Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Club: Be Serious About Play

In the fifth chapter of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes about happiness through play.

Before I get too critical, I want to give Gretchen credit for recognizing that 'play' is different for different people. Throughout her book she has made a vow to 'Be Gretchen' and for Gretchen, "fun" meant forming a book group that focused on children's literature. Her goals for "being serious about play" included:

  • Find more fun

  • Take time to be silly

  • Go off the path

  • Start a collection

Now, the collection thing did not sound like she was "being Gretchen" and she admits it really wasn't her "thing." She is not the kind of person that likes clutter. She gave it a try, though. What she means by "going off the path" was to try new things. For her, that was reading new magazines. Though she was learning by reading, she says she "dreaded reading the unfamiliar magazines." The only goal that sounded remotely "fun" was "take time to be silly" and Gretchen only mentioned one moment of silliness when she made "google eyes" with a couple of clementines while unloading groceries. A big chunk of this chapter were blog comments and even those did not seem related to "fun" or "play."

This chapter didn't seem to have much about happiness from 'play' at all. It was about learning and growth, which can bring happiness, but in my mind, 'playing' is stuff like snowball fights, tickling, big belly laughs, and dancing without inhibition. Play is all about getting in touch with your inner-child. Of course, even as a child, I was wrapped up in books and I would guess the same is true of Gretchen. So maybe people like us never got in touch enough with our inner-child even when we were children! But I have to tell you, I have learned to enjoy my inner-child (sometimes with the help of an especially good margarita or lemon drop martini) and I wish I'd done a lot more playing in my life.

I really understand Gretchen's goal-setting habits so I understand why, despite the irony, she would want to "be serious about play." But I don't think she quite accomplished this goal -- at least not from what I read in the chapter. To really accomplish this, I think she needs to throw away the goal sheet, grab herself her favorite alcoholic beverage, get with the people she loves the best, and smile, joke, tease, cuddle, tickle, laugh and really play.

Those goals and books will be there tomorrow, Gretchen. Forget about being serious about play. Forget (for a little while anyway) about being serious at all. Just play! Now that is what I call fun.

1 comment:

rebecca @ altared spaces said...

Incredibly insightful blog post, Yvette.

I have loved Gretchen's book and blog. I, too, am a pretty serious person and it would be more easy for me make a list of goals than hang out on a Saturday.

I got taken in by this chapter thinking, "yes, I too need to get more serious about fun." But you are right. Fun! Fun! that's the very thing you DON'T get serious about.

Luckily for me I married Mr. Play. He keeps me rafting and skiing and generally wasting my time in life. What a perfect investment in happiness!

So whether it's what you drink or who you marry, there are ways to play that have nothing to do with making lists. The very deffinition of play defies planning. Surrender to the moment and let it sweep you away!