The other day a friend asked me why I am so disciplined. He commented on my routines of yoga and meditation, healing sessions, chores around the house, errands in town, cooking and cleaning up, and my constant attention to taking care of things here at home. I asked if he was implying that I was obsessive, and I felt a bit defensive. He said no, but he wondered how I became this way. I had to think about it, but soon realized the answer was easy. I had lived alone for so many years, that if I didn’t take care of things, no one would. So I fell into the routines of doing everything myself in rather efficient ways, hardly ever allowing myself to just rest. Or play.
Play…what was that? I had to ask myself if I still knew the meaning of the word. When did I play? What did I play at? For several minutes I couldn’t think at all, as though my brain had just stopped working. Play was for children. What did children play at? What did I play at when I was a child? I tried to remember. I saw myself doing somersaults on the front lawn with a childhood friend. Sitting on a swing in the backyard near the honeysuckle and singing “How much is that doggy in the window?” I must have been very young. What else? My father set up a dark green army tent in the backyard so I could pretend I was camping. I doubt my parents got any sleep that night. And my father used to play ball with me in the street in front of our home. He used to be a catcher in the minor leagues and enjoyed teaching me how to throw, hit and pitch. He also taught me to ride a bicycle and how to swim. When I got old enough to ride a horse, my parents took me to Cimarron Ranch in upstate New York on the weekends.
And now? What do I do now? I go to movies with friends. Out to dinner. Walking, hiking occasionally if it’s not tick season. I go to the gym, although I definitely do not consider that play. I can’t remember the last truly playful vacation I’ve been on. I’ve moved several times in the past several years, no part of which falls into the category of play. I’ve dealt with the deaths of family members, friends, and beloved pets.
What motivates a child to play? Or an adult for that matter? What is it I’ve lost touch with? Is it freedom? Enthusiasm? Energy? Innocence? The desire to explore, express or try new adventures? Maybe it’s all those. Without the responsibilities and stresses of adulthood, children have the freedom to play without a plan, without a routine. Although I suppose a parent’s tendency to arrange “play dates” is a kind of plan arranged for by adults when children can’t find ways to amuse themselves. Amuse themselves…amuse myself. What amuses me? I look forward to finding out. Maybe a new adventure after all.