we wind up being disappointed because the brain only knows ‘job well done… now, produce more!’  And the workplace likes it like that. But life is all about the struggle and the pain of finding balance, isn’t it?

Studies show that participation in leisure activity is one of the most significant factors in determining the quality of our lives. And yet some of us; when we are given some leisure time, don’t know WHAT to do as we are so trained to PRODUCE! And thus we plan even more work [build a new deck, buy a fixer-upper cabin] or have a drink, maybe the whole bottle, go shopping, tell even more about ourselves on Facebook; and before we know it, it is back to work and high expectations and go, cat go!


 A time where you don’t care if you get anything done, or it could be a time to rediscover something you’ve forgotten you loved. Or a time to meditate, pray and ask quietly. Did you take a tour of the MN State Capital? Check out a camp-fire nature talk at Lake Elmo County Preserve? 

How about mountain biking, a ride on a motor cycle, see 3 movies in a row, unhurriedly stroll around Maplewood Nature Reserve and smile at every soul you meet?  Enjoy it solo or take your friends and family along for the ride. Let it be guilt-free and playful. And if something great comes out of it, like a job skill, it’s just a bonus.

The Children

I don’t always have something structured and educational with children all times.  We didn’t grow up that way, and neither did most of you. So as my kids are getting a little older and more independent, we tell them, “Ok, go figure something out on your own” but NOT computer games 24/7.

Even the educational ones are constructed to be addictive and zombiesque in nature. It can be a bit shocking for some wee ones since they’ve been used to more structured schedules and the video game already structuring the “game”. But they’ll slowly learn how to occupy their imaginations if left to their own devices without the Dell or HP handy and before you know it, the ol’ bow and arrow, hide and seek and tree house are gettin’ the once over. 

I want little ones to appreciate their talents, learn how to work hard; but develop the ability to enjoy life. 

Can you imagine your office, restaurant, school faculty lounge, place of business, place of worship being a little less serious and stuffy?  Let’s hear more spontaneity, laughter and goofiness – it will serve us well.  Let’s be less serious, analytical, and unyielding  (Unless you’re operating on me). Sometimes we learn more when we just listen, read, wonder and remain curious. I don’t know how many times I have jumped in or listened to folks having a political / social diatribe and just wondered, “we know so little and posture so much.” What a waste of ego, neurosis and anxiety! 

 Seek out what you enjoy and love, the rewards will follow.

I know what I need to feel happy, joyful and be in a playful mood all of the time.  ‘Tis a wee wee list, perhaps…

  1.  8 hours of uninterrupted sleep… someday
  2. First cup of coffee, hot and strong
  3. Piece of chocolate after every meal, to heck with dark!
  4. My children off to school with big happy mugs on them – no fighting or scowling
  5. No negative talk. The mind and spirit can always find meaning and a better way
  6. Meeting everyone else during the day with a big grin - it’s contagious.
  7. Being involved or just hearing gut-busting laughter. Learn to tell a good story.
  8. Not having any boring work to complete [leave the completion to the husband J]
  9. At the very least, clean the dishes and get them in the cupboards.
  10. Eat wisely like there is no tomorrow, and no worries about where it may go, because you’re headin’ out for the ‘happy’ walk or run right after din-din.
  11. Work-outs – get it over in the morning before you get cranky but consider, “does water aerobics really work?”
  12. peaceful family dinners with no ipods, Gameboys or being excused early. I cooked this, yar gonna eat it and ENJOY!

   and, time for reading, thinking and really relaxing before sleep time.

What’s yours?  I cut my list in half, so you'd think well of me.  And you thought I was more worried about some rapid spread of deadly bacteria.  

During play time, the 4th dimension dilates and we become much less aware of our passage. We forget obligations, to-do lists and demands on accountability.

If you find yourself at this moment surrounded with needs, overwhelming difficulties, trials and emergencies; resist your own restless work of worry and control.  There may be opportunities for receiving new blessings in different ways.  Every time I’m ‘wrestling’ with control and wishful thinking, there is less joy. 

People who can play well and frequently do so; will live happier, more meaningful -- if not longer lives.

Cackle Like A Banshee 

Do something today to make you cackle like a mad banshee. My son reckons that every time our kitten Riley knocks something over, that even the cat is playfully singing out, “hee hee hee hee!”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sara Lein July 19, 2012 at 07:11 PM
I couldn't agree with you more! We truly need to learn to live fully and LESS structured. Bring on the joy filled days of spontaneity and laughter!


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