for release March 15, 2002
by Melodie Davis
Are You Still Having Fun?
"What are you doing for fun?"
My doctor's question during my annual physical caught me off guard. Me? Fun? I'm fifty years old, work 40 plus hours a week at two jobs, and am a hardworking wife and mother in my other life. Who has time for fun? Fun is for kids. Or maybe retired people?
I frankly didn't have an answer for him, and he kind of tsk tsked, like he wasn't surprised by my fumbling; that it was the common response of a lot of us who are in this stage of life. It was probably a good question coming from a doctor, examining not only my physical state but emotional/social outlook as well.
The natural reaction when faced with an unpleasant truth is to begin to make excuses: I like my job, so doesn't that count as fun? I like being a wife and mother, so that has its fun aspects, too. But I know that isn't the point. All of these things add stress and busyness. I enjoy my church and other community involvements, but none of these things can really be classified as play.
Besides, too often it costs money to have fun. Once again I started making excuses in my mind: I'm not a doctor, so I can't afford skiing or golf or exotic vacations to tropical islands. My husband and I even think things like bowling or movies are too expensive to do very often. But I know being tight with money is really no excuse, either.
I can think back and find some fun things I've done in the last two months. I had fun taking a walk with my 15-year-old daughter at dusk, just because we both felt like it.
I had fun exploring the free National Gallery of Art with my 20-year-old daughter because we had some extra time in Washington, D.C. while acquiring a visa. I had fun laughing until we cried at a talent show with my work colleagues. My husband and I had a wonderful time when friends treated us to a dinner out at a nice new Italian restaurant in town. And then the four of us spent the rest of the evening playing cards.
But I think the doctor's question is a good one for all of us: How do you play? How do you relax? Do you find balance in your life?
The writer of Ecclesiastes has good advice. After his wonderful poem, where he reminds us that there is "a time to laugh" and "a time to dance," he goes on to explain, "What gain have the workers from their toil? I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live -- this is the gift of God" (chapter 3, verses 10-13).
I had to go to the laundry recently because our dryer is on the blink, and the whole time I was folding our clothes, a very small child sat in her infant seat happily playing with her toe. Admittedly this was a very content child, and she was energetically sucking her pacifier, but for 20 minutes she just looked around, grabbed and pulled on her toe, and watched her older brother and mother scurrying around her. Then when her pacifier fell out she started babbling with all the sounds of a child just learning her language. She was having fun, right where she was.
I know of no better place to rediscover the joy of play than in the company of children. When my children were younger I remember thinking about the fact that I hadn't slid down a slide or swung on a swing in many years. Children reintroduced me to the joy of play.
The work of children is to play. If you have ever watched children at play, you know how industrious and intent they can be, sometimes exerting great energy or strength to make a peg fit in a hole, or fiercely concentrating to make a scissors work.
Now that my children are burdened with homework and too many places to go, we don't go to parks anymore. We don't roller skate. Of course, they go to movies, buy CDs and listen to music for fun-but I am too busy or too cheap. Perhaps some people need to be told to quit playing and go to work, but I'm afraid more of us suffer from an abundance of work, and an ability to only see work.
If God created us with the capacity and need to work, then God certainly also created us with the capacity and need to play. Another scripture speaks to this need "Look how the wild flowers grow! They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of these flowers" (Luke 12:27). Most of us would probably do well to work and worry less, and seize the opportunity for play more.
For a free booklet, "Easing the Burden of Stress," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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