At one of the lowest low points during the lockdown last year (jeez, it still feels so weird saying lockdown last year — how has it been a year already?!) when loneliness was me, I noticed that what I was really lonely for, so desperate for was actually, tacticle, tangible togetherness and intimacy with people, other bodies, activities, experiences. It struck me how much I missed play.
I use the word a lot lately.
I want to play. I miss play. I want more play in my life.
I know now that what I mean is levity. And that’s a much more rounded, wholesome word for what I mean and want. Because it’s not so much about the doing, or the actual activity at hand, but a feeling I have been missing.
Lightness. Silliness. Fun.
And so I began to wonder about the feeling around fun. How does it feel to have spontenity? What does that make me feel? How does my body respond? What memories come up when I think about lightness, play, frivolity, intimacy, joy.
One thing came up strongly: a need to note the moments, in the moment they occur. To witness exactly what I feel when I’m having fun.
I don’t know if I’ve ever made fun a focus in my life. It always was a byproduct, a happy happenstance of everything else I did — whether work, life, travel or any other pursuit. I have had plenty of fun in my life, just never made an effort to cultivate it. To make a dedicated space for it, go at it with intention and method.
It sounds a bit counterproductive, I know. To want spontenity and fun, but to talk about going about it with method. But what it means to me is, after years spent looking inwards and dealing with the loss of people and experiences that come with that choice, I am ready to step out some. To embrace people and experiences again. This time, from a place of intention and knowing what I want.
It’s a big difference for someone like me.
In all this thinking about fun, I recollected (unsurprisingly) my childhood — possibly the only time in anyone’s life where making fun happen is a focused chase, with near zero distractions. I remembered weekends from my years before age 13, where I would spend all day at play mostly by myself in imaginary worlds that were amalgamations of select fragments of my real life mixed with fantasies from a world I inhabited in my head. Having playmates or company wasn’t a prerequisite. I think I was pretty self-sufficient, and I used pillows and toys as alternative characters and playmates hahaha. Later in my adolescent years, I know fun turned into spending time being lazy, soaking in a book to such a degree that I’d forget to shower and other basic everyday things. I know fun took on a different colour when I was later on in my teens, when buddies, going out, socialising was a whole new world. It was also when I realised, quite gleefully, that I also thoroughly found fun in doing things like cleaning my room, redecorating it, building a space that reflected who I was then, where I’d spend a lot of my time.
If there is one element that was consistent through all the memories that came up it was this: an endlessly dawdly space of time that lingers with no end in sight. That feeling of ease that comes when there is nowhere to be, nothing really to do. When there body relaxes and literally occupies the hours that lie stretched out ahead of me. A full body feeling of enjoyment from being unhurried.
It hit me then. That is what I want to cultivate. Spaces where I can be unhurried. Where time may slow down in my head enough so I can relax within, even if my day is busy.
It is of course a very rare indulgence in an adults life these days. It is certainly an indulgence in mine. But truth be told, I have a life that affords the privilege of making some time for it. Cultivating it, if need be. I remembered osmething N has said to me years ago that I haven’t ever acted on: pencil fun into my schedule. Tread that thin line between organised, yet spontaneous fun. There is a space in there — where I can slot out time for this meandering exploration of nothingness, but also allow for it to organically open up.
I have been shedding the “should do’s” of my life for the last many years. I am so much better today than I was in the past when I would compulsively fill every hour with things to do, and even the fun I had felt hurried, limited and like I had to grab at it before it ran out. I don’t want fun to feel like I’m cheating, or like I’m eating into a limited resource. And I am finally in a space where there is enough empty time in my life to do as I please.
I can have fun. I can drop my ideas of duty for some hours in the week to just indulge myself. And the fun and play can look different every time. I don’t need to plan it out.
I want to play, not plan. I want to operate from instinct, not obligation. I want to follow delight over duty. I want to be surprised more often.
And so this year, I am consciously going to invite, make space for, honour and receive fully, opportunities for spontaneity. To use my very flexible schedule and lifestyle to make space for as much unscheduled fun as I do for scheduled productivity, work and duties. And I’m going to try my darndest best to chase the opportunities, grab them when they come, as they come. Whether I am in the company of those who will participate with me, or I am alone.
I don’t want to sit around waiting and watch fun pass me by because I was playing too safe, or being too busy, or feeling too lazy.
Like the drive out to my parents last week. When I knew in my bones I could and had to do it all on my own, and not wait for the perfect alignment (and safety) of a co-passenger. Like the hours spent lying down on a mat in the sun in Cubbon Park, with no plan.
I cannot ignore that there is a voice in my head judging me even as I write this. Look at me writing about pursuing fun when the country is blowing up in flames every hour of every day. Personal joy feels so unimportant. It is something I sit with a lot these days — the vast chasm between the personal, the political, the context I exist and breathe in. The guilt has been thawing though, and I see that moments of lightness are probably what I need more than ever before. To recharge and align within, to feel able and willing again. To constantly remake the kind person I want to be in the world — someone who can hold the two spaces lightly, together. And gently flow between them as necessary.
Some questions that alsoc ame up along the way:
- Who gets to decide how much fun is appropriate or necessary?
- Why is fun always equated with a frivolity not extended to more “serious” things?
- At what point in the ageing process does fun lose the novelty that makes it unworthy of being pursued as we did as children?