in Writing, Spirituality/

THE POWER OF PLAY

I am so sick of repeating the same patterns, holding the same positions, continuing down the same road with only minor tweaks. Yet, how to make needed change without becoming unglued, unhinged, as it were? Or maybe becoming unhinged is required, who knows. In any case, I am in need of some significant change in my life EVEN if it’s only in how I perceive things which, at times, can make all the difference.

Making change, especially interior change, can be cataclysmic. In the past, it has frequently occurred after an intolerable amount of misery has reached critical mass, at which point I become uncomfortable inside my own skin. Almost always I begin to see that I’ve been living some sort of lie, a self-deception that is no longer sustainable.

The psychic-emotional niggling starts small accompanied by prolonged avoidance in addressing it. Instead, I look for all kinds of rationalizations as to why I should suck it up, surrender to “what is” and the like. Yet, without examination of how I feel or what it is I’m even doing to myself, the “dark night” only deepens. At this stage, I go all intellectual trying to think my way through with tepid success at best. Why? Because, for me, without clear recognition of what’s happening on the emotional front I’m only surrendering the tip of the proverbial iceberg. After all, “knowing about” something is not the same as “knowing,” which is to say, knowing about a feeling whether its anger, sorrow, fear, etc., without the full-throated experiencing of it only delays hitting bottom, postponing the required karmic lesson I’ve been avoiding in the first place.

In any case, after said unresolved misery swamps me I must choose whether to address what is not working and have the courage to change it. This is no small feat since it inevitably involves feeling the emotional pain I have been desperately trying to intellectualize away from all along! Oh dear.

I’ll give you a recent example. It has been brought to my attention I don’t play enough, don’t engage in activities that emotionally invigorate and feed my soul. I work too hard, or think I should be even when I don’t. This is due in part because of the ferocious Judeo-Christian work ethic I was raised on by parents and the Midwestern sub-culture from whence I came. In essence it projects a belief that ‘you are what you do; you are what you produce or accomplish!’ This ethic defines a person’s worth. I have unwittingly allowed it to define my worth. When I don’t meet these expectations I feel guilty, sad; angry. Not good!

Of course, like so many things in life there is an upside to the work ethic. The upside is that it has allowed me to accomplish some satisfying projects in spite of any downside. Unfortunately, it has also driven me to suppress some serious discomfort in the process. I go on to the next thing without playing, without giving myself even permission for anything other than to ‘recover.’ Yet, if I only would have played more I might not have reached the life-defying drudge state that has all-too-often contributed to any discontent. Life-affirming play has always seemed less noble, even frivolous, with the exception of when I used to drink pretty heavily in younger years, hardly a healthy alternative.

At any rate, I know now I must incorporate invigorating play that is soul-feeding, life-affirming, psychically-expanding, and exhilarating. Lately, I have begun to play although it almost feels awkward at times I’m so unused to it. I went to see The Blue Man Group with a friend, a group I have long wanted to see. The event was exciting, phenomenally loud, exceedingly clever, monstrously over-stimulating, childishly playful and really, really fun. I loved it even though at age 62 (not exactly the demographic group for which the program was designed) I was utterly exhausted by program’s end. Yet, I felt so alive. I felt connected to some primal part of myself, engaged and astonishingly released! I felt the best kind of unhinged from my absurdly serious self!! What’s more, later in the day I became aware of a state of relaxation involving a noticeable peace. This relaxed feeling also included a sense of satisfaction which felt normal, which is to say an integral part of my very nature. My God, even animals play, I thought. Oh to be a puppy!

Why I have allowed embedded, deeply tangled psychic assumptions to diminish the value of play is hardly a mystery, as previously noted. Yet I have reached a stage where I can no longer operate from such assumptions. It has simply become too painful to do so. For such a long time I have been so over-focused on work that I have blocked any honest instinct for joyful abandon. Well, no more! I’ve discovered an appetite for play. I want to act on the God-given instinct that fuels my healthy and robust heart, reclaiming an integral part of what I’m meant to be. And while this doesn’t mean I won’t work, it does mean I will play. I think it’s the only responsible thing for me to do. Who knows, I may even get a puppy!

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