What I’ve learnt from my 100 Days of Play #1: Play has its own gravity!

There were a few days during my challenge where I felt like I’d had enough. Various people had suggested to me that play can’t be scheduled and that it has to be spontaneous. I didn’t think that’s so, and I still don’t: it’s clear to me that we can deliberately make time for play if we want to.

But in these dark moments when I felt like I’d had enough play (I know, crazy, right?) I just didn’t think I wanted to bother to play that day. But, because I’m stubborn and I’d committed to the challenge, I forced myself to play (a true martyr, I know!), and something funny happened every time. There were, maybe, a couple of minutes where I was there, teeth-gritted, frown-apparent. But two minutes at most.

Then my jaw and shoulders relaxed, my heavy heart started to flutter a bit more excitedly, and a smile began to show itself on my face. As much as I was determined to scowl, like a kid who wants to continue a tantrum but is tricked by her parents into laughing, I just couldn’t keep up my annoyance. Instead, the world of play enveloped me, hugged me tight, and I was away – chasing bubbles or trying to skate, or making up stupid rhymes.

The closest experience I’ve had is trying to calm down, or with meditation. Has anyone ever reacted to hearing the advice by thinking anything other than “I do not want to count to ten slowly” (expletive deleted!)? And yet when you force yourself to do so… oh yes, look…. I actually am a bit calmer… the red mist is lifting and I can see a bit more clearly… it isn’t so horrible and awful after all!

But I’d say, at least for me, play is even more powerful. When I take a moment, stop and play, it’s like splashing ice-cold water on my face – it brings me back into myself and reminds me of how great it is to be awake and not just alive.

It’s why, heavy as the occasions are, we inject play into funerals in the form of wakes and singing. It’s how when you’re lying in bed with a cold and you feel worse and worse if you focus on how awful you feel, but when you decide to see how many snotty tissues you can catapult into the bin on the other side of the room (successfully or not!) you can’t help but feel a little bit better.

Play has a gravity all of its own, and whether you find yourself in its orbit by chance or circumstance, or you deliberately push yourself into it, it will grab you and spin you round, and you’ll find yourself chortling with delight along with it!

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