Lighten up

True confessions. I haven’t felt much like playing. And I haven’t followed my own advice – that it’s important to play even when it seems counterintuitive. Life has intervened, as I like to say, so playfulness and this blog fell by the wayside. A hospitalized mother-in-law, a rejection letter, and an increase in parenting responsibilities formed a perfect trifecta to knock me off course. I’m really not a hypocrite. Just human! And the stretch of  unseasonable, below freezing temperatures didn’t help.

So, what did I do?

I defaulted to the #1, numero uno, grown-up form of recreation. Ok, yes it does involve alcohol but that is not the key ingredient! I sought out and benefited from adult conversation. I went to a party and socialized! I’ve heard it said that “kids play and adults talk.” Well, talking is sometimes my favorite adult form of play. As old as time.

Especially social talking in a group. The patter is part storytelling, part stand-up comedy, part sharing, part political discourse, part movie reviewer – a lot goes on at a party, depending on what you and your friends like to talk about. With a critical mass of six or more and almost any reason to gather, these human encounters can be elevated from chitchat to entertainment. We can take yourselves beyond commiserating, gossiping or the blah, blah, blah recall of daily events to a place where the conversational give and take becomes fun, engaging and about more than just you.

Some folks do this social stand-up or schmoozing really well. The natural born storytellers. Some of us are especially good at asking the right questions and drawing out a story or encouraging a storyteller. Some of us are just great, appreciative listeners. We can all participate. And, after a night out as a grown-up, not focusing on the mundane, I feel quite chipper (plenty of water and an ibuprofen before bed sometimes help too).

Even more playful is hanging out with buds in celebration. This is essentially why we have events like St Patty’s Day and Fourth of July. Sure, there are other historical and cultural reasons why these holidays exist, but those reasons don’t dictate why we celebrate with parades and parties. We are a social animal, and a gregarious one at that when push comes to shove. The smallest excuse to celebrate and we are there! Even introverts enjoy hanging out with their buds. Probably not on Main St around the boozy, green clad, Irish-for-a-day revelers, but probably in their own space, with music and umbrellas on their drinks (any kind). It’s good for the soul.

So, I will take my advice to heart and throw a little late-winter soiree. Just for fun. It does a body good to lighten up.

sillywithfriends

Just for fun

bowling

As adults, we spend most of our week doing things we know, or we are good at, or we have trained to do. That’s totally different from playing. You don’t have to be good at playing; you just have to be playful, engaged, and present. It uses a different part of your being and brain to play. That’s probably why it can be so relaxing to play. It’s a break.

So, we went bowling the other night. Hilarious! We got bumpers, but tried to avoid relying on them. Memories of learning to bowl at girl scouts came back to me, along with the footwork diagram on the filmstrip (ok, I’m dating myself!) and the first kiss behind the bowling alley. I am lucky if I bowl over 100 but, if I do say so myself, I have great form, extending my right arm and crossing my right leg behind me. So I strutted my stuff, and laughed, and was rewarded by a couple spares and one strike and many high-fives. We have now been bowling three times in as many weeks.

The fact that my companions were also bowling in the low range helped add to the fun. Who you play with matters. A good playmate is someone who is after the same experience as you. Nothing is worse than playing a game or sport with someone way more competitive or driven than you are, or vice versa. It helps if you go into the game with the same mindset. Bowling, ice skating, mini golf, kickball, roller skating, ping pong, volleyball, and video arcades all offer opportunities to just let loose and have fun. Certainly there are people who are quite good at these games and take them very seriously, and even become professionals. But these are also games available to the average American without needing a lot of prep or skill or knowledge in order to have fun. And they meet physical and social needs too.

Do something different this weekend. Spice things up, but be ready to laugh at yourself!