Suggestion Sunday: Adult Playtime

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This week’s suggestion comes from Leah Lord Seidelmann.  Her suggestion “Why children get ice cream trucks, yet you never see a liquor truck driving around the neighborhood…”.  Great suggestion!  It made me think of something that happens when we become adults.  We stop playing.

I think if more people were playful like children, you would see a “bar on wheels” playing old 80’s music and camping out in front of people’s houses.  It actually sounds like an awesome business plan.  Fold out some stools from the side of the truck with some blowers and misters and bring a couple of strippers… uhh… I mean… aspiring college students to serve.  The bar bus would never work because of unfun neighbors.  There’s always one unhappy, miserable jerk that refuses to accept the fact that they are at fault for sucking at life, so they call the cops to stop the fun.

Life wasn’t always this way.  In fact, the very reason why you see Ice Cream trucks drive through neighborhoods is because every kid loves ice cream, every kids gets excited when the ice cream man comes around and every parent has a tough time denying a child’s happiness.  So, what’s the key to happiness and fun?  Observe what kids do.

Yes and… Children are the best improvisers in the world.  Remember playing “hot lava”, “don’t step on the cracks” or “cowboys and Indians ?  It was a simple game of “Yes and…”.  “Ok, you be the cowboy and I’ll be the Indian.  The chair is my house, the carpet is the road and the stairs are out of bounds.” Scene, setting and characters set.  Then we play.  As we get older, we become less attracted to these imaginary play games and get attached to objects… Xbox, cars, and televisions.  We’re told by the grown ups to “shut up”, “sit down” and “be quiet”.  We receive awards for denying our instincts to play and over time we forget how to enjoy play.  Take a day to say “yes” to everything (outside of spending money) and see where it takes you.  “Want to go to lunch?”, “wanna take a walk?”, “want to meet us later?”… Just say Yes and see what happens.

Social Influence – What’s the first thing you think when you hear your neighbor having a loud party?  That’s right party pooper.  You get mad.  “Those people are being loud and disrespectful!”  In fact, you almost hope someone calls the cops, right?  We all think it.  Don’t worry.  You’re just jealous you weren’t invited.  You’re mad that you aren’t having a party.  You’re mad that you aren’t playing right now!  But you disguise it was being annoyed at your neighbor.  Don’t worry.  Try this.  Plan a party today.  Invite people.  Get ready to play.  Take it a step further.  Make it a game night.  Most importantly; the next time you hear people partying and having a good time… say this to yourself “I hope they are having a good time.”  Don’t let the social norm affect your ability to play.

Status – We assign status to everyone we meet. We look at their appearance, objects and title and assess whether or not we are higher or lower than them.  Teachers generally hold a high status, while children maintain a low status.  CEO’s are entitled to being looked up to while the janitor of that corporation is almost always going to be looked down upon.  It’s important to understand that we do this because it’s nearly impossible to open up and play with somebody that you don’t value as an equal.  Ever notice that most of your friends are your age, sex, business status level and net worth?  Sure, there are exceptions, but take a moment to remember relationships that used to be so close, but no longer exist.  I’m not talking about the ones where you got in an argument that ended it.  I’m talking about the ones where you and your best friend were inseparable, but now, 10, 15, or 20 years later you have nothing in common.  It’s usually a status shift.  What would happen in your life if you could have the courage to talk to everyone as though they were your equal?  No better or worse than you.  Just a person talking to another person.  Listening to what they had to say, valuing it and empathizing with their point of view.  Children do this naturally every day as they play with their friends.  They rarely patronize or kiss up.  Put two children together within a couple of years of age and they will play.  Nicely, I might add.

Rules – Children have few rules to follow when they are young.  Anna, my daughter, has a handful.  Don’t touch the stove, eat at the table, be nice to the dogs, don’t bite or hit others and say please and thank you.  That’s really it.  She gets to live life doing as she pleases.  She’s generally happy and seems to do well in public situations.  She interacts with adults and other children extremely well and most impressively, she helps.  I’ve learned so much from her.  Any given moment is an opportunity to play and explore.  Take a moment today to break a rule.  Not a law.  A rule.  Especially a stupid one.  Leave a towel on the floor.  Park your car in a different spot or a different way.  Visit a different grocery store.  Try a new recipe.  We create so many rules in our lives that our brain gets lazy.  Break your rules and habits.  Go play.

TALK TO STRANGERS – You’re an adult now.  One advantage you have over a child is that your chance of abduction is severely lower when talking to a stranger.  In fact, your expectancy of enjoyment is quite high when you engage with a stranger.  Ever notice how you ‘like’ most people the first time you meet them?  Well, it’s because you generally haven’t assigned them a status yet.  You haven’t made rules for them yet.  They are just another person that you can ‘play’ with.

If you haven’t guessed already, this post is really just a metaphor for improvisation.  We do our best to shed society’s rules and be interesting.  You’ll find that most improvisers use these techniques in everyday life and always look for a reason to play.  Our next set of classes start March 6.  Take a class and re-learn how to play.  You’re guaranteed to like it.

Also, if you read this far and you thought this was going to be a blog about Adults and Sex… well… if you aren’t an adult and doing that, apply the above to fix that.

Thanks for the lovely suggestion Leah. Now, go play today with that gorgeous puppy and new husband of yours.

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