Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
I am now a “great” aunt. On Valentine’s Day, Lily Lucci became the 7,213,517,000th person (or so) to populate this planet. Nearly half of us (3.2 billion) are watching 6,000 “great” human beings compete for medals in Sochi. With amazement, I marvel at what these elite athletes can do with their bodies, not the least of which is race 80 miles per hour head-first down an icy path wearing only a helmet for protection. I personally can’t imagine walking onto an ice rink in front of crowds this size, much less twirling, leaping, flipping, even falling. Can you imagine moving your body the way they do? Despite mistakes and disappointments, they persist, breaking records and making lifelong memories. New techniques and events have been added to this, the 22nd Olympics.
Spectating these fabulous feats of mere mortals makes me wonder whether I am playing small. I have friends who ride 60 miles outside even thought it’s 6 degrees and get up the next morning to run 30 miles two hours away. My husband has run nearly 10 marathons in the last 10 years. I’ve never ever considered running a race of any kind. I’ve never been lauded for being the fastest, strongest, or best at anything, physically. I’m one of those kids who was last in gym class any time teams were chosen and I spent more time on the bench than off on my eighth grade softball team. I have no desire to compete at that level. As a mother of three teens, I often say I am a spectator: I schedule, I watch, I cheer, I bring the snacks. But I wonder whether that is all. Is there more to me? Are the Olympic Games showing us the fastest, strongest, the very best among us or … are they displaying what we are all capable of becoming? How much more could we be if we focused with Olympic intensity? What heights could we reach if we spent 8-12 hours a day (with a coach) practicing our “event”? If the Olympiads are a glimpse of what we can become…how much more can we be?
I am reading a fascinating book called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. In Circle, I hear that by becoming adults, we grow serious completing our should’s and supposed to’s and in the process, we forget how to play! The conversation grows quiet when I ask people to dream, to imagine, to consider possibilities. We are well practiced, it seems, in being practical. Dr. Stuart Brown contends that when we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity. Having studied play for decades now, he illustrates how play is the vital essence of life. Yep, as essential as sleep, he says. Check out the obits, for example - no one there is lauded for their serious getting it done-ness. We are most remembered by how we play. There is a kind of magic in nonproductive activity that has no overt purposes, rules or time constraints. In fact, he describes that play is critical to forming neural connections in our brains. “In the end, the most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others.”
Many of us at this point in our lives, are seeking to connect, to discover our purpose, and to express our joy. Could remembering how to play be the key?
Just as the 2014 Winter Olympics torch relayed from the North Pole (for the first time ever with the help of a nuclear-powered icebreaker) into outer space (via Soyuz rocket) to the bottom of the deepest freshwater lake in the world (Lake Baikal in Siberia) and ascended to the top of Europe’s highest mountain (Mount Elbrus), this is a great opportunity for us all to reconsider our own limits. How much more can we be - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually - especially if we tap into the power of play? Yesterday, thinking how I could stretch myself physically - I drove to Morton Arboretum with my teens to play with cross country skis for the first-time. In the last ten minutes, I was privately applauding myself for staying standing the whole time. And then I thought - that’ s because you haven’t tested the limit. I looked up at my two girls, who had spent half the morning in the snow, playfully, and dug in, and landed on my toosh. We laughed and laughed and laughed. It was the most fun I’ve had in months!
When I shared some of this with my 15-year-old son this morning, after reminding him to clean his room and get his homework done, he said, “Sure, Mom. All of our professional athletes and rock stars - they play for a living.” Duh!? How can I make sure my kids remember how to play? How can I? Anybody up for a play date?