I’ve gotten the same message a few times in the last week or so. I may be hard headed, but if you hit me with a board enough times, I will notice.
The first message came VERY directly from my Reiki master. We were working together and she just paused and looked at me: “When was the last time you had fun – not work on yourself, self-help, progress fun – just straight-up silly time fun?” I grunted in acknowledgement, not really wanting to answer her question. She relented and understood my hesitation for what it was, a need to give that more serious thought. Yep, that’s how I roll.
Truth is while I am FUNNY and can be FUN, I’m a pretty serious person. I spend a lot of time thinking about serious things, working on serious things, helping people with serious things. I have fun with that – I enjoy it, but it is not just straight-up silly time fun.
The second message came from my kids. They graduated from 5th grade a few days ago and while the beginning of the day was dominated by a ceremony that I think nearly bored them to tears, the rest of the day was play. They had a celebration with their classmates. They played soccer and ran around. They played on the monkey bars and played tag. They ate snow cones and laughed. Then they came home on the bus to prepare for our annual last day of school neighborhood water fight. My kids took it upon themselves to invite the youngest kids to our house to teach them the finer points of water balloon warfare without putting them in harm’s way with the middle school crowd down the hill. They played for hours: water balloons, squirt guns, a slip and slide and the next door neighbor’s giant swing. Then they came inside and quickly showered so we could watch our Friday night movie. I’m pretty sure we all fell asleep on the couch at some point. They PLAYED. They played hard. They played without pause. They played until we told them it was time to stop. They played like it was their job. I thought that and decided to hang on to that thought.
I picked up a magazine the next morning, taking full advantage of a few minutes before we started preparing the house for guests. I’d had the issue for months and had just never gotten around to reading it. I opened it to a random page in the middle and was confronted with the title of an article: “Playtime.” I’m listening.
The final message was from a friend, another seminarian (once you know one you know many). His sermon on Sunday was entitled: “Blessed Be Fun,” and it was all about the conclusion he has come to that there is enough that needs doing in this world that it is okay to pick the part that is actually fun. He describes this notion as part of his “theology of fun,” whereby we stop telling ourselves that the things we enjoy and dream of engaging in aren’t big or important enough. We stop fearing that allowing ourselves enjoyment and pleasure will devolve directly into hedonism. We, instead, learn from children who have the flexibility to follow and enjoy the process they are engaged in without such a keen and critical regard for the results.
I had to laugh. I was actually becoming seriously entertained by the full-scale campaign being waged against my inner-disciplinarian in favor of… fun.
The interesting thing is that I had actually taken this lens to my business in the weeks prior. If you follow the blog separately, rather than waiting for my newsletter to come out, you know I’ve been writing a WHOLE lot more. The reason for that is simple. Of the tasks I do for my business, writing is one of my favorites and I was limiting my writing time in favor of other parts of the business that I truly did not enjoy. During my weeks of physical meltdown, I decided to shift that focus. I decided it was okay to follow the fun. I decided that what I really enjoy actually matters.
So all of these messages confirmed that for me, but they also pushed me to look a little deeper, well, or a little shallower in this case. I look deep as a matter of course. Maybe, just maybe, I could lighten up a little.
So I’m thinking about that… LOL. I really meant that because that’s my reaction, my go-to response to something that I’m really not sure how to do. Sometimes I’m not sure how to lighten up, how to just have fun.
But here’s the thing. I know people who really truly know how to do that. There are three other souls in this house who are much better at lightening up than I am. So the easy first step is to accept the invitations. My kids are around most of this summer (I planned a few structured diversions so the seminarian and I could get some work done). They will ask me to do things with them. They will ask me to play games. They will ask if we can go to a pool or a park or for a walk in the woods. The answer I hope to make habitual is YES. I want to channel Shonda Rhimes this summer and when my kids ask if I can play with them, I want to say yes.
I also want to follow their example and pay attention to the things that make me feel good, that I enjoy, that are fun to do regardless of the outcome. And I want to shift my energy output so more of it goes right there. I agree with my friend Bob Clegg who said: “If there’s a loving God in heaven (or a universal presence, omniscient spirit, etc), surely it would want us to have fun.”
If you struggle with this and you need me to tell you that play is important, not just fun, I’m going to say that. It’s important. It’s important because it teaches you. It’s important because it frees you. It’s important because humans get to have joy and you are human.
Now stop all of this heavy lifting and go play. Don’t come home until the streetlights come on.