I recently read an article about the importance of avoiding burnout. The piece referred to activist burnout in particular. However, googling burnout also yields posts about work, lifestyle, and daily routine fatigue. Stress and pressure along with a drive to succeed seems to often come with a side dish of burnout.
Very few experts mentioned play in their advice. Some came close, suggesting unplugged vacations, finding a hobby, or nurturing non-work activity. But the actual words fun or play were rarely included. I think our society often sees play as frivolous and unnecessary. In recent years, there have even been movements to reduce the amount of play for our children by removing recess and intensifying early learning.
I fall on the far opposite end of this spectrum, believing that play should be at least as important to our journey as is work. I suggest harmonizing the two in a merry mix as individuals see fit. Some people love to work hard and then play hard while others prefer a blending of play in their work— and some of us are a hybrid of both styles.
For me, play means partaking of an activity that is creative, brings joy and mirth, and leaves me feeling satisfied. Whether I’ve been interacting with others or playing by myself matters not. Play can be planned or spontaneous, triggered by need or by choice. It can be intensely physical, intellectually challenging, or a bit of both. My mind definitely loves tackling a good puzzle.
My favored forms of play are cooperative because they feed my brain and my soul while inspiring me toward my best and most creative self. Competitive forms that urge competition with others tend to bring out my most viscerally combative traits. I don’t enjoy feeling mean or out for blood.
The cooperative preference is so strong in me that I actually remodeled the game Hangman for my children to a game I called “Seat the Queen.” This version had so many elements in the drawing that success in solving the puzzle was ensured and the violence was lifted out. Likewise, we played Scrabble™ in a cooperative manner by pooling our scores and then trying to best them with each successive game.
I rarely played with dolls as a child. Suffice it to say, I was quite surprised a decade ago to find myself happily playing with them midlife. A friend introduced me to Bleuette, a doll created in 1905 as an incentive for buying magazine subscriptions. She further introduced me to an online group of (mostly) ladies who adored playing with their dolls by recreating the fashions from the originally published magazines and creating fun scenes through photography.
For awhile, dolls became my work rather than play as I had the skills to create my own reproductions for sale. I also branched out and took a few years writing about a different type of doll in a monthly subscription newsletter. While I enjoyed the learning involved, the people I met, and much of the journey, it didn’t yield quite the same joy as when simply playing.
One of the groups I loved has recently found new life. We have monthly challenges and exchanges. These are usually inspiring to me since I love puzzles and finding creative solutions to problems. A recent challenge led me to search the internet for traditional Irish outfits. I found one that enticed me to recreate it for the dolls. It was a challenge I eagerly accepted and I felt satisfied when it was met.
As a thank you to the friend who has reinvigorated my playful side, I created a pair of overalls for her dolls. Because she and her husband live a country life, I figured that she would appreciate this surprise gift. Her addition of a wee bandana (shown in her thank you photo at the bottom of the Pattern page) and excited reaction were a welcome response.
Deb asked me to share the pattern with our group for an upcoming challenge. I was more than happy to share. I love being a part of the motivation for others to play. I worked up a page with the pattern and photos and look forward to adding photos of the diverse renditions our fellow doll lovers create.
Whether kite flying, rock climbing, writing poetry, flag football, dolls, or board games are your preferred modes of play, I hope that you’re making time in your life for enough fun. Our lives are full enough of stress and drama. Play is a great release and relief for our bodies and our minds.
Pictured below is a fantastic pub and meeting place where the emphasis is on play. At D20: A Bar With Characters there are no big screen TVs. There are a plethora of board games and other enticements so everyone wants to play. This kind of venue gives me great hope that playful fun might be coming back into vogue.
Top two photos by Blythe Pelham, last photo published with permission of D20 Pub.
Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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