“The other day I watched a child playing. She and her invisible friends were apparently on some kind of inter-planetary expedition. Their spaceship was an empty soda can. They sped through space on high adventure, complete with all the sounds you’d expect from intergalactic travelers. I thought to myself: if I were outside doing this, city officials would come for me and take me away where I could not harm myself or others. And so I mused—how does this kind of play disappear in most people, somewhere between childhood and geezerhood? It goes away, I think, as we are told to “grow up,” with manifestations like study, get serious, and make a living. All necessary in their own way, but they should never have been permitted to eliminate play. My stick horse approves this message.”
An important person in my life posted this great observation online the other day. He likes to talk about himself as being a “geezer” when in fact he probably gets around more in his life now that he’s reached “geezer” status than most teenagers do in their prime. 🙂
My observation aside, his question got me thinking this morning about how often I really allow myself to play. What do I think is really going on when a kid is playing like described above and could I play like that as an adult? When I think back to my days as a kid playing in my room or on the playground, I remember the grand adventures that inhabited my mind. I remember rescuing my GI Joe figures from a bottomless pit on our stairwell or even braving the icy cold of the Hoth Planet acting as a Rebel Soldier at recess in grade school. Stormtroopers at 6 o’clock! Get’em! When looking at this sort of imaginative play from an adult perspective I see a level of self trust and fearless joy happening that I am imagine would take a bit of personal persuasion in myself to conjure up these days. So what’s the major difference between then and now? As my friend asked, when and how does this type of play disappear? I think we’re on to something revealing here.
For me, I think it’s about consciousness, or rather self-consciousness and codependency. Back then I wasn’t worried about what other people were going to say if they saw me enjoying myself no matter what I was doing. Why? Can you imagine playing like this now? As my friend said so well “if I were outside doing this, city officials would come for me and take me away where I could not harm myself or others. ” As adults we don’t often feel like we have permission to really play for fear of disapproval in some form. As a kid we were CONSTANTLY being told “GO PLAY!” Not only did we have permission to play as a kid we were ordered! The adults in our lives might have really just wanted us out of their hair for a bit but they were doing us a great service by giving us permission to go play. That is until we grew up.
As adults we are responsible for our own happiness and well being. There is no one who is going to tell us to GO PLAY. If we want to play we have to do it of our own accord. Many of us are in the middle of uncovering old patterns from childhood and, if you think about it, co-dependency plays right into that idea of wanting permission to GO PLAY. Even more so, what if we do make that decision to play on our own and then someone sees us? We didn’t have permission to enjoy ourselves did we? Will we be judged? We’re adults now. Society frowns upon adults who act like children and what do children do more than anything else? PLAY.
It’s funny but I just remembered that my son watches these videos online of other people playing video games that are hugely popular called “Let’s Play” videos. Could it be that even our children are starting to lose some of the freedom and child like sense of play at a younger age due to the fact they are more exposed to grown up ideas at a younger age? Is there more watching of play rather than actual playing happening in our kid’s lives? Hopefully not but it is something to think about.
I think we all need more PLAY in our lives. The more we PLAY, the more we inhabit our own reality in a conscious and independent manner. We face our fears without a thought. We forget about our illusionary worries. We reconnect with our child like souls the way they long to be loved. We grow stronger and more confident and isn’t that what many of us are working on right now in this “Second Half” of our lives?
We all have plenty of time in our lives to include real PLAY. Yes we do! Star by giving yourself permission. Not sure how to start playing? Just think about how you used to PLAY as a kid. You can’t get it wrong. Just thinking about playing starts opening you up to all sorts of personal FREEDOM. Let your imagination take it from there and be fearless.
How will you PLAY today?