Series: Emotions You Thought You Knew
Remember when you were a kid? All you wanted to do is play. The only missions in life were getting candy, ice cream and more time to play. I remember making up games with my sister where we couldn’t touch the floor of our room because it was lava. Or swinging on the swing tied to the huge tree in the backyard. I loved playing catch with my dad; mostly frisbee or football. What did you play when you were a child?
Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash
Over time the playful child inside gets nudged to the side as “more important things” take over. The inner editor tells us that playing is irresponsible. We must consistently prove ourselves as responsible, efficient and capable of achievement. School, college, jobs, family and all the concerns that come with them fill our time. Who even has time to play anymore?
There is nothing wrong with being responsible. The problem is this: our hearts were not made for the unrelenting pressure of producing and performing. It is a beautiful thing to create, perform well, compete and spend ourselves for a worthy cause. But if we never let our soul come up for air it starts to suffocate our lives and those around us pay the price.
Photo by Allison Archer on Unsplash
Many of my coaching clients are surprised when I suggest that part of their healing path will be to relearn how to play. With a serious face and an intense intentionality to get down to business they ask what they need to next to “fix” their issues. “What do you do for fun?” I ask. It is usually the deer-in-the-headlights response. It is not even a category that we think in.
Brene Brown includes play as one of the guideposts of wholehearted living. She describes play as something that we do that we 1) enjoy, that makes us 2) lose track of time and 3) lose track of self-consciousness and 4) does not achieve a goal. Play is different for everyone. For one person doing a puzzle is a great joy and to another it is torture. To my young children playing CandyLand is the highlight of their day and to me it takes effort to stay engaged.
Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash
A couple times a year I head off to Lake Michigan (a couple hours from my house) with my beach chair, towel, beers and a cigar. The fun starts with the trip; driving down the highway, music blasting or a good podcast or book playing over the speakers. I find a good spot for lunch or dinner and enjoy some good food. I grab some snacks and head to the beach. I find a spot where no one else is and set up my spot. I relax, I enjoy, I go swimming, I hike around the area. No pressure. No one asking me for anything. I’m not responsible for anyone. My soul smiles and begins to relax.
I sometimes struggle with spending the money or feeling like there is too much to do to “waste this time”. The inner editor reminds me what people might think if they knew I was doing this. But, I don’t let these things stop me because this has become a discipline and one that heart is desperate for. I am always refreshed and better for it. In fact, it is often that this kind of play that brings about the freedom from pressures and the feeling of “being stuck” that has plagued me. Emotionally speaking, play is a healthy and needed way to blow off steam instead of boil over.
I can’t escape to Lake Michigan on a weekly basis but I can do smaller versions of this and even invite my family into my playfulness. You and I were made for enjoyment, adventure, fun and creativity.
What is “play” to you?
What holds you back from fun, joy, play and general silliness?
What play could you plan for yourself this week?