Lately, a few well-meaning and enthusiastic individuals have asked me about my relationship to play.
Generally, questions like this cause me to assume that the person asking them has unicorn-like qualities,
and is probably having a lot more fun than I am.
The question of play, in recent years,
has either sent me kicking and screaming in the opposite direction
at the very least,
caused me to stare quizzically off into the middle distance.
I mean, of course, I have two kids, so I guess I play all the time,
but it’s more like being dressed in bedsheets and led around the house by my daughter while my son plays the ukulele, fully naked,
when I’d just really rather be drinking a cup of tea.
Somewhere along the way, I suppose I’ve become a bona fide adult.
But in an online program I participated in recently, I was asked about play: “what playful, joyful things haven’t you done in ages?”
Rather than cocking and eyebrow and moving on to the next question,
something pulled me investigate further.
It was hard to think back to my childhood pastimes – I realized that I had fewer memories of everyday life than I thought I did, and that certain times in my young life were much clearer than others.
I started jotting:
doing research projects
(truly: during the summers, I would assign myself several topics upon which to write research projects. I would spend hours in the library, poring over books and drawing illustrations to accompany my final project)
For a moment, as I wrote these, I was awash in this sense of comfort
that so much of what I enjoy doing as an adult was what I enjoyed doing as a kid
There was a deep sense of self that settled in when I realized that there are parts of me that have always been there, that are undeniably me.
As my memory faltered, I decided to email my mom.
“Hi mom. This is a bit of a weird question. But I’ve been asked, as a part of this course I’m doing, to remember how I used to play as a kid. I’m wondering what you remember?”
As I pressed send, I remembered the fairies.
I remembered that, as a kid, I always had an imaginary friend – a fairy that would sit on my shoulder, not just for a whimsical spell on a Saturday afternoon, but steadfast, every day, as I walked to and from school and played with my friends and practiced piano.
I have often posited that when feel disconnected from ourselves
after years of being for everyone else,
(for our culture, our employers, our lovers, our children, our communities)
that we must engage in a sort of
in order to reconnect with who we are again.
Sometimes, that ancient remembering takes us into our ancestry, or our matrilineage,
but most readily,
it can take us back to the person we were before we realized the expectations the world had of us
when we were unabashed and unapologetic
when we spoke what was on our minds, and were present to our most basic needs and wants, and made it our business to get those needs and wants met
back to when we played.
I’m starting to think about imaginary friends again.
I’m wondering if I can summon the whimsy to whisper my thoughts
fears, and dreamings
to an ephemeral being on my shoulder.
Wondering what it might be like to be witnessed in that way
to witness myself in that way
to stretch the bounds of my imagination.
Call it play, sure.
It’s at least that.