FROM THE SISTER:
People always talk about childhood being carefree. Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t have a care in the world?
Even kids with healthy homes have it tough. There are monsters in closets and bullies at school, red marks all over your homework, hand me down clothes two sizes too big, awkward hugs with awkward relatives, being forced to eat things you hate. Please, parents: NEVER STEAM SPINACH. And excuse me while I throw up just thinking about it.
Kids fall constantly and break bones and don’t get picked for the baseball team and go through super awkward phases and break out all over their faces and get sick all the time. They lose every single tooth, for the love of GOD! You try eating apples and peanut butter with no front chompers.
Also, you don’t get to make decisions for yourself. People tell you to go outside when you want to be inside and just when it’s getting good outside, they tell you to come in. They tell you no dessert until after dinner. And you’ve had too much of this, but not enough of that. They make you share things you’re not done using. They tell you to go to sleep when you’re not tired and then wake you up while you’re sleeping! It’s a nightmare!
And of course, if your parents are throwing things or yelling or sneaking into your bedroom, childhood is anything BUT carefree.
Even though they have a lot to contend with, there is one thing that kids absolutely rock at, though, and that’s play.
You give them a blank sheet of paper and within minutes they’ve drawn a treasure map. Or a green family portrait. Or a dog eating cheesecake.
If you give them a tree, they will build an entire kingdom and fight back against the emperor’s dragon to keep their treasure safe. And all adults will see is acorns and a broken skateboard leaning against a water bucket. They come up with games that make absolutely no sense at all but they stick to the rules like they were written on papyrus scroll. If you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, they come up with cool shit, like firefighter, teacher, astronaut, veterinarian, princess, dad, Sheera.
We watch them run circles around playgrounds and made up playgrounds with so much boundless energy. They’d stay out there forever if they could, we say.
Why don’t we do that? Adults have all the inhibitions. We worry what people will think if we wear a shirt that’s too loud, for heaven’s sake. Meanwhile four year olds are headed to school in tutus and superhero capes (for the record, I do have one friend who recently rocked this very outfit and she is in her forties, but she’s the exception). I think that’s why we drink so much on Friday night. Who plays games and runs around in circles and uses their imagination and gets all lovey and cuddly more than a crowd of people feeling the buzz? That used to be the only way I really knew how to play, too.
Then I got a dog.
And then a bike.
I tried yoga, where I found myself laying on the floor laughing with other grown adults.
I started trying on laughter. And even made some jokes. And some people laughed at them.
I started to have fun even when I wasn’t drinking.
I started to PLAY.
And then I couldn’t stop.
Last fall, I took two of my nieces to the pumpkin patch. The options were an entry-only ticket, single tickets, and then a wristband that allowed you to go on the giant jumpy pillow, slide, corn box, maze and all the other fun stuff.
Can I get 3 wristbands, please?
The guy at the register looked behind me, trying to find the third kid.
“Uh, usually adults just get the entry ticket. It’s cheaper that way.”
Well, I want to be able to go on the slide and everything. Is that okay?
The young man seemed to be consulting his coworker who shrugged and said, “as long as you take your shoes off, I guess I don’t see the problem.”
The pumpkin patch had been open for weeks and, by all appearances, this was the first time a “grown up” had asked for the all day wristband.
As soon as we got our wristbands on (mine was a little tighter), we raced for the giant slide. Our shoes were off by the time we hit the bottom. We climbed up the middle ladder and shot down so fast I couldn’t help but laugh! It was one of the fastest, funnest slides I have ever been on. The girls kept calling out, “Auntie, come on! Slide with me this time!” And we laughed and slid so many times my hair got static. I eventually moved to the back and let the swarm of kids take over. But, man, it felt good to play like that!
We jumped in the corn box and pet baby sheep and jumped on a giant inflatable pillow and I felt so much more connected to my nieces for being in it with them, instead of watching from the sidelines. And I felt the freedom and joy that comes with kicking your shoes off and gliding down a giant slide.
I catch myself taking myself too seriously from time to time. It’s a good reminder to stop by the swings on the park during my evening walk. Or to hop on my mountain bike and splash through the mud. Or to bust out some ridiculous dance moves in the dressing room (or anywhere). Or to use the imitation voices I know will make my best friend laugh her tail off. Or to color with the clients I work with. Or bounce on the trampoline. Or write about it.
