Recently I listened to a talk by Brenè Brown, a social researcher, and she emphasized the importance of play. She defined play as losing yourself in something and not wanting the time doing it to end. She claims whole-hearted people take time to play.
Most of my life I’ve been goal oriented, whether it’s wash the windows and cross that task off my list or write so many words each day before I can leave the house. The most I relaxed was losing myself in a book, even though many books I read were for research for a writing project or for school.
Sunday night was when I would read for pleasure. Early in our life raising a family, I declared Sunday night as a night I didn’t cook or as the boys called it, fix-it-yourself night. Of course, there was always food in the refrigerator, so they were not going to go hungry, but I didn’t slave over a hot crock pot. During warm seasons, I sat on the balcony off our bedroom and read. During cold months, I’d take a hot bath and then read in bed. What a luxury. So I played weekly.
Then we bought half interest in an old sailboat.
I’m not a water person. I can dog-paddle and tread water, but that’s about it. When we’d meet friends at their lake cabin for the weekend of fun with their ski boat, I’d be the one always in the boat, counting heads of kids.
Then the sailboat entered our lives. Our sailboat—Wrinkle in Time— was aptly named by our partners because time stood still while we were on the water. The first time we sailed, I wore a lifejacket and held on for dear life. The boat tilted with the wind as Jim learned to control the sails.
But within a few sails, I was a pro. I could pull the lines when Jim called out, “Ready to come about…. Hard Alee.” That’s about as proficient as I got as a sailor, taking directions from the skipper. A few times I manned the tiller, watching the arrow at the top of the mast as I tried to keep the sails full of wind, but that was work for me, not play.
Mostly my line was, “Anyone ready for a drink or a sandwich?”
What made sailing play for me was the total surrender to my surroundings. Sailing wasn’t goal oriented. If the wind was strong, we could make good time, cutting a line through the water. When the wind was quiet, we’d sail wing-on-wing to capture enough air to move the boat. But always there was no roar of a motor, just the lapping of the water against the hull.
We had no destination. Time was the only factor. If we had to dock by four, we’d go as far as we could on the lake in half the time we had, then we’d turn around. Going out was more play than heading back. Anticipation, sunshine, breeze. We had deep conversations while we sailed. Nothing was off limits, and what was said on the sailboat stayed on the sailboat.
I also like walking. I lose myself in time on walks, whether in the neighborhood or on trails. When Jim was by my side, we talked or not, and now that I walk alone, I lose myself in thoughts or I listen to a book.
The sailboat is gone now, and I need to find a new way to play in addition to walking. Play is necessary for a strong sense of being, and play is different for each of us. Some of us play sports or watch sports, some work crossword puzzles, some swim, hike, shop, cook, garden. No matter what you do for play, I hope you make time for play everyday. You’ll be a happier person for it.