Last Monday morning was a little difficult. I got up, let the dog out, and started preparing for a doctor's appointment 125 miles south of here. The weather was overcast, windy and threatening rain, and I was not looking forward to the drive. While I was getting out of the shower, I was overpowered by a familiar scent every dog owner dreads. Yup, skunk. Direct hit! I reached for my handy bottle of Skunk Off and met the dog, looking very humbled, on the front porch. A bottle of Skunk Off later, Jersey smelled only slightly better and I seemed to be picking up the odor. No amount of perfume was going to cover me up. I was now running late, still not dressed, and hadn't even had time to consider breakfast or coffee. I could take another shower and be exceptionally late or take my chances. The impending weather left me with no hope that I was going to be able to make the drive with the car windows wide open. Yes, there was no doubt I was going to be the topic of discussion at the doctor's office today. In the hierarchy of bad Monday mornings, this one was still trying to come up for air. I was about to sit down and wallow in my own stink when the phone rang.
Ask me to go fishing and I’ll drop anything and everything I'm supposed to be doing. At the last minute, I rescheduled a doctor's appointment I had waited several months to get to fish smallmouth bass on Grand Traverse Bay. Okay, I can hear the groans from those of you who know me well; “Oh no, she's going to talk about fishing again!” And, “What's she doing fishing for bass, her least favorite fish.” But as the bumper sticker says, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.” Okay, that out of my system, what I really want to talk about is play.
When I cried “Uncle!” last Monday and decided to play it was not because I was feeling good. But out of that decision, two extraordinary things happened to me.
I was spontaneous. One of the benefits of my acting spontaneously is that I gained a different perspective on the same old events and an opportunity to explore unfamiliar territory—the present moment. I realized that to enjoy myself whenever possible was an essential part of my spiritual development. Spontaneity was a way for me to quit trying so hard and be more human.
I laughed. It's true, laughter is good medicine. In the last couple of decades there has been medical research that laughter can benefit you physically. It can help you lose weight, reduce blood pressure and heal a host of illnesses. It's impossible to be laughing and tense at the same time. Allowing myself to laugh was a genuine expression of the appreciation I have for my body, mind and spirit. Laughter got me to the absurdity of the situation and opened up that part of me where creativity thrives. I came home with a sense that I could excel at anything.
By the way, after eight hours on the lake, we only caught two fish. It really didn't matter. Instead of feeling bad, I was being “bad” and feeling much, much better.
“Given the choice between a folly and a sacrament, one should always choose the folly—because we know a sacrament will not bring us closer to God and there's always a chance a folly will.” ~Erasmus
“Life should be lived as play.” ~Plato
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.” ~Carl Jung
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~Plato
“Play is the beginning of knowledge.” ~George Dorsey
“God writes a lot of comedy. The trouble is he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny.” ~Garrison Keillor
It's easy to play when you're feeling good and free. So I'm not going to challenge you to just play more. I'm asking you to notice the next time you're trying too hard. You may be physically trying hard to complete a task or you may be just trying too hard to put a positive spin on a bad situation. At the point that you notice, stop what you're doing and introduce play.