Come Out and Play

Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, has defined eight “play personalities.” You know me, I couldn’t resist taking the quiz to discover mine. The types are: the joker, the kinesthete, the explorer, the director, the competitor, the collector, the artist/creator, and the storyteller. Based on the descriptions, I assumed I’d be either explorer or storyteller. According to the quiz, I’m the latter.

During the past two difficult years, I’ve found it hard to play. Not that I haven’t tried. But in the early days of the pandemic, so many of the things I thought of as play—karaoke parties with my friends, going to live theater or to hear music, eating out at restaurants, traveling—were taken off the table. I wasn’t sure how else to play. Sure, I had more time for my quiet pleasures, like reading or watching movies, but the more social and new-to-me experiences were limited.

Then, as things started opening up again, I realized I lacked the energy or the motivation for play. It felt “hard” to be in social settings again, something that used to come so easily to me. And after 30 years of living in the same town, nothing felt “new” anymore.

According to the definition of “the storyteller,” my play focuses on imagination. It says I may also like to perform or write, and that I immerse myself in books and movies because it allows me to feel the emotions of the characters and step into their worlds. It’s true. In the past two years, with my mind racing around all the troubles we were all experiencing, the only time I could escape my concerns was when I read a book or watched a movie. Or when I was doing my own writing.

I’ve talked to several friends lately who are trying to return to activities they once loved and finding those things lacking. They can’t explain why, but those activities no longer fill them up. Many are tinkering with new hobbies or diving into new areas of knowledge. Many had to give themselves permission to no longer love the things that once made them happy. We had to convince ourselves it wasn’t wrong not to go back to the people we had once been. How can we, really, after all we’ve been through the past two years?

I’m looking for new ways to play, new stories to tell myself and others. We’re starting to travel again, but even the trips we’re planning look different. I’m dedicating this weekend to play. I’ve lined up several friends to do different things with me to see if I can rekindle a sense of adventure right here in my same old town, if I can stay in the moment during a live performance, if I might stumble across something that will make me laugh really hard.

There are plenty of things to worry about in our world lately. Lots of things that make me despair. But there are beautiful things, too, and good people doing good things, and artists sharing their art. And it’s okay to sometimes sit in that space. Not just okay, it’s necessary.

So go play.

By Teresa R. Funke

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