A Little Play Goes A Long Way
On the 2019 vision collage I made a few weeks ago, I cut out a picture of two kids swinging, their heads flung back, laughter escaping their tiny lungs. This picture was not only supposed to be a reminder for me to hop on a swing whenever possible (am I the only one who thinks there is something so delightful yet also slightly terrifying about letting your body fly through the air) but the image was also supposed to serve as a reminder for me to PLAY as much as possible this year.
As children, we instinctively know when to play, when to let our imagination flow, and when to draw outside the lines. We naturally follow our curiosities. We can do this because we have complete and total trust that all of our needs will be fulfilled (by our parents). Somewhere along the way, however, we lose this ability to trust our curiosities. Perhaps we get introduced to trauma, a lover disappoints us, or someone we hold in high esteem diminishes our worth. Little by little our trust is chipped away and we build up a large fortress of protection goes up in its place. Until of course, we have kids of our own…
It’s my belief that one of the reasons people have kids (and keep adding more to the family) is because kids encourage them to play, which makes them feel A L I V E. They are suddenly immersed into a land of make-believe, building a fort out of blankets or pretending the living room floor is lava.
But I’m here to tell you…you don’t have to have kids to give yourself permission to be a big, silly goofball. You can absolutely start today.
The past week and the last few days, I’ve been feeling the urge to play, laugh, and just be silly. But….life always seems to get in the way. Disappointed that I had to attend a Skype meeting with a client instead of meet with friends for a workout in the park, I texted them in the group chat, “I wish I could meet you guys tonight, but I’ve got a meeting. I’m trying to be grateful and positive about this opportunity but I am having a hard time. I’m really feeling like I need to have fun today.”
The reason I was having a hard time is because I felt that work was interfering with my playtime. Frustration and disappointment were the feelings that followed and no tools in my toolbox seemed to be helping.
I tried listing off things I was grateful for.
I tried venting about it with friends.
I even went for a run hoping it shake off this icky feeling I had.
That’s when I came across a swing set on my way home. It’s not the first time I’ve swung by myself, though I’m fully aware of how “odd” it may appear to others. To my surprise, no one looked twice. Either their eyes were focused on the screen in front of them or they were lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly a mom and her toddler walked by. The toddler immediately turned her head and smiled at me. In just a few seconds, she had convinced her mom to put her on the swing next to me.
And there we swung. Side by side. The cool air on our skin. The sinking of our bellies. Our hands gripping the metal.
It doesn’t surprise me that the toddler felt a calling to jump on that swing. She followed her curiosity. Would an adult have done the same? Likely not. They probably would have rationalized that they are too old for such behavior, that they would possibly hurt themselves, or that they should probably just get to wherever they are going.
I’m not saying the next few minutes of swinging completely snapped me out of the funk I was in, but it certainly helped me sneak away from my own pity party, just long enough that I could fill my lungs with the joy of life instead.