What did you used to do for fun as a kid?
Stop and think about it for a minute.
I’m not even in the same room with you, but I can see you smiling…because fun will do that to a person.
And kids are such experts at the joy of playing around–like the three-year-old boy of Beth Levine, a writer who tells my favorite story ever:
One day, she says, “Our son decided that not only was underwear objectionable, the rest of his clothes were as well. I found him running around the house stark naked, only pausing long enough to grab a treat from the kitchen table.
‘Mama!’ he cried, with soul-soaring glee. ‘I’m naked! Naked with CANDY!’
‘What more can you ask of life?’ she asked her husband. ‘I feel like being naked with candy myself.'”
Maybe you feel like it too.
And if you don’t, maybe you should.
Because my guess is that you’ve been a responsible grownup for a while now, and you may well need a break from all that adulting. Adulting can suck the life out of you.
Playing around, however, can blow it back in.
So here’s what I’m inviting you to do: Think about what you used to do for fun as a kid. Then tap into that child-heart to have some fun now.
For instance, as a kid, I used to love climbing up onto our shed roof, hopping over to our garage roof, and enjoying the exceptional view from way up there. Being outdoors in an environment of controlled risk (as in, I wasn’t trying to parachute off the garage roof) was one kind of play that made my heart happy.
A few years ago, I figured I could access that spirit by participating in a program called Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Virginia. On the first day, I thought I’d register for some canoeing and outdoor cooking classes, but found myself most intrigued by the description of the high ropes course: a series of wire configurations that you have to navigate about thirty feet off the ground. It offered everything my kid-heart loved: outdoors, controlled risk and climbing around.
I signed up.
That afternoon we met as a group, and walked to the woods where the high ropes were–very high ropes. I never knew thirty feet off the ground could look so high.
After an hour of instruction, we assembled at the bottom of the first station. I did not volunteer to go first; I preferred to let my anxiety build while I watched other people brave the unknown.
To my surprise, though, the first challenge–a single wire to walk on, and two wires to hold onto about shoulder height– was actually fun!
But the second one, called the kitten crawl–just two parallel wires–was more challenging. I was supposed to lower myself slowly to my hands and knees, walk my hands out on the wires and pray that my legs were following behind me—knees inside the wires, feet outside. At this point, all my confidence left me; I wanted to leap off the platform and run home.
But there was nothing to do but keep going, so I got down on all fours, slowly, slowly…and started scooting, my knees waggling in and out, in and out. Halfway across, I was panting, cotton mouthed, and wondering why I did these things to myself; the end of the line looked a mile away, and my knees were moving in and out just a tad too far when—shoot. I flipped off the wires, and in an instant found myself hanging upside down, suspended in the air from my belay line.
And it was at this moment—gazing up at the blinding sun—that I recalled what our leader had told us from the beginning: “It’s not important to be the best; it’s not even important to be good. What’s important is to be here.”
Yes, indeedy. And here I was, hanging upside down like a sloth in a tree.
“NOW WHAT?” I yelled at everyone below, suddenly aware that I had an audience.
“GET BACK ON TOP!” they yelled.
“Right,” I thought. “Part the Red Sea! Walk on water! Get back on top! It’s all the same to me…”
“HOW?” I yelled back down.
Well, their instructions didn’t help much, and I ended up pulling myself across, still inverted, with my arms. Finally, I made it to the platform, too weak to right myself.
Okay, so maybe that didn’t go the way I had hoped (nevertheless, it was an adventure in play!), but there was a reward at the end: a zip line which took no brains or talent whatsoever. All I had to do was get hooked up, hop off the platform and sail through the woods yelling like Tarzan with wild abandon.
Now that, my friends, was some crazy good fun–the kind I had when I was a kid.
Hear me now.
If you’re lamenting your age or your losses or the ways life has beaten you up or at least tramped across your soul, maybe with cleats–
Or if you’ve been dealt a sucker punch to your health or your heart–
I have some most wonderful news: That kid-spirit of yours, regardless of what you’ve been through, is still in there, waiting to be resurrected, waiting to bring you back to life.
Yes, even you.
Beacause, as Anne Lamott, in Grace (Eventually) says: “I am all the ages I’ve ever been. You realize this at some point about your child–even when your kid is sixteen, you can see all the ages in the baby wrapped up like a burrito, the one- year-old about to walk, the four-year-old napping, the ten-year-old on a trampoline…So how can I be represented by a snapshot, or any one specific aging age? Isn’t the truth that this me is subsumed into all the me’s I already have been, and will be?”
Indeed. You are all the ages you’ve ever been.
So maybe this is the perfect time to resurrect the joyful play of your childhood. Figure it out, make a list, adapt some of that fun to who you are now.
Oh, go on. Check in to a bouncy house and have at it.
And feel the soul-soaring glee of living naked with candy…