Deep play allows one to feel quintessentially alive, heartbeat by heartbeat, in the eternal present. The here-and-now becomes a pop-up storybook, full of surprises, in which everything looms. It returns us to the openness of childhood.
I pulled my chair towards the window and plopped down.
Yes, 30 minutes, I thought. I’ll sit here for 30 minutes and gaze aimlessly at this purply-gray sky.
Just then, a cloud caught my eye. A mountain of a cloud, shaded with charcoal. Full of peaks and valleys. I imagined what it would feel like to climb to the summit of one of those spongy peaks, gliding along on air, feet cushioned by cloud matter. (I know, this is technically impossible, but I was in a state of reverie, not real life.)
As it turned out, it was a day built for cloud gazing. The first storm had moved through, a second was on its way. A lull between weather systems, kind of like the intermission between a two act play. One that left the clouds more than a little frisky, needing to get out of their seats and move!
A few minutes into the show, Dave joined me. Two chairs. Two people. A little conversation. A lot of looking. I saw a dog, a golden retriever, talking with a mummy. And then they moved toward each other and the dog licked away the mummy’s bandages, bringing him back to life. And before I knew it, they had merged into one.
Where else would you see that but in the sky?
And in the midst of it, Dave fed me tea and oranges, just like Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. And the song worked its way out of my memory, and sung itself in my head:
Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river
You can see the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
A little while later, I looked at the clock. I wondered if my 30 minutes were up yet. Oh yes. In fact, it was now 90 minutes since I’d first parked myself in the chair in front of the window.
Quite a romance it’s turning out to be, actually. In addition to cloud gazing, I made a trip to the central library, finding a book I’ve been meaning to read, recommended by the great Josh Hanagarne, the World’s Strongest Librarian. Not only did I snag the book but also happened upon a garden magazine that delighted me.
As the week wore on, I wandered around a new-to-me part of Sacramento, and walked across the Tower Bridge. Took a drive up the river and a ramble down the river. Tried a new coffee house. Went to dinner with a friend and out to lunch with Dave. Listened to some beautiful music. Read a gossipy book. Played with the cats (several times). And, stopped in at a fabulous used book store.
This book store is so good, in fact, that I’m kicking myself for not getting there sooner. It’s been here for 70 years, after all! But perhaps I was meant to wait, because soon after entering I was magnetically pulled to a shelf in the middle of the store, where my hands landed on this book: Deep Play, by Diane Ackerman.
An interesting coincidence, don’t you think?
So here I am. Again. A week later, and still talking about play. But don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do all of that playing on one single day. I spread it out. And I worked too. As a matter of fact, I was very productive. Work came easily. It flowed. Yet it felt a lot like vacation. Or at least a good balance.
I know some of you reading this have a handle on the work/life balance thing. But I also know many still struggle with it. I see clients who regularly work 50 to 60 hours each week. More often than not, no one is telling them to do it. And they want to stop, but can’t quite figure out how.
Well then, it seems to me a few facts are in order right now, courtesy of Joe Robinson at Work to Live:
- Not only do we Americans take less vacation than almost any other country, we also routinely end up losing, or giving back vacation hours, because we don’t use them all
- Americans derive much of their identity from work, and get caught in work martyrdom syndrome
- Overwork can lead to burnout, illness, fatigue, sleep difficulties, and frequent mistakes
- The effects of work stress may not be immediately recognizable because there’s a certain type of “high” that often goes along with it
- A workaholic will often die before an alcoholic
I want to make something clear here. Any and all of us are susceptible to overwork, from the employee earning the regular paycheck, to the parent staying home to manage the family life, to the entrepreneur who adores what they do. Even the hobbyist whose interest is an avocation rather than a vocation. Yes, all can be seduced by the work monster.
OK. That’s it. I’m done with my lecture. But do me a favor, will ya? On this day after Valentine’s Day, love yourself a little more, love your life a little more, and do one less thing than you planned. And if you haven’t seen the TED talk about play, by all means check it out.
Now it’s your turn. How are you doing these days managing the work/life balance thing?
WHY NOT START NOW?