Play: A Holiday Message

During an interview with a local newspaper a few years ago, the journalist asked me about my spouse.  I laughed and said that when I met him I knew that I had found a playmate.  My husband was a bit bothered about this statement, concerned that it made him look slothful, but I disagree.  

When I met my husband, I had already established my career and felt comfortable with the direction of my life.  I had completed my PhD, had a great position and promising career, was a single mom of two wonderful children and felt very fulfilled on many levels.  However, I was also feeling pretty burned out from too much work and obligation.  I was not enjoying all of the wonderful blessings in my life and realized that I needed balance and a release.  Although he also had a busy career as an attorney, my husband was an adventurer and spent many hours with his hobbies, most of them in the outdoors.  So, when we started dating, our time together included much of the same.  He, and the time we spent together in nature, was exactly what I needed at that time in my life.  He became my new playmate.

My family would readily say I am an intense person and a perfectionist  – what many call a type A personality.  That intensity has served me well in many ways but more than once it has taken a toll on my health and wellbeing.  Even this past year, I have found that my approach to dealing with the pandemic has been a bit extreme at times.  But over the years I have learned that during difficult times, when faced with uncontrollable and uncertain situations, play is exactly what is needed.   In fact, bringing a sense of playfulness doesn’t mean you are trying to ignore or downplay the severity of a situation. Playfulness can actually make it possible to navigate those times with more clarity.

 A few years ago, following another intense period of too much work and a significant health challenge, I found a book that was valuable to my healing and recovery. In his book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety, Charlie Hoehn bravely shares his story of overwork and the resulting physical and mental challenges he faced from that lifestyle. He reminds his readers of how easy our state of constant connectivity makes it to fall into the trap of working 24/7. Like me, he found he wasn’t enjoying all the blessing and wonderful aspects of his life anymore. During his journey back to health, he discovered that there were some things that needed to be eliminated but he also found that he needed to revisit a childhood activity – play. 

As adults we often think that play is a waste of time.  Entrepreneurs are especially prone to this kind of thinking – and for good reason.  A business is like a very small child, the requirements of the business and your customers and employees simply don’t stop just because you are exhausted or in need of rest.  The feeling of getting everything checked off of the “to do” list isn’t possible for a business owner or the founder of a new venture where there is always a sense of urgency.  And, right now, during the challenges from Covid-19, the pressure on business owners is even greater than ever before.  Whether trying to cope with no sales from a vanishing market or dealing with pandemic restrictions or even being overrun with sales from a new market that emerged during this time, there is always work to be done.

However, play may be exactly what we all need at this time – and what entrepreneurs in particular need.  Like Charlie Hoehn, I have found that my road to recovery from overwork requires a healthy dose of play.  Play is defined as engaging in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than serious purpose.  Play is something we do for fun and to recreate.  Yet, an article published by Pediatrics, the journal of the American Association of Pediatrics, suggests that play is so important to children because that is how they learn and how they build relationships.  And, if you have read my earlier blogs you know that learning and relationship building are both important for the required resilience to succeed as an entrepreneur.  Play is not only fun, it can bring joy and help us recover and become more resilient.

Play can be anything that brings you joy and is energizing for you.  I have had lots of hobbies and interests over the years that bring this kind of fun into my life. My husband and I love to boat, kayak and hike, I enjoy playing the piano and running  and now one of my greatest joys I have is playing with my grandchildren.  One hobby that has stayed with me from the time I was a little girl is cooking.  I loved this as a child and still today enjoy playing in the kitchen.  In fact, during the pandemic, like many of us, I have spent much more time in the kitchen.  Recently I was going through the cookbooks that my deceased mother left behind.  Among many other treasures I found the famous Joy of Cooking book which has been enjoyed by generations of cooks as well as a more recent cookbook by Daphne Oz (the daughter of Dr. Oz) entitled, The Happy Cook.  Both titles emphasizing that cooking can be joyful and bring happiness.  As I read the introduction to both of these books, it prompted me to pull out my mother’s recipe box with all of her favorites and bake cookies for a day to send to my family and friends.  For me, that day spent reminiscing and baking cookies was pure joy and play.

As we approach the beginning of a new year, I plan to prioritize fun and play and I encourage you to consider doing the same.  After 2020 more play, laughter and fun may not only be helpful in the healing process, it may also bring the clarity we need to take what we have learned from this past year and use it to have a bountiful, healthy and joyous future.

What do you do for fun?  It is an important part of building your resilience.

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