What does it mean not to Play: 3 signs this is causing you pain,
What does it mean to play? Does anyone have a working definition of it? As someone who has played as an adult, I still find it hard to define. But one thing I have become more certain of is the sensation of being without play. That I can describe in some detail.
Firstly, I believe play gives me something. I am at my most confident when I am playing and not consciously focusing on it. The lack of play has brought my attention to how stale I feel without a practise of play. This stale feeling applies to the skills I brought to my play practice. I feel the skills spoiling as they go unused, and where they once shouted for my attention they have dulled to an apathetic whisper. I feel the lack of play tangibly, but that lack isn’t as prioritized as the need to satisfy a lack of food, sleep or attention that needs to be paid to children. The staleness is condoned by all the elements around me, as in theory the more time I spend being a provider and mother is the more time I can identify as productive time.
The second thing I have noticed is the jealousy I feel towards people in play. This jealousy is a subtle one, as it does not always manifest itself as anger. Sometimes it feels like an echo, an echo of the empty hole I have which refuses to be filled by anything other than the real thing. As an adult I have so many choices, means, opportunities and yet I can’t seem to put my finger on the button that chooses play. So I sit and watch people play on tv, play in the front garden, play in the middle of mealtimes, and a soft but tangible voice mumbles about the unfairness of it all.
Thirdly, If I can overcome the first two hurdles, I am hit with an overwhelming sense of playtime being behind me. That it has been too long, too far behind to remember, that it would be too difficult to reconnect to that space.
In light of the three monster hurdles that appear in front of me, you would think that I would simply fill my time doing other things. But I cannot. This quarantine period has highlighted this for me as it highlights things for all of us. And I don’t think I am alone. We will step back into an altered society, which simply will not go back to “normal”. We are currently making individual and collective decisions whilst cocooned determining the type of person we choose to be when we re-emerge from the disparate chrysalis’ we inhabit. I am making a conscious choice to identify, connect with and use every Play opportunity I can find and take it with me. I will look to ways of destigmatizing the word, and wearing it as a badge of pride. I won’t dress it up in corporate jargon, because I believe playfulness is truthfulness. And I choose to play.