Posted in Life As I Know It

Why Sometimes You Need to Have Nothing to Find Something

While flex-schedule working has many benefits, it also has its share of challenges. From the time my son was born, I was fortunate enough to have a work situation that allowed me to work from home as needed. And while I am so grateful to have had that opportunity, one of the challenges that comes with it is feeling like I should always be doing something. Always. Continue reading “Why Sometimes You Need to Have Nothing to Find Something”

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Posted in Soapbox

Putting the U in Fun

Here it is, the third week of January…and how are those resolutions coming along? If you followed my recipe for success, they are probably coming along quite nicely! Of course, if you actually want to make some changes, you may already be struggling to stay focused on your goals.

Resolutions are often of the “lose 10 pounds” or “eat healthier” variety—those things that we know we should do but often let fall by the wayside as we get caught up in the day-to-day swirl that consumes us. By the third week of January, a lot of us have let go of these goals and added another checkmark to our failure list.

While some of us don’t actually make resolutions, I believe it’s important to pause and evaluate what’s what. I don’t personally make “official” resolutions, but I do think about changes that I would like to make in the coming year and aim for them. And I know one of mine that should most likely be one of yours, as well:

Play more.

We need to purposefully make ourselves seek out fun. Not just because it’s fun to play…but because our brains literally benefit from it. You may remember my love of Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. In it, Schulte provides solid research about our need for play. Need. Not want. Play allows our brains to reenergize and function better. Without it, our brains don’t get bounce-back time…and our brains need that in order to perform more effectively.

 

Dogs know how to play...so should we
Dogs know how to play…so should we

 

Schulte also explains how this is a particular need for women—that women are historically encouraged to feel that we need to earn our play time or at least be productive while we’re at it (quilting bee, anyone?) Historically men have set aside playtime with little or no guilt, but women…well, we all too often feel guilty for having fun. (Remember this is a gender generalization—I’m sure some of you guys feel guilty playing golf or having poker night, so don’t whine at me. We are talking about historical fact here, people.)

We all need to give ourselves permission to have fun. We need to look at the world around us and not just see the work that needs doing but the fun that needs having. And we need to do it without guilt. Making free time (gasp!) for play is not a crime, though our culture of busyness often makes it feel that way.

 

skating
all seasons offer unique play opportunities

 

I don’t know about you, but I almost always have a cloud of “shoulds” over my head no matter what I’m doing—including play time. If I’m playing a game with my son, I’m remembering that email I need to follow up on. If I’m going to watch a favorite show, I should probably do it while folding laundry or ironing. And if I choose not to be productive while I’m watching, then there’s a little pang of guilt that pokes at me.

Sound familiar? Schulte describes that as “contaminated time.” We may be doing something leisurely, but responsibilities keep creeping in and contaminating the time—reducing the positive effects of play.

SO…what would it look like if you made a resolution to play more? It would show up in both little and big ways. Playing that game with your child and being fully present (no thoughts of work!) or simply going for a bike ride and breathing in the fresh air. Or maybe it’s simply letting yourself get lost in a book. And when guilt or worry creeps in, recognize it and tell it to scram. This is play time, bucko.

 

a birthday treat from a few years ago
a birthday treat from a few years ago

 

Playing in bigger ways is also important. Maybe there is something you’ve always been wanting to do but haven’t made the time for it. Make it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a pot (like, on a pottery wheel…not across the room, though if you find that fun, go for it) in order to reenact the scene from Ghost where Patrick Swayze does his own kind of pot-throwing. Or perhaps you’d love to know what it feels like to drive a race car. Or ride a horse. Maybe it’s something as simple as setting aside a monthly play night with some friends that you treat as sacred—that time is non-negotiable for anything else.

However it works for you—play more. You don’t need permission. You don’t have to earn it. If people give you that elitist crap about “must be nice to have time to do X,” don’t let it make you feel like you have to justify yourself. Do it and don’t feel guilty. Do it and be fully present. Do it to help your brain grow stronger.

I know I’m sounding like a Nike commercial, but it’s true: just do it. Play.

You’re worth it.

 

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Posted in Frabjous Friday, Wit's End

Zeb and Sam

For today’s Frabjous Friday offering, I’m sharing something about one of our beloved dogs.

He bears a striking resemblance to Zebulon Walton (aka Grandpa) from The Waltons. For no apparently good reason, this brings me joy. I’m hoping it will do the same for you.

Zeb and Sam. Two lovable old souls.
Zeb and Sam. Two lovable old souls.
Posted in Life As I Know It

Call Me Ripley, Dammit

The swirl of life can be all-consuming. Just the regular ToDos can make one day blur into another. Throw in a few curve balls, and some days it feels like your best option is to duck. Amidst all that hubbub, it’s easy to forget to have a little fun every now and then.

