Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). I have since decided to turn the subject into a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed.
In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.
But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.
This week’s lie: Play is childish.
In 2012 my sister-in-law and I enrolled in a Spiritual Journaling class. After the first morning session, we broke for a two-hour lunch where we were asked to write about our childhood. More specifically, what we enjoyed doing as a child. As the two of us walked to a local cafe, my sister-in-law innocently asked Did you have the opportunity to play as a child?
At first I was dumbstruck. Of course I did. Don’t all children play?
But the more I considered the source, she is after all married to my younger brother, the more I wondered if she was right. Did I experience a playful childhood?
I remember the neighborhood four-square games.
I remember lining up my stuffed animals for pretend school.
I remember coloring within the lines and reading the Bobbsey Twin mysteries.
But I’m not sure I remember spontaneous play just for the sake of playing.
In preschool I had two imaginary friends, Jimmy and Deke. When I reached kindergarten, however, I instinctively knew it was time to let them go. After all, I was old enough to know better.
In fact, this was a common refrain throughout my life. I was told either You are too young to know … or… You are old enough to know better. I often wondered at what age that distinction became viable.
As I grew older my parents insisted on homework before play. I would typically have an after-school snack at 3:30 and then go directly to my room to study. Piano practice would follow. Then, if time allowed, I could go outside for a while before dinner. Reading was the usual evening activity.
I never thought this schedule as harsh or punitive. I enjoyed homework and reading continues to be one of my favorite past times. But I think somewhere along the way I interpreted this daily routine as an unbreakable rule.
As an adult, I became a perfectionist workaholic. My motto: If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Consequently, I rarely found time for play. There was always one more thing to do. I measured the quality of the day by how much I accomplished. High productivity was always the goal.
But in this semi-retired, empty-nest phase of life, I find I have more free time to pursue personal interests. Unfortunately, my creative muscles atrophied after decades of inactivity. I’m not sure how to create without a deadline. I’m not sure what to create without a job description. I love to write but become paralyzed by the blank screen.
I’m convinced these atrophied muscles can become useful again. A little practice each day helps. Lowering expectations also helps. Refusing to compare myself to others is essential. I am slowly relearning the value of creative fun.
Picasso once said: Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once they grow up.
He speaks the truth: Play connects us to our inner child.