2020 has been hard.
For all of us.
Rites of passage and milestones have occurred. Birthdays have come and gone. Weddings have happened. All without gathering together. What I hear repeatedly, and have felt myself is, how can we celebrate when there is so much chaos and uncertainty happening around us?
Troubling times are the most important time to celebrate. The most important times to share joy are when uncertainty, illness, and death loom collectively all around you. Feelings are contagious. Fear is a natural byproduct of our times. Intentionally cultivating connection, laughter, and ritual celebration is deeply needed to create light in the shadows, now more than ever.
Like many, I miss my people desperately. I want to hug my mom again and see my friends indoors without anxiety of losing someone if I do. I crave more active and intimate connection. One of my favorite things for birthdays are theme parties. For me, there is nothing like seeing your friends dress up on your behalf and get silly. My close friends have a long time love/hate with this aspect of my personality. They roll their eyes in exasperation and a classic, “fucking Jenn,” then have a blast acting out my requested shenanigans and deeply appreciate it. This is the magic of spreading an invitation to adults for silliness. We all still have a young child within us just waiting for the chance, whether we contact them or not.
Being “grown-up” is such a strange thing. So many folks mistake it for seriousness and hard work alone. I have always rejected this notion. Our brains at any age learn better when there is play involved. Play is creativity, adaptation, divergent thinking, and active resilience. Laughter, humor, and connection are medicine. Nothing connects folks more than play.
I was turning 45 last week as the west coast was on fire.The headlines were grim. I had a nine-day migraine and all kinds of medical tests for that and other complications my body is having this year. I was solidly depressed and out of spoons. I saw that Princess Bride mash-up going around and had an idea. What if I did a music video with all my people and edited it into a little party? This was Saturday night and my birthday was Monday. I put out a call to friends simply asking them to record their own interpretations of segments of a song, and boy did they deliver!!
I am always inspired by what people come up with when they are enthusiastically invited into imagination and silliness. One of my superpowers is shared play. Because of this, I’ve been called “immature” a lot in my life. This is a great misunderstanding. My people understand that a farting rainbow on the side of my boat is not only a litmus test for who can be my friend, but it is also a reclaiming and celebration of what was endured and lost. My freedom to play has been earned. It is the flip side of immense childhood trauma.
As a therapist, I go to the hells of trauma willingly again and again to aid people in their pain. Rape, murder, death, disease, child abuse—you name it, I have sat intensely with it. I have held oceans of tears and deep chasms of rage by this point in my life. It is a sacred relationship and calling to do this work. It is a great sublimation and meaning behind my own experiences and the great privilege I have had to recover and thrive. I take it very seriously and am deeply dedicated to it.
One thing I have learned in the process of healing from any hell is this: adults who laugh and play are the healthiest among us. They are the children who survived and the adults who didn’t harden their protective masks into shells. They are the most mature and resilient of all of us. They remain open and authentic, unburdened with the “should’s” and true to their congruent multi-faceted selves and experiences.
Those of us who were deeply hurt in our lives have worked for the joy we have. We have held onto the light fiercely and grown it intentionally. We know that joy and sadness are two sides of the same coin and to have one fully you must also embrace the other. We know that true authenticity is vulnerability and that it takes courage and strength to show up fully to both/and. To embrace both sadness and joy.
We all need play, much more play, and I for one am happy to provide opportunities to my friends and family. Play can look like silliness or creativity. It also can be sports, dance, sex, hobbies, puzzles, games, good conversations, and many other things. Some folks like to play with others, some prefer to play alone, and some love both. There are many ways to play, all valid. When I go sailing with a bunch of aerospace engineers and they are talking about heel angle and sail trim in numbers, that is play. When I cook a meal with someone I love and we converse about life and have a good laugh, that is play. When I ask my friends to dress up and do lip synced videos for me, that is definitely play.
One really healthy reflection to have is: how do you play? Are you getting enough of it? How can you create more of it? I hope you all take some time to create play out there. You might not feel like it, it might feel like work, and that’s okay. Once you put on your cape, get out your crayons, or put on the tunes, whatever your play looks like: you will feel better.
I hope you enjoy the video and it inspires you to create some shenanigans in your world.
May we all sail in peace.