Make Time for Yourself to Play

MeredithAs parents, we spend much of our time entertaining other people. Usually ones much younger and smaller than ourselves. We also “get” that making sure the small people we’re raising know how to entertain, motivate, and creatively challenge themselves once in awhile. We work hard to provide our kids a lovely cocktail of adult-led, peer-led, and self-led activities throughout their weeks. Because it’s good for them.

But how many of us grown-ups make time in our over-scheduled, work-fueled, people-stuffed lives to play all by ourselves as well? I’m thinking not too many.

Just as our kids need that uninterrupted, singular, creative playtime, so do we. The intrinsic values of play, such as risk-taking, self-discovery, freedom from our judgmental egos, physical and mental well-being, and pure unfiltered joy, are things every human being needs their whole lives.

We simply never outgrow the internal desire to ignite and nurture our playful spirits. And while playing with friends and family is always fantastic, there is something magical that happens when we lose ourselves in a playful experience. When no one else can see or comment or applaud.

One of my close mom pals, Annie, helped me fully understand the beauty and value of breaking free from others and blissfully playing all by ourselves.

Awhile back she got herself a spiffy new bike and would regularly ditch her housework, stacks of papers, and worldly obligations in order to take off on two wheels down our lakefront path. It was her way of reconnecting with her spirit and getting lost in her own expression of play. And after several years, it still is. Annie looks forward to her rides, gets giddy talking about it, and always seems to come back better than when she left.

When Annie first used to tell me about her solo adventures of playful bliss and serenity, I was initially sort of jealous. I wondered how she ever got all her “stuff” done when she was taking off on her bike every sunny day. I wondered how on earth I could tap into that deeper place of playfulness. I wondered if I could ever give myself permission to play like that.

It’s taken me a little over a year to figure out that my solo playtime may never look like Annie’s. It might not be one specific thing that lights me up and makes me giddy and calls to me like her beloved bike does her. What I discovered was that for me, it’s the willingness to hear the whisper of my own playful spirit’s often-muffled voice and actually answer it in some way that brings me joy.

So this winter I ice-skated at Rockefeller Center all alone because the opportunity knocked. This summer I took every opportunity to “dolphin dive” and singularly splash around over and over again and really FEEL the lake water during my stay at our summer cottage. I conquered my fear and hit 50 miles an hour on a jet ski all by myself and laughed out loud when no one could hear. And I often jump my heart out on our trampoline when the kids have gone to bed and only the stars can see. I played alone more this year just for the sake of playing.

When no one could see or comment or applaud.

And it was blissful.

As this new school year approaches and schedules get hectic and crazy once again, I hope to listen to the whisper way more often. To give myself permission to play all by myself.

Because it’s good for me.

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