We all need it. Dogs know–they’ll play anytime, anywhere, collapse for a snore-session and then play again. Children get it, too. Play works off excess energy, works the muscles, delights the mind and leaves the soul satisfied.
As adults, we often forego play in favor of taking care of business. We work, we have chores, we pay bills, we have responsibilities. Not many of us have time for play–and if we do play, we structure it like we do everything else in our lives.
This morning, the first thing Finny McCool did upon crawling from beneath the covers on my bed was go looking for his big buddy Shadow. They rolled around together under the kitchen table while I got their breakfasts. I took the big one outside for his morning constitutional, then the little one. As soon as we were done, they started playing again. They ran back and forth, first Shadow chasing Fin, then Fin chasing Shadow. Shadow played “drag the little guy around by his topknot” for a while; then Fin played “hang off the big guy’s ear.” When they finally needed a rest, the took it with Fin laying on my feet on the ottoman, Shadow on the floor as close as he could get to both of us.
Dogs are such simple creatures. It was a joy to watch them (I’ve moved the most breakable things out of their range, now–it’s like child-proofing a house!) and it made me think. What do I do for play?
Well, I don’t. At least, not anything that involves outdoor games, or running, or, well, playing. My mind plays while I write, though, and it plays as I surf the Internet, or read a good book. I guess you could say I play when I cook, too, since I truly enjoy serving food for myself and my family that’s delicious and pretty to look at.
But I need to find a form of play that will take me outside, challenge my mind and body, and allow me to work off excess energy. Because, yes, even in middle-age, even with rheumatoid arthritis, we all have excess energy. And if we don’t use it, if we suppress the need to move and laugh and be joyful for no other reason than that we’re moving and laughing, it’s lost. It trickles away in nervy, bouncing knees, or comes out as frustration over small defeats. It build up as a sort of low-level stress that, in the end, makes us unhappy and blue. And it exacerbates pain.
Today I’m thinking about possibilities for play. I have a jump-rope. I bought it for exercise, but putting that dull, adult word on something as fun as jumping rope made me pack the thing into a closet and forget about it. I’m going to get it out and do some jump-roping today. I’m going to play.
How do you play?