Working at Play

Remember how I said I’m not very good at play (October 6, 2016 post)? As I read that section in The Gifts of Imperfection, I realized that it has been a long time since I played. A long time since I let myself be that vulnerable to the world.

Brene Brown’s definition of play was that it is purposeless — meaning we play for the pleasure of playing, for the sheer joy of doing (whatever it is we’re doing), just because we love what we are doing. That’s actually a pretty meaty definition.

I joked in that post that I wondered if binge watching my shows count as play. It turns out that is a pretty good question to ask. I think I, unintentionally, got to the heart of the matter. Watching a show (in a solid chunk) is something that actually gives me a great deal of pleasure. So using that as a basis I asked myself a couple of questions. 1–What do I do that I love? And 2–What do I currently do as a “task” that really should be play.

I spent a couple of weeks logging time in my journal. I noticed a couple of interesting patterns.

Pattern 1: While I wore a Fitbit (like for 10 years) I logged a walk by the number of steps/number of miles I walked. After taking off the Fitbit I began to describe my walk by amount of time I spent out on the road or where I turned around, what the weather was like, and I started taking a picture each morning during my walk. I began putting the pictures on Instagram. I’m not walking because I need to log the steps, I’m walking because I enjoy being on the road, taking in my surroundings, and taking the picture. I’m not trying to be good at walking. I’m not trying to take good pictures. BOOM! I’m playing! My morning walk is play.

Pattern 2: I read a lot. My books typically fall into 2 categories: reading for pleasure and reading to learn. When I’m reading for pleasure, I’m not trying to check a book off a list, I’m not trying to learn something; I’m simply enjoying the pleasure of being transported to another time, another place, another reality, another me. So reading for pleasure is playing.

Pattern 3: Again, there are two types of watching that I do: watching for pleasure and watching to learn. Watching a show just because I love the storytelling is just about the same as reading for pleasure, it’s just a little more passive. Some people feel that passive is bad or not worthwhile, but I disagree. There are times when I just want to sit back and let someone else drive. Watching for pleasure definitely fits the bill. So watching for pleasure is playing.

I’m still playing with the puppy (and apparently still calling him a puppy) and I’m slowly starting to think of it as playing for me too and not just burning off his energy or trying to teach him something new. And interestingly enough, he’s learning to come much better now that “come on” isn’t the point of running around the yard.

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