Fun? What’s that?
I was born serious.
Being the oldest of four probably had a lot to do with it. From a young age, my modus operandi was to be responsible, to behave, get it right, do what was expected, toe the line, set a good example, and care about what other people thought of me (and, by association, my family). I was a product of my time in history and my place in the family constellation.
So it’s not surprising that fun, which I understood to be frivolous and silly, wasn’t part of my picture. And in fairness, being serious has served me well enough so far.
The problem is…
We’ve found ourselves in times that are turbulent, uncertain, and soul-deadening. In circumstances like this, super-seriousness doesn’t help. When life-out-there seems more depressing than enlivening, we need another approach.
The challenge is…
How can we change our individual experience when the collective consciousness is so weighed down with worry and fear?
The good news is…
We can each change our own experience.
The paradox is…
We can do it by having fun. Odd, isn’t it, that fun is the antidote when it’s the last thing we feel able to engage in—especially those of us who think fun is frivolous.
What if fun isn’t frivolous? What if we told ourselves a better story about fun? What would be a better story? How would that help?
A new story about fun…
Recently on CBC Radio I heard an interview (starts at 35 minutes) that proposed a new story about fun. Catherine Price, science journalist and author, described true fun. What she said shifted my perspective.
While interviewing people about their most-fun experiences, she discovered that those were the times they felt most alive. She went on to say that true fun is the combination of three states—playfulness, connection, and flow—and when you put all of them together, that’s where you experience aliveness.
In the discussion, she differentiates true fun from fake fun, and makes the case that fun is not frivolous. In fact, she says, fun has been shown to be essential to our physical, mental and emotional health, and should therefore be high on our priority list rather than at the bottom. “It energizes us and gives us power to do all the other important things in our lives.”
I get the theory, but I have seventy-five years of seriousness-conditioning to overcome. And when the energy in and around us is so heavy, how do I even find my way into a state of light-heartedness and playfulness?
Catherine Price has ideas. I’ve signed up for her free February Funtervention. I’m not totally without ideas and motivation, but am curious to see what I might learn through this experience.
Noticing delights is something we can do without signing up for anything. It’s a way of shifting focus from what debilitates us to what is enlivening. Catherine Price explains how to do this: As you go through your day, watch for anything that gives you even the mildest spark of delight. When that happens, acknowledge it by putting your finger in the air and exclaiming “Delight!” out loud. Sounds ridiculous, but research has shown that the physical gesture and sound helps to anchor the experience in us.
And even more powerful is to share the delight with someone else—take a photo, then add the caption Delight! and text it to one or more friends. Pretty soon you’ll have delightful texts coming back to you, which will top up your own delight.
Some of my delights…
I didn’t immediately see any delights around me, but the interview inspired me to think about what does delight me. What are things I’ve done that make me feel most alive? I wanted to get in touch with that feeling so I can cultivate more of it.
The first thing that came to mind was when I was a young mom and my second son was five. Raffi had just published his album, Singable Songs for the Very Young. Son #2 and I had a lot of giggles making up silly rhymes to this song…
That once-five-year-old is now a father of two girls. I had a blast this year, the second December of the pandemic, creating an Elf-on-the-Shelf experience for my granddaughters in lieu of getting together for the holidays.
During the ten days before Christmas, I sent the girls a photo each day showing Minty the Elf’s adventures at my house. Each day, Minty prepared for a nightly delivery of a surprise gift for Dolly and Taffy (ballerina dolls that Santa delivered to my sister and me in 1954). At the end, I sent the girls a booklet of the story.
For me, this project was fun on all levels—playful connected flow that enlivened me. The girls enjoyed it. I hope my sharing of the booklet brings you some delight as well.
And if you have moments of delight to share, we’d love to hear about them. We can all use as much delight as we can find these days!