I have been absent, at least on this blog. I have, however, traded my presence here for spending time with my son during his summer holidays. I am reminded that sometimes we just can’t do it all, although this is something I have to settle in myself. In terms of career, I think of mine as a trifecta: yoga, writing, and mothering. When time is crunched, writing is usually the leg that buckles. But, what is ‘balance’ anyway?
It has been a luxury to spend a few weeks trying to build the tallest sandcastle in the universe, playing a marathon of Jurassic Park in our front garden, and enjoying Freezies at the end of a hot day. It reminds me that we, as adults, don’t often let ourselves play. My patience for the purposeless has certainly been tested and at times I have felt awkward trying to stretch my imagination to come up with creative scenarios on our trips to outer space. While my son animatedly dreams up adventures of zombies, sinking ships, and pterodactyls, I have a more difficult time seeing things that aren’t there. I feel rusty.
When does playing stop? And, by that, I mean, when do we place practicality over creativity and productivity over joy. I am not posing these things as opposites, but simple suggesting that perhaps they don’t have to be so different. It is also not to say that having goals and needing focus is not important. If we didn’t evolve beyond our five-year-old self, we would be prone to over-tired emotional outbursts, we would often be having too good a time to remember to use the toilet and we would have sticky stuff on our face all the time.
But, we would remember the need to play. Not for the purpose of staying in shape or becoming enlightened, not to create a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, and not to spend our recommended 15 minutes a day of quality time a day with our kids. But, as a spontaneous act that is done for its own sake. Despite this being goalless activity of just having fun, there are still endless benefits.
In an interview with Krista Tippet on On Being, Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of The National Institute for Play, says that “play is an indispensable part of being human”. It is an activity that presents us with unique challenges and equips us for an ever-changing world. It can train us to adapt, which is an essential part of being human. He goes on to say that there are consequences when we lack play, those being that our responses become fixed and rigid and we do not seek out novelty and newness. We risk missing out on the endless opportunities to both create and engage in the world.
Kids are good to have around. They make you feel not so ridiculous when you are skipping down the sidewalk with a towel-cape flowing behind you. Their play is often exuberant, chaotic and without limits. My son reminds me, and I usually have to make a conscious effort of this, to loosen up sometimes. Throwing rocks into the river can easily turn into going on a bear hunt down to our local post office (it’s hard not to make SOME play productive). Play is tapping into our innate creativity and ability to imagine limitless possibilities, skills that kids have down pat.
There are a lot of excuses not to engage in play: the need to get sh*T done, feeling silly, not even remembering how to let loose in the first place. Some of our excuses are legitimate. Many aren’t. We don’t have to go completely rogue to explore play and we don’t need a kid around as an excuse to do this. Being curious about what we do on a daily basis and why we do it is a small but effective way of being playful. Well, enough with the seriousness about the freedom of letting loose, I have to get back to finishing my Lego ship.
Photo from Erin Beal of Jack Sharpe, an inspiration to all.