I have a dear friend, who has the gift of seeing the things that are below the surface, the things we don’t willingly share with everybody. She has sensed in me whatever it is exactly that she senses in people and her prescription: “You need to have some fun.” I’ve been thinking about that sentence a lot (because I’m like that). A few days after that conversation, I was at an event at church and the woman next to me, who doesn’t see below the surface but puts tiny incomplete puzzle pieces together quicker than a stroke of lightening, looked at me and said: “What are you doing for fun?” I’m a little thick sometimes, but when the signs come in human form and are all saying the same thing, even the thick among us stop and take notice.
I rattled off some things I’m enjoying lately, and of course mentioned how much I like my work, and she said: “You know that’s not what I’m talking about.” She was right, I did. In this life where my hobby has taken on some elements of obligation and scheduling (has become what I refer to as a jobby), things that I do for the sheer fun of it are scarcer than they have been at times in the past. There’s usually some ulterior motive to my fun. A walk with the dog gets us both exercise, time to read shrinks my reading list for my practice, a night out with my husband gives us a chance to really talk and address some things that need addressing at home, playing the guitar will make the next gig better… You need to have some fun.
In my desire to get wherever I think I am going and to handle all of the bits of those self-promises, I confess that I sometimes forget to just have some fun. Sometimes I’m not even sure what that looks like. I AM pretty sure that the road out of this problem has to do with loosening some routines, shaking up some habits, experimenting with the unexpected. The truth is that some of the things that might have been fun in the past just aren’t as fun as they used to be, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had that happen. We change, we grow, my desire to be in loud bars or dark movie theaters diminishes and leaves a gap where fun used to be.
And yet, I know how important it is to have fun. It is important to play. Psychologists tell us that children who are deprived of play can develop anti-social behaviors as a result. They also tell us that play is intimately linked with creativity and problem solving. These findings are discussed at some length here. Interestingly enough, we have begun to acknowledge that adults may need some playtime too. No shock there if you accept the idea that the human brain is always growing, always developing. If play has something to teach children, surely adults can learn from it as well, and benefit from it cognitively, socially, and emotionally as described here. So, if you need an intellectual reason to just have fun (and I sometimes do), there are plenty of them. Maybe you just need that reason to get started; usually once you get going, the fun justifies itself.
When my twins were just little things, we often had dance parties in the kitchen. I’d put on my favorite music while making or cleaning up from dinner, and we would all dance, or at least run around. It was just plain fun, had no purpose outside of fun (well, and maybe indoctrinating the kids musically). As my kids have gotten older, those moments of just plain fun seem harder to access for all of us, and I mourn that, that sense of untethered flexibility that little kids bring to play. This is how paper towel tubes become telescopes and blankets become forts. There is no purpose other than fun, the fun of the imagining, the fun of the initiating, the fun of the doing, the fun of being in that blanket fort, and the fun of remembering doing it. I am sad that this seems less available, but I also recognize that my thought that fun and spontaneity are less available to me than they once were is just that, a thought. I am no less capable of dancing in my kitchen than I was 7 years ago. I am no less able to watch my kids in wonder. I am no less able to let go, unless I think that I am.
I have all kinds of thoughts that keep me from having more fun: “I don’t have time” is probably at the top of my list. Truth is it really doesn’t take a lot of time to dance in the kitchen while you make or clean up from dinner. I tether myself. I tie myself to a life that feels more predictable, more “responsible,” more “adult,” and considerably less fun. I limit my connection to others in the fun I could have WITH them, building shared language, experience, and memory. I limit my connection to myself by allowing only one part of my personality to lay claim to all of my time and mental territory. I limit my experience in this big, beautiful life every time I think fun is not mine to have. Only I can change that thought; only I can give myself permission. Only I can create enough freedom for fun.