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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Don't Forget to Play!


Have you ever gone to seminars or workshops, where they have material they are presenting for you to learn, and attempt to do so in the various little cutesy ways to be unique and interesting…..just like every other cutesy seminar and workshop…  As an “out of the box” sort of guy, sometimes I think I ought to give a seminar for people who host seminars helping them learn how to make their seminar not feel seminarish!  

ANYWAY, so I was at a workshop one time, that really wasn’t too bad, and included the typical silly little games and exercises - very fun for those of you who are actually extroverts and like meeting other people all the time!  But even for those who don’t, it was a decent time.  Afterwards, I happened to overhear a middle aged man commenting on the event who made the statement that he had quit playing silly little games 30 years ago, and didn’t need to be doing them now.  I looked at the man, and he clearly was not my definition of “Mr. Fun” by any stretch of the imagination.  Playfulness seemed to have long departed his personality.  He was a serious minded achiever, who took his work seriously and believed in setting an example of what mature adults act like. I know this because we had conversed earlier in the day.  I think it is very sad that he has become that way, and doesn’t even realize that it is sad.

Of course, the quote in the title has absolutely nothing to do with playfulness, as it is using the word play to refer to drama, as those of you who know your Shakespeare will recall.  But for our use today, I want to take a stand for play, because play IS the thing.  Life is hard enough, responsibilities are weighty enough and life is short enough that we should never neglect the ability to celebrate our inner child every once in a while.  

I believe this is especially true in the midst of divorce.  One of the few blessings that comes with the devastation of divorce is the opportunity to free yourself from some of the overly constrained caricatures of personhood that may have been imposed upon you in a bad marriage.  A friend of mine once expressed it this way, “After my divorce, I started discovering all these little things about myself that have lain dormant for a long time, and I find myself thinking, ‘that’s right, I used to enjoy doing that!’”  

Whether you are going through divorce yourself or not, the question still applies, “Have you forgotten how to play, how to just have fun?”  Another friend of mine likes to point out that as children we love doing things, and are willing to try almost anything for fun, because it is only as we move toward adulthood that the constraints of talent and proper behavior squelch the enthusiasm of youth.  Madeline L’Engle once pointed out that something like 90% of very young children have high creativity ability, but by the time they become teenagers, the creative children have become only 4%.  Something like that.  How about you?

I reclaimed a lot of things about myself after my divorce, and one of them was permission to do things differently, to try new things, and to play again if I wanted to.  I am not referring to the reckless and damaging abandon described in books like “Crazy Days,” where people divorcing make really poor choices and indulge in high risk behaviors.  I am talking about actual play, the dropping of inhibitions for the sake of good old fashioned fun.  For me, that included going with some friends to a city park in the middle of the night to slide on the slipper slides and swing in the swings, with blue fingernail polish on my finger and toenails!  And we laughed, played hard, and had fun!

There are days even now as responsibility weighs me down that I have to remind myself I need to go play somewhere.  And my simple advice today is that if you are struggling with the overwhelming feelings that accompany divorce…or bogged down some other way in life…I encourage you to go outside and find a way to have some fun.   Make a snowman or a snow angel.  Finger paint.  Dance to silly songs.  Whatever it takes for you to allow that child within to be freely expressed in action, let it happen…though in a safe manner.  It will lift your spirits.  It will remind you that life used to be fun.  And it will help you see that there is more to life than the burdens, cares and responsibilities of daily drudgery, even if that drudgery is called divorce.

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