I’ve got a pretty great view looking out the window at my desk at work. Over the past two months I’ve seen some incredible sunsets and cloud formations, and I’ve had some pretty interesting people-watching opportunities (we have 2 ‘ugly naked guys’ in the condo across the street from my office). Today I had the chance to watch some children playing and it really got me thinking: when did I stop playing? When did everything become about performance and perfection? Why is it that on most days, unless I’m playing with my own kids, I need a beer or a glass of wine to ‘unwind’ and have fun?
I don’t really do anything for ‘fun’ anymore. When I have the time to play video games the point is always to win, not to play. When I exercise there is an element of freedom and fun involved, but that’s usually secondary to conditioning, improvement and performance expectations. As I write I’m reminded of a particular “Friends” episode when Phoebe and Rachel go running together. Rachel’s out to get exercise, while Phoebe runs around like a crazy person. I’m not at all like Phoebe, but there’s a big part of me that wishes I was.
So why don’t I play anymore? There’s a part of me that ‘knows’ that playing is for kids, but that ultimately it’s unrealistic and naive. I ‘know’ I’m supposed to perform in order to survive; I’ll never earn a living if I play all day. How, then, is it that my daughter can still play? My daughter is in school for six hours a day and to her it’s a lot of work; to my daughter, school is where she ‘earns a living’. But when she comes home she drops her books, the Barbies come out, and it’s play time.
So why don’t I play anymore? My daughter knows how to flip some switch that enables her to stop caring about school and start caring about play and fun. I’ve either forgotten how to flip that switch or don’t know how to find it at all. It’s like I have to be serious all the time, as if my career, my life, my very existence will cease to be unless I’m in work-and-worry mode all the time. I think it would be too easy to say that kids are naive, maybe even dumb, and that one day they’ll ‘wake up’ to the real world. My daughter is in the real world; she goes to school, does work, gets nagged by her ‘boss’, hassled by her ‘coworkers’, and comes home to a less-than-perfect family. But she still plays, and a part of me wonders if it doesn’t come down to trust. She trusts that all will be well while she plays, that the universe won’t unravel if she let’s go and has fun. She trusts that there won’t be negative repercussions if she stops performing and just plays.
I don’t have that level of trust, and as a man who professes faith in Jesus Christ that’s a sad comment. I ought to trust that my life won’t unravel while I play, because I know the Lord. I shouldn’t need an excuse like Friday night and a glass of wine to have a good time. Somewhere along the way I forgot how to play, and that’s something I need to relearn before my work and worry really start to unravel things.