This weekend was my son’s birthday party for his friends, and the main event was laser tag. As things got underway, the host said to my husband and me, “You know, you guys get to play, too.” My eyes immediately lit up, but my husband was concerned we might put a damper on the boys’ game. Of course not, I told him—besides, we’ll mainly shoot at each other! And so we suited up.

I must admit, I had some seriously ridiculous fun. The place used strobe and black lights, plus it pulsed with the intense music of a Hollywood blockbuster. I let my mind only concentrate on the moment, and it reminded me of days where running around and playing Police Woman was a whole lot of fun.

Of course, I was in heeled flip-flops, so the men had a bit of an advantage on me, and my husband definitely took me up on the “we’ll just shoot at each other part,” as he shot me continuously. No matter where I turned, there he was, blasting away. I have to think it was a kind of marital therapy for him.

Look out, boys--Ripley is here!
Look out, boys–Ripley is here!

The completion of the first round gave us our stats, and I took…last place. We had a lot of fun comparing numbers, and as we poured over the info, I saw that we were all given names as players. The boys shared theirs: Tron, Spyder, Blade, Hammer…my husband’s was Alpha…What was mine you ask? Shaggy. Shaggy. That’s right—the dude from Scooby Doo known for uttering “Zoinks!” and always being hungry and afraid. What the hell kind of fighting name was that?! No wonder I was last place. Now if I had been named Ripley, then I would have showed those stealthy 10-year-old boys who was boss! Shaggy. Yeesh.

But the bottom line is that embracing the silly is good for the soul. I was never one for being too serious, but sometimes with all of life’s responsibilities, I forget to let myself just be plain old silly. Letting the troubles of the day wait a bit while I engage in a few minutes of play helps me to better deal with those troubles when I have to let them back in.

I’m sure that those folks looking through the window of the laser tag arena and seeing a 45yo woman (and a strange man with an evil grin stalking her!) amidst a bunch of 10yo boys having their own fun must have thought me pretty wacky. And that’s okay. I’m no stranger to wacky…and I thank God for that.

Posted in Wit's End

Recipe for Success

Less than a month away from the start of 2013, many of us may be thinking about goal setting for the New Year. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have it all figured out. Yep. I have the recipe for success. It’s all about proper goal setting. I don’t mean to appear smug about this, but really…I have the answer. After years of living as me, I now know what I must do to be a success at something. And I’m pretty sure I have the answer for you, too.

Choosing what you are innately good at is key to my method, and my new goals will reflect this. Let me share with you some goals that I just know I will successfully achieve: I will gain weight. I will sleep less than I should. I will let myself be easily distracted, and—as an offshoot of this, I will watch more mindless youtube videos, particularly ones of ridiculously cute puppies. I will continue to undermine my short term memory by Googling anything and everything that crosses my mind.

See?!?! These are things I can achieve! In fact, these are things I am already doing—I just haven’t intended to! So what if I make them be things I am trying to do on purpose? Yes, these are simply horribly bad goals–but imagine the boost to self confidence that I will feel when I start knocking these goals off my list one-by-one! You go, girl! You are on fire! Who knows what I might be able to achieve with a string of successes under my ever-tightening belt?!

Of course, I am familiar with failure, and there is the slight chance that I might fail here, as well…and then what to do? Here’s the added bonus to my recipe for success: failure is even better! “Oh, darn…I’ve lost another pound this week. I have failed yet again.” Yes! Failure in this plan IS an option! It could result in a slim, well-rested, and more focused me! Failure would be the new success!

Feel free to use my exciting new method in achieving your goals, too! We could start a whole wave of people who are succeeding like never before! We could change the world!

Or not.

Posted in Bits & Pieces

It Was the Water

My 86 (and a half!) year old mother just shared with me a personal insight she had. I’ve always known that she never learned to swim and that she had a healthy fear of the water. And I’ve always used that as a bit of a reminder about how letting our fears “win” limits our options. I think sometimes it’s much easier to see things like this third person. Today, she said to me simply, “It was the water.” She had been reflecting on how when she was a young woman, a popular thing to do was to go to North Avenue Beach in Chicago, but she frequently declined invitations because she knew the boys would want to swim and goof around in the water—and she couldn’t do that. She was too afraid. So she rarely went.

She said, “I’ve got to face the truth—it was the water.” And then she spoke of the fun she knew she had missed out on–all because of the water.

And what is my “water”? What fears am I letting win over me? What will I say when I, too—Lord willing—am 86 and a half?

And what is your “water”?