A dear friend of mine wrote a blog On Becoming A Mom Who Plays. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that struggle resonates. Who in the world doesn’t enjoy play?
For most of my adult life, my self-worth has been directly correlated to being driven, ambitious, competitive, and sedulous. My closest friends and family describe me as resilient, fierce and intense. I’ve enjoyed the cloak of these deceptive words in which my dear friends have adorned me. I’ve draped myself in them with pride and warmth, flaunting them as I march confidently through the streets.
Years of hardship and painful circumstances can tear away at the layers, leaving a bare, raw self. Despite the discomfort of it, people are fond of raw. They like how it makes them feel – normal, unified, secure, strong and connected. However, few people enjoy the perceived isolation the uncovering could display.
Somehow on my march toward the enterprise of adulthood I left a playful, wonder-filled, curious, zealous girl at a shoreline. Perhaps she’s still sitting on a beach somewhere. She has sand between her toes, breathing in salty air, appreciating the view on the horizon. She’s just about ready to dive in and boogie board her way through life opposed to this uphill hike; weighted feet she seems to have chosen.
The strength to overcome can motivate, but hidden in the shadows of that motivation is a people-pleaser with an interwoven need for approval and a minor identity crisis. When you spend your time primarily pleasing the world around you, a loss of self is sure to follow.
I recall a discussion admitting this struggle to play. It can be physically painful for me to stop and play. You see, I have a list that needs accomplishing, by me and all the innocent bystanders in my wake.
If you are a ‘player’ and your spouse is a ‘doer,’ it can be a beautiful mess of a relationship at times. What’s interesting, when my husband sees me ‘doing’, he truly appreciates that but he doesn’t look at me longingly murmuring, “Mmmmm I wish I had a list of my very own. I wish I could finish all the laundry, dishes, vacuuming, volunteering, working today and check it off my big ‘to do’ list.” There isn’t an ounce of envy in his body. And he doesn’t weigh me down with pressures either. I, however, weigh myself down daily and tack a pair of those weighted shoes on him. I weigh him down with envy of his ability to play.
Honestly, I don’t mind the ‘doing’ but the lack of consciousness toward play makes me a bit heartsick.
Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, California says,
“What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome.”
I can’t imagine doing anything in life that isn’t outcome focused. Our entire upbringing has an upward trend toward this: good behavior=good outcome; bad behavior=bad outcome. Play by its very definition (engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose) seems like time wasted, and yet I know it is not. I know this because I watch the way my kids light up when the player comes in the door.
A friend of mine recently posted this adorable picture of her spouse:
She writes, “Sent my husband a cute pic of me and the guinea pig after I picked her up from the vet this morning. He texted me back from the grocery store with this.
THE MAN IS CRADLING A BAG OF CELERY.
Single ladies, find you a man who isn’t afraid to take a selfie with some celery out in public. It keeps life interesting.”
I need more of this in my life!
Unfortunately, when my charming, playful husband snuggles his very own bundle of celery, I squash the spirit of play as quickly as it came in, unintentionally squashing his spirit a little more each time.
As I’ve set goals for this new year ‘Play First’ is my first. If I wait for time to play, my boys will be grown and I’ll have missed each and every opportunity to jump in the water. Taylor Swift may have it right, “players gonna play and haters gonna hate.’
Here’s to NOT being 2018’s Household Hater.