The coolest thing about discovering the power of play as an adult is that the world is so much bigger now! And the only one making rules is YOU. Play can be driving out to the beach in the middle of the night or throwing a Valentine’s day party for seniors or eating chocolate cake for dinner or climbing a mountain in Telluride. There’s a reason coloring books are making a comeback and they’re a good reminder that our days are still blank canvasses for us to fill with our own imagination. Just like they are for kids!
In these big and small moments of PLAY, I truly come alive. In these moments, regardless of what else is going on in my life or my world, I thrive!
FROM THE BROTHER:
Get up right now and do something fun!
Wait a minute! Read this blog first and THEN do something fun with an exclamation point!
Find something that inspires you and excites you. It’s time to play goshdarnnit! No more, ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I want to, but I can’t because of…’ Forget the excuses! What sparks your fire and revs you up? I think it’s time to get inspired with your life, starting with some play time for yourself.
Don’t worry if you didn’t follow through with a New Year’s resolution or have started something without getting to the finish line. Get back up and either redo or find something else of interest. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve started something only to dropout later on, but at least I tried. Right? What is something that you often think about doing but haven’t been able to pull the trigger? It usually starts with ‘man, I wish I could…’ or ‘I’d love to go and…’ You fill in the blank.
Take a quick inventory of your life. Are you happy, healthy, and honest? Is your past still haunting you? Can you look in the mirror and be content with your life as it stands? Are you taking yourself too seriously? Am I asking too many questions?
If you are someone who struggles with taking that first step, don’t lose hope because it’s absolutely never too late to find inspiration to find a way to play. I don’t care what road you have traveled up to this point, if you’re still breathing, then set aside some you time to get funky. If you like having company, then find some funky friends that will throw down some laughs and bring out the child that’s trapped within, kicking and screaming to get out.
For a long time I felt that I was cheated out of my youth and had to grow up a little before my time. When I was in grade school I could pass for a high school student and was drinking in bars before I had my license to drive at the age of sixteen. I remember watching kids my age acting their age and wondering what the hell was wrong with them. Grow up already. When my sister was captured by the foster system and my family was swept into a tornado, after already being in a tailspin, life had become that much more complicated. Play meant party with plenty of substances to escape the fear and anxiety of dealing with alcoholism, sexual abuse, and secrets in the home. Dealing with trauma in any form is the shits, believe me I get it.
I’m here now to challenge you, as I continue to challenge myself, to find ways to grow and become the true person that is aching to get out and be free of trauma, drama, and a big bad mama. And what better way than to play? If you have children, then that’s a perfect place start.
The National Football League has a program that I like which is called Play 60. It’s to inspire kids to get outside and play at least sixty minutes a day. Football players get out with some local youth and play football with them. I encourage you to kick your kids outside as much as possible to run around and play with other kids, to use their imaginations and what not. Soak up some nature and climb a tree or whatever. Better still, join them! My son and I leave a basketball and football in the car for opportunities to play catch or shoot some hoops. Our favorite right now is using a local football field to run routes for football. And yes, I run routes too and enjoy being on the receiving end of a perfect pass from a nine year old as I run down the sideline for a touchdown. We usually end up laughing while trying to race passed each other for a score and things get goofy after a while.
And that’s the point, to get goofy. If you don’t have kids for inspiration and like more ‘adult’ activities, that’s great as well as long you get excited about what you’re doing.
I’ve found joy in playing the piano. A couple of years ago I canceled my cable and used that money for piano lessons. It’s a great way to unwind and relax instead of watching the same commercial four times between the actual show as the world passes me by. It’s a cool feeling to play songs from my own fingertips.
If you are that strapped with time constraints and deadlines, with all that life has you doing on a daily basis, then try ten minutes of play. Start by simply thinking about having fun with doing whatever sprinkles your doughnut. There is plenty of time in the day to get caught up in the stresses and messes of each day that we are blessed with. Remember that the earth is this tiny little speck floating in infinite space and that our problems are that much smaller. Mind blower, I know…
Book some tickets to play and take a look outside your box if you aren’t doing so already. Give something new a try. If you look in your purse and find that you’re short on play money, then go for a hike. Make a paper airplane or draw funny faces in the sand. Play time is FREE and available twenty-four seven with the right attitude.
Why am I telling you all of this? Who the hell knows. It’s fun, I’ll tell you that. I want you to know that life can hand you some shitty cards, I have experienced firsthand as I know so many others have as well. I’m learning now how to not take myself so seriously. I like what Jim Rohn says, ‘Life is brief even at the longest.’ So why live life wound up all of the time? Loosen up and get down with your bad self, it’s go time!
Now we’re at the end of this blog, so you can get off of your a** and go play!
(And brush your teeth!)