I had been using this excuse myself for so long that I really had to step back and think about it. I’d just become so accustomed to it that it felt like truth. When I gave it some more thought I realized that this idea is a really common message we hear, either explicitly or implicitly, as we grow up. We live in a culture that highly values work: we don’t take our vacations; we’re afraid to be caught leaving work early; and we commonly answer the question “How are you?” with the reply, “Busy.” Play is considered something for children and part of becoming an adult is leaving those childish pursuits behind. I suspect that losing our creative confidence as we move into adulthood is part of this.
Though child’s play and adult play may take different forms and serve different purposes, it is no less important. When I started creative play, I brought some joy back into my life, my stress went down, and I also started being more playful in general, which I am sure my family appreciates. The Help Guide lists the following benefits of play:
- Relieve stress
- Improve brain function
- Stimulate the mind and boost creativity
- Improve relationships and your connection with others
- Keep you feeling young and energetic.
So the real truth is that you are never too old to play, but a surefire way to make yourself feel old is to have a life that is all work and no play. I’m tired of feeling old, aren’t you?
Believe me, I understand this one! As I wrote on Monday, I hardly took time to play as a kid. As an adult? Forget it! I didn’t allow myself time to play until all of my work was done and my work was almost never done. Finally, however, as I have gotten older and wiser, I realized that I was making the choice to work instead of play and that I could make a different choice.
Time is a funny thing. Every day, we have the same 24 hours, but some days that doesn’t feel like it’s enough time and some days, it feels like too much. How we use our time and what we define as our priorities is in our control for the most part. What was great about finally realizing that was that it also meant that I could control whether or not I had time for play and whether or not it was a priority. Once I made my own play time a priority, it became easier to find 15 minutes for myself. And, yes, sometimes those play times were stolen moments, like the 15 minutes of coloring I did one night while my daughter was in the tub. I prefer to have my play time when it’s quiet, but that hadn’t happened on that particular day so I took what I could get and still found my time relaxing and better for my blood pressure than checking Facebook.
What I also realized was that when I said to myself “I don’t have the time to play,” what I really meant was “I don’t consider myself enough of a priority in my own life to do something for myself until everyone and everything else is taken care of first.” That was a stunning realization for me. I knew I was not completely self-absorbed, but I also did not think that I was a self-negating door mat either. And really, though I won’t stand for anyone else making me a door mat, I had been doing it to myself for years without realizing it. That was something I could change too.