Publisher - May 2019

Publisher 0419Just look at life with more playful eyes. Don’t be so serious. Seriousness becomes like a blindness…The whole world is showering its joy on you in so many ways, but you are too serious, you cannot open your heart. —Osho

From the time we are born to around age 12 our No. 1 job is to play. How many times did my mother tell me to go outside and play? “In or out, Elizabeth. If you come in again, I’m going to make you stay in!” The neighborhood kids all gathered daily to ride bikes, skateboard, play house or school, tag, Follow the Leader, Red Rover (my favorite) or play on the swing set. We put on shows, danced, sung, pretended to be movie stars, especially Cher. We put towels on our heads and flipped them back and forth like we had Cher hair and sung into our hairbrushes.

Childhood is fun because we get to get out of our heads every day and escape into the world of play and imagination. I’ve never understood why we strip away everything we have known since birth as we make that dreaded transition into puberty. No more playgrounds. No more shows. Very little bike riding. No wonder teens turn to alcohol and drugs. We make them start over from ground zero right when acne breaks out all over their faces and awkward things start happening to their bodies—right when the need to escape is the most imminent. At this point, any continued play is usually competitive, which often takes away the fun and piles on the expectations to be good.

True play is not about being good, and that’s why the need for play never ceases. However, the way we play changes as we grow into adults. No matter what you consider play, it is important to give it credence in your life. It helps balance out the hard parts, and as adults, we all know much of life is hard.

Is it me, or does life seem to be just so extra lately? Extra busy, extra tense, extra long to-do lists, extra things to tolerate, extra if-it-can-go-wrong-it-will, and even things that should be easy-peasy tend to turn into project-level tasks. Nothing takes ten minutes anymore. I find myself wanting to escape, not as in a week-long vacation, but more like a “Calgon Take Me Away” to a place where my responsibilities are minimized and good times and laughter are maximized for a very, very long time.

When my world starts crashing in on me, as I’m sure yours does occasionally, too, it is visible. My brow furrows and my car gets messy, both a sure sign I’m not doing well, and also a telltale sign I am overloaded and out of balance. Not only does my job require me to be creative, I also personally thrive on creativity. My brain is happy when I’m being silly, cracking jokes, imagining what ifs, and taking the norm and putting a comedic twist on it. In order to do this, I need time to free think. I can’t free think when I’m bogged down in negativity or issues. I’m sure you can relate. So sometimes, I have to find a way to escape to not only come up with new and exciting ideas for the magazines, but just to have peace.

Playing helps me center. I engage in Words With Friends and Sudoku on my phone. I also enjoy playing games and cards with my kids. It’s just a time to relax and simply be. I also have art class once a month at the office. I find art a way to play, while having permission to do things my way. There is no right or wrong in art. I ride my bike. I like the feeling of pedaling fast and feeling the wind in my face. The other night I rode bikes in the dark with my sweetheart; he lit the way for us with a flashlight. It was extra fun.

My daughter Jacie and I rode our bikes to Dolphin Head Playground the other day to swing. It “took my stomach” when I leaned my head back and came up as I was flying forward just like it did when I was a child. I yelled, giggling to her, “That took my stomach!”

She asked me, “Mom, there was a study done, and do you know what almost every child’s favorite piece of playground equipment is?”

“Is it the swing?” I guessed.

“Yes,” she said. “It is the closest we ever come to flying, and it makes us feel the most free.”

Feeling free. That is what I long for on a daily basis. Us adults get too tied up in adulthood and all the burdens that come with it. It’s not our fault. It’s kind of the march of the universe. However, when you get tired of the march, and feel you can no longer stay in step, all you have to do is turn back your mental clock and play. There’s something about it that takes you away far better than Calgon.

So, go on! It’s never too late to ask your friends if they can come out and play.

Think Pink, 

Elizabeth Millen