My kids have no problem playing. In fact, given the choice, they will choose playing over anything else – homework, chores, sleep. They have a built-in propensity to enjoy themselves and don’t hesitate to set aside more mundane tasks to engage in some plain old playtime.
Me, not so much.
I’m not sure when I lost my talent for play, but somewhere along the way it was replaced by a nagging drive to work. Even when I try to take time out to play, there are always tasks lingering in the back of my mind, reminding me what is left to do. I realize there is one big difference between my kids and I – I have bills to pay and they do not. Still, I admire their ability to focus on the present moment and immerse themselves in fun.
On a recent trip to the playground – with my computer in my lap – I watched my kids run through the park with joyful abandon and wondered how long it’s been since I played. Really played. Sadly, I couldn’t remember. I work every day of the week, even though I try to make Sundays a lighter day to spend more time with my family. I can’t just take a week off, so I keep going year round with seasons that are heavy and heavier.
It’s ridiculous. But it won’t stop until I do. So I’m stopping.
For two glorious weeks I will be off work. I had to move heaven and earth to clear my schedule, but I did it. It felt weird, almost disloyal, but I did it. The goal is simple: just play. It’s time to take a lesson from my kids and revive my enthusiasm for the playground. Life is too short to spend all my time working or thinking about working. I need to revive the gift of play.
Even with my good intentions, there are obstacles that get in my way. First of all, there is the very practical issue of paying my bills. If I don’t work, I don’t eat. It’s a pretty simple equation that puts work high on the priority list. Still, there is more to life than a paycheck. I don’t want my life’s work to be summarized with the statement, “She paid her bills.”
Second, I have good work to do. I am excited about the projects I have to work on and jazzed about the goals I set. This is a good thing, but it also makes it difficult to separate my work-focused passion from the joy of simply playing. Adding play to the “to do” list makes it work, another task to complete, which diminishes the beauty of it.
Third, my schedule is full, and I have responsibilities to manage. Interrupting my routine seems like a dangerous prospect that could derail the delicate balance of my life. If I fit play in, it needs to happen between the times I allotted for it, except it’s hard to achieve joyful abandon on a time crunch. It takes time for me to move out of work mode and embrace playtime.
In spite of these challenges, I am convinced that playing is a missing talent that needs to be recaptured. How about you? When was the last time you played?