For a lot of you, I know this might be the LAST thing you are thinking about.
To quote one of my favorite lines of poetry: “The world is too much with us.” It feels that way to a lot of people, I know, and not just because the climate of the world feels fatalistic.
Maybe the world feels like too much because of the doldrums of the job you go to each day.
Maybe the world feels like too much in a relationship that’s either distant and lonely or circular in aggravation.
What can we do? What are our choices?
There’s certainly the school of thought that we have to dig in, work harder, consume more information, analyze our actions and potential solutions.
I’ve done some of that in the past month; and yes, it has helped me move in a positive direction. Sometimes though, I have found that I’ve worked my way to fatigue or exhaustion.
When I get to that place, something will often land in front of me that I need to see or hear so that I may remember to come up for air. It’s been harder for me (and I know, others) to do that in the past few weeks.
What landed in front of me was actually something I heard while working at home the other day. It was a segment on NPR radio called How Play Shapes the World.
It was an interview with historian Steve Johnson who wrote a book called Wonderland that offers the idea “that play — our pursuit of surprise, pleasure, pure and simple joy — is the primordial soup from which the most amazing advances and innovations rise.”
Amen. Grazie. Prego. And pass the biscuits.
When the world is too much with us, I think this is so important to remember.
Do not misunderstand me completely and think that I am saying that if we just turned off the internet and shoved our personal and civic responsibilities aside to ride roller coasters and go to fashion shows, that we’d figure out all of our own shit, as well as that which affects all of humanity.
But in some way, that is what I’m saying.
I want you to do the things that your roaring heart is calling you to do right now in a time of constant change, divisiveness, chaos, 24 hour (minute? second?) news cycles, executive orders, marches, rallies, snarky memes, arguing families, rising anger and hurt feelings.
Exercise your rights. Write your checks. Make the calls. Have conversations about boundaries. Decide who and / or what you’ve outgrown and move on to honor your values. Read. Read. Read. All of it.
And for the love of God and all that is holy, please create and invite fun into your life.
I know it seems counterintuitive in, what many of us can agree, are troubled times. But hear me (and Mr. Johnson) out.
We all have so much work to do. And if we’re going to do it in a radiant, powerful and thriving way, then we must play.
And adults have a hard time with that — it goes against the grain of so much that we’re taught, first of all; and I think we decide that we don’t think we know how to play when we’re grown ups.
To play is to invoke delight — to wade into pleasure without gripping and grasping for outcomes.
Play is about presence, fun, ideas and connections; it can come in many forms (I made a list of some of my favorites here).
If we’re going to grow as individuals and as a society, we have to nurture our human need to play. It leads us to these fruitful spaces in our lives and our minds that can lead to creativity.
Creativity can lead to innovation.
Innovation gives birth to problem-solving.
It’s vital. It will keep you — not just alive — but truly living.
And if your first thought is, “I don’t have time”?
Well, I lovingly implore you to explore that and ask yourself some questions about what that would look like for you if you did. What would that mean for your life?
This doesn’t mean you have to go anywhere or spend big dollars; you can create an inner culture of play, wonder, fun and creativity.
So much of what I have created in my life in the past few years is the result of the usual suspects of commitment and hard work. But I have learned that what inspires my commitment and hard work is my pleasure principle.
I ask myself:
- What would happen if…?
- I wonder what it would be like to…?
- What if I was a woman who…?
- What if it’s even more fun than I can imagine?
- What if I screw up AND let myself be so proud for trying?
- Who will I meet?
- What new ideas could I be exposed to?
- I wonder what could be waiting around the corner of this experience that could change everything?
- If not now, when?
- Does this have the potential to delight me?
- Can I just show up / step up and let go of what I think the outcome is going to be — just be here or participate?
- Why the fuck not?
The happiness and sense of fulfillment I feel and cultivate in my life is a direct result of of offering myself more play, pleasure and fun.
Losing over 35 lbs. — and keeping it off for over five years — and loving my healthy , strong body at age 45?
- More pleasures – great and small.
- Saying goodbye to deprivation and food jail.
- No more boring-ass exercise — instead, more dancing, more strength and energetic endurance. Movement is a prayer.
- More loving the clothes I choose to wear now instead of waiting until I’m a certain weight to feel beautiful.
- Saying “fuck all that” when it comes to what a woman over 40 “should or shouldn’t wear” — I get to play dress-up the way I want because this is my life; and I’m going to celebrate with every garment.
Doing work I love and having a successful business?
- Making simple and significant choices each day that led me to create my own path — not one I thought I “should” take or what people “typically” do.
- Seeing risk as an opportunity and not a barrier or set-up for failure.
- Not playing by rules (that I often had no hand in making) that don’t align with my vision and mission.
- Asking myself, “what do women long for?” and answering with everything I create in my work.
Other avenues of play, pleasure and fun that have helped me realize life-changing goals:
- Friendships with people I choose to share my life with in what goes beyond an “arms-length” friendship: people I talk with in a vulnerable and truthful way; we meet for coffee or meals; we go to one another’s homes or travel together.
- Extensive travel to new places — nationally and internationally. People have said to me, “It must be nice to be so successful that you can go to these exotic places and play.” And what they do not understand is that they need to flip the script and learn about me: “When I play and experience beautiful and exotic places, I am more successful. Happier. More creative. More powerful.” That is how that works.
So, in these pivotal times, I want you to slow your roll and ask yourself how and where you can offer yourself more pleasure and play.
Need some help? I’ve made a list of suggestions for inspiration. Download here.
And never forget that when the world is too much with us, you have a whole world within you that can offer love and truth.
That’s what brings about new ideas.
That’s what creates connections.
That’s what’s real.