“If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.” ~Bob Basso
I spend a lot of time contemplating and philosophizing about life. According to my mother, I spent the first year of my life silently observing the events around me with a serious stare and a furrowed brow.
I’ve always leaned toward reverent acts of self-discovery and introspection. In high school I studied Buddhist texts and on Sunday mornings at age 18, when my college classmates were nursing hangovers, I was shopping around for a spiritual home, which I found in the form of my Unitarian-Universalist church.
For most of my life, I’ve lived with intention and rarely with abandon.
And I think I’m starting to feel the weight of this.
Contemplation has its place, but sometimes life just calls for a little spontaneity—a small dose of irreverence interspersed amongst the otherwise-trying bits of living.
I write this tonight because I have had a few uncharacteristically playful moments over the past few weeks, and I am quite sure they have prevented me from cracking up during some significant stress. Either that or, I am cracking up and my behavior has regressed to that of a 4 year-old.
In either case, it feels good.
And I want to share those good feelings. So to encourage you to foray into the world of play, I’ve created a list of some things that have brought me unexpected and simple joy the past few weeks (along with some things I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to do just yet).
Have fun and en-joy!
20 Ways to Play
1. Blow bubbles in the bathtub. Sometimes they bounce off the surface of the water. And when they pop, they make this satisfying “click” sound. If the lights are off and you have candles burning, the reflection in the soapy dome that hovers on your bath water is mesmerizing.
2. Hula hoop. I just learned this skill. At age 32. It’s addictively fun. Jump “rope” with the hula hoop, too. Just for laughs. My good friend advised me to, “Never hula hoop naked.” But I think that if you’re after laughs, this might be a good route.
3. Make a “fortune-teller.” Then write ridiculous fortunes on the inner flaps. Present it to friends and neighbors for a range of amused smiles and baffled glances.
4. Teach your dog a trick. Another hula hoop-inspired one for me, as my dog loves to leap through the hoop with the promise of a morsel of pepperoni. And her enthusiasm is contagious.
5. Be a “surprise fairy.” Leave an anonymous gift or token for someone special. It could be a trinket or a poem, a hand-me-down necklace, or a handmade card.
6. Belt out a show tune. Preferably in public. I won’t even tell you what’s been in my repertoire recently, but it’s a calypso tune sung by an ocean-dwelling animated crab. Catch my drift?
7. Use stickers. Liberally. Just slap ‘em on notes and letters and planners. I dig Hello Kitty, but to each her own.
8. Write silly poems on the envelopes to your bills. Last month’s masterpiece to my electric company expressed my relief at the rising temperatures and the lowered energy bill, and wished the reader a sunny afternoon.
9. Leave a song on someone’s voicemail. Your high school best friend will be thrilled when he leaves work to check a voicemail containing the epic musical swells of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
10. Play with clay. You don’t have to be a sculptor. Get some play clay and roll out some worms, construct a tiny dinosaur (even if it looks like a rabbit), or use a cookie cutter to make a row of stars.
11. Run down a hill. Or roll. Get some speed and feel the abandon. You’re freeeeee!
12. Draw on the walls. Use bathtub crayons and create something while you shower. Or get some sidewalk chalk and have fun making hopscotch courses outside. Tape paper to your wall and scrawl in broad strokes with markers. It’s liberating.
13. Give in to an urge. It’s 11pm and you’re suddenly compelled to drive to the beach? Do it. It’s 10am and the sunshine outside your office window is luring you out to take a walk? Do it. Not all urges are irresponsible. I think when we feel drawn toward freedom or to do something spontaneously, it’s usually our soul’s plea for joy and levity. We can’t always ignore that or ask it to wait patiently for the weekend. If we do, it may stop speaking to us all together.
14. Borrow a kid. If you already have one, borrow another for a change of pace. Go to the playground and chase them around. Let them push you on the merry-go-round. When the other adults shoot you a look, smile inside, content in the knowledge that you know a secret to happiness: Play!
15. Swing on the swings. With or without kids. Feel the breeze across your face and the drop in your stomach when you go just a little bit higher.
16. Learn a new trick. I still can’t do a cartwheel. And I can’t quite dive. But every time I set out to do either, I feel a renewed zest for life. Try something new and have fun with it.
17. Play an instrument. Bongos and kazoos are fun for the not-so-musically-inclined.
18. Make a “faerie garden.” My mother did this with my son recently. She used an old wooden crate and some found objects, and let him create a beautiful little “garden” filled with ceramic turtles, tree branches, and an angel figurine. There’s no real reason. But why not?
19. Throw a party. Go all out and make it a themed event for all of your friends. Or go small scale and celebrate your dog’s birthday with some balloons, a new toy and a feast of fresh beef and rice. You can celebrate anything, if you want to.
20. Dance in Public. At a karaoke bar or in the grocery store. And if you somehow just can’t bring yourself to do it…do it anyway.
These moments of fun and play are what keep me feeling alive. I consider them to be my soul’s expression of joy. And my body’s expression of joy. And my heart’s expression of joy. But my mind is blissfully quiet during these times.
In these moments, my mind is off the hook, and all I have to do is just play.
Photo by Brian Tomlinson