Summer is nascent, and I’m stressed already.
This writer covets the seven hours that school days provide. Prayer, research, reading, thinking, outlining, marketing, social media-ing, and of course writing happen during this precious span of time.
Summer places my girls at home, and takes that time away from me. I scratch and scramble for “craft time.” I’m grumpy about the scraps that I do get because I’m typically tired. I kinda don’t blame my Muse for not showing up every now and then, God bless her.
So many ideas to explore, books to read, publications to pitch, deadlines to fulfill, and social media “responsibilities” to keep up with in this writing life. So little time to engage my craft during the summer when Lovies are out of school and at home.
Bah! Humbug! I grumble more during June, July, and August, and not because of the Texas heat.
“Mama? Will you play with me?”
Loving eyes that want no more than my attention implore me. Sweet voices say that they want to share time and make memories with me.
“Uh…” I say. I stall and think of all of the things that I “need” to get accomplished. My daughters don’t wait for my answer to respond. Their heads, shoulders, and hearts drop in dreadful anticipation.
All of a sudden, I see.
I see my daughters’ faces morph from excitement to disappointment. I hear their hearts ask, “Why doesn’t she want to play with me?” I sense their young minds conclude, “It must be me. She’d rather write than spend time with me.” I follow this faulty-but-not-corrected assumption to the depths of my girls’ experience and memory where it will lodge until it is cathartically expelled.
I see myself. More accurately, God shows myself to me.
The whole scene could take place in the Hundred Acre Wood. My daughters, both Tiggers, pouncing and bouncing up to me with energy and laughter enough to share, asking me to play. Me, Eeyore, finding a reason why I cannot. (Will not?) Any bystander, Pooh, shaking her head at the scene, and saying, “Oh, bother.”
Eeyore as depicted by Disney
When did I become Eeyore? I used to be Tigger — full of life, ready to play, wanting to bounce, enjoying all of life around me — when I was a child my daughters’ ages.
In a sense, we all become Eeyores as we age. With adulthood comes seriousness, and a propensity to take life and ourselves too seriously.
Unlike our childhood selves, adults tend to be more critical than creative, controlling than engaging, competitive than cooperative, consuming than care-free, and cautious than bold.
As far as I can tell, that’s not really living. It’s more like functioning, or surviving, or ticking like a time bomb that’s apt to explode if we’re given (or we take on) another responsibility.
Play. Specifically, living a play-full life.
“Play-fullness rehumanizes us,” writes Rev. Dr. Jaco Hamman in his book A Play-full Life: Slowing Down and Seeking Peace (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2011). In contrast to play, which “is often seen as a purposeless, unproductive, even useless, yet restorative activity,” play-fullness is a way of being, of living life “to the full,” even in adversity. Play-fullness infuses and informs our leisure and labor, and all of life’s drama, comedy, and tragedy.
A play-full life takes risks, pushes against inhibitions, and breaks through self-imposed constraints empowered by the words “should” and “should not.”
A play-full life encourages us to be fully present to each moment, “mindful about our reality, and to engage it with all of our heart, mind, and soul — with our whole being.”
Through [such a life] we improve capacities, such as problem-solving skills, and meet specific needs, such as letting go, needing to take risks, exerting control or being controlled, feeling empowered, and feeling connected. Furthermore, play helps us discover the importance both of setting boundaries and engaging others and instills in us a love for culture and art. It helps us manage our destructiveness and rejuvenates the mind, much like deep sleep does. Stress is toxic to our bodies, but play improves our health and helps to strengthen our immune system.
“Work first, reward yourself with play.”
I wonder how many generations of my family this aphorism has shaped. Maybe it’s just my daughters (I doubt it.), but it doesn’t seem to work all of the time.
So, the other day I tried something new.
Instead of ending our day with play as we usually do, we began it this way. An hour and a half of swimming and playing with my daughters did us a world of good. I was quietly amazed at how well my girls got along throughout the rest of the day; how creative I was able to be in instructing, redirecting, and disciplining them; and how the three of us were able to make the day’s work into a game, and thereby get it done — with fun, no less.
Who knew that play balances work and stress, if not counteracts it?
Who knew that getting off of the lounge chair, getting into the pool, and pretending to be a shark who doesn’t eat her “prey,” when she catches them but gives them kisses and zerberts could change the direction of an entire day for not just one, but three people?
Who knew that “getting over” one’s adult, responsible, and serious self spices life, and attracts the Muse?
It seems that my daughters did. Thank God for them.
Questions for y’all:
- How can you say “yes” to play and life play-fully today?
- Where do you see God at play in your life and in the world?