Listen to my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:
There is no doubt that we live in a crazy, busy world. Most of us are in double income families, we have long commutes to work, and our children have music, foreign language, sports, dance, art and tutoring lessons so they become “well rounded” and can get into university one day. It is so easy to rush around so frantically that we don’t truly connect – with our spouses, with our friends, even with ourselves. It is no wonder that we feel like we can barely keep up the pace.
Often, instead of slowing down and eliminating activities, we just speed up even more and cite the mantra of the Little Train Who Could – “I think I can, I think I can.” After all, if Little Miss Perfect down the road can do it, so can I! We get caught up in a world of perpetual exhaustion. When our friends ask, “How are you doing?” We say, “I’m so busy!” and they sigh because they are busy too. This response does two things for us:
1) It makes us look good, because culturally we have linked “productive” to the term “busy.” (Truth be told, you can be very busy and still incredibly unproductive.) In essence, we perpetuate the façade that “busy” makes us worthwhile to those around us. In our minds, they are thinking, “Oh, she must be so important because she is so busy!”
2) It creates distance in our relationships. We send out the subliminal signal “Don’t try to spend time with me, ask me for anything or talk to me. I am too busy for you.” Sometimes we think we need this distance – if people would just leave us alone, we could get all our tasks done! But this attitude just leaves us feeling lonely. We have run off the very people who are best positioned to carry some of the load with us.
A couple years ago, I came across a profound quote by Dr. Stuart Brown that began to change my perspective on the activities in my life. Dr. Brown said this:
“Do you know what the opposite of play is? No, it’s not work. It’s depression.”
When we do not create time and space to play, we become depressed. We become more and more isolated. Our unhappiness grows. Our stress levels spike. We get grouchy with others. And far too often, we try to work our way out of this hole. But this is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be making more time to play.
This holds true with our relationships as well. When they become too much about function and task, they become depressed. Sometimes we treat the problems with in-depth conversations. Sometimes we go to a counselor to discuss everything that is wrong about the other person. Sometimes we allow distance and silence to grow between us. We circle around and around the problems never seeing much progress and we lose hope that it will ever be different.
Perhaps, we just need to give ourselves permission to play. To do something fun and enjoyable for no other reason than because it is fun and enjoyable. To laugh and giggle. To put that old argument on the shelf and just hang out together. To grab on for a hug even though things are not perfect.
So this week – regardless of whether you are fighting with your spouse or not – your Bedwork assignment is to have at least one hour of play together. Go dancing. Play a game of tennis. Do an art project together. Have a snowball fight. Go skating on the local pond. Rent a comedy and laugh together. Have a wrestling match. Dust off your ancient copy of Monopoly. Whatever you choose, play. Play hard. It might be the best thing you have done for your relationship in a long time.