Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Do you play? We're told that we should spend a little time each day, just playing, just enjoying ourselves. For many years, I didn't play. I didn't have time to play! I was too busy working, keeping up with all the things no one else would do. If I wasn't at work, I was mowing the lawn or washing dishes or working in the garden or cooking or cleaning. Even if I did sit down with the television on, I usually had a basket of laundry so I could improve the time by folding and hanging clothes. Sometimes - once every two or three weeks, I might take time to read a book or watch a movie. And I inevitably felt guilty for doing so, especially when the book was done or the lights were back on and I could see the messes around me or the overgrown grass or weedy flower beds.

I played when I was a kid. I jumped rope. I played with my dog. I played frisbee with my sisters and brother. I went fishing. I spent a lot of time prowling around the woods or fields on the farm. I played with stuffed toys and made doll clothes and endlessly drew and colored pictures. I wrote poetry and read books and built elaborate villages out of the stems of horse-weeds.

Now that I'm an adult, the very idea of playing makes me uncomfortable. But even in adulthood, before I had children, I didn't have this kind of problem. I spent time every Friday with friends engaging in RPGs or cards or Pictionary. We'd watch movies all night long and then sleep until noon the next day. I had no problem slowing down or even stopping what I was doing just to enjoy myself. But when I had kids, everything changed.

I had so many more responsibilities. People with codependency tend to focus totally on their responsibilities to the detriment of their own lives, and I am no exception. I focused on my daughter; everything else in my life suffered. I stopped writing. I stopped reading - well, unless Little Golden Books count. I stopped watching The X-Files. I stopped meeting with friends, stopped playing - unless I was playing with her, and the way I went about playing was an awful lot like work.

Long story short - I forgot how to play. Part of my recovery from codependency is relearning that skill. I confess that I'm not very good at it, especially if there's work to be done around the house. Instead of finding a way to relax and be playful, I'll sweep, vacuum, mop, do laundry, mow, weed, or generally work myself into exhaustion. And because there is ALWAYS work to be done around the house, I seldom manage to get out and play. This is where a partner would come in handy - someone who would engage me in something fun and assure me that there's no need to worry about the dishes or the laundry. Then again, it's also true that I should be able to validate my own decisions. So I should be able to engage myself in play, and assure myself that the dishes will still be there when I get back. And they certainly will.

So the problem becomes how to play. I really have forgotten. I mean, I know how to be silly and goofy. I know how to stop what I'm doing and read a few pages or watch Supernatural - I'm really good at watching Supernatural, especially when there's laundry to be folded. But I don't know how to just go out with no goal in mind other than enjoyment. I don't go to sports events or plays or concerts. I don't go out with friends - most of my friends go out with their husbands or wives. I can play with my kids and I do, but the goal is to find a way to relax and play as an adult. So I research ways to play, and suddenly play seems a lot like work.

Things have to change. I have to find a way back - or forward - into playfulness. I need to build something whimsical into my days, something that helps me relax and renew my energy. Something that helps me recharge. I get so bogged down in day-to-day responsibilities that even when I'm off work, I'm thinking about work - or when I'm at work, I'm thinking about the next paper I have to write for school or how much dog-hair has built up on the floor and the fact that the faucet in the bathroom still leaks and I need to repaint the garage door and did I mention that I haven't cleaned out the basement in almost a year?

I need to spend a weekend just doing something fun on my own. I know this. I also know I can't trick myself into thinking that fixing faucets and painting doors is fun - that's cheating. The problem is that a few years ago, I moved away from my hometown and left my friends two hours away. I have friends where I am now, but not the kind of friends who call you up and say, "hey, let's go have fun." My friends have lives and established relationships and their free-time is already filled. Another problem is that I am such an introvert that I tend not to build the kinds of friendships where you can just go hang out. I'm solitary by nature. That means I need to find a way to have fun without involving other people. Anyway, who in the world would want to hang out with someone who has to Google "how to have fun as an adult"? By the way, if you ever Google those words, make sure you turn on safe search, unless your idea of fun involves handcuffs. Just sayin'.

Yeah - having fun sounds like a lot of work, and I'm already tired. Maybe I should just make plans to fix the faucet and paint the garage door. At least then there'd be something to show for the weekend.


  1. I really like this post because I play a LOT! Yes, sometimes my house isn't pristine, but I don't expect perfection out of myself in that regard either. I've found that the easiest way for me to play is to make time for it.

    Just like you'd make time to run to the bank or to clean out the gutters, make time to play. Set a date with yourself in a week. Hit the dollar tree for coloring books and crayolas. Color outside of the lines. Do not use any traditional colorings. That is important.

    By changing how you see things, it helps put other things into perspective. If coloring books and crayolas are not your bag, try a mandala with colored pencils. Take some random paints you have laying around and decorate a piece of poster board in colors that suit you. Create a wall of joy somewhere in your house that makes you smile whenever you look at it.

    I use a plain piece of poster board with scarves, cards, paintings, quotes, jewelry, a birdhouse with a feather, a happy face sticker, among many other things. But the one thing I love the most is that I feel happy whenever I look at it.

    I wish you lived closer. I'd make a play date with you.

  2. So move, Mare!!!

    Just kidding :o) But I may take your advice next weekend and make a playdate with myself - maybe I'll jump rope or play ball with my dog or make a collage.