Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy Summer Book Club // Chapter No. 5

"Be Serious About Play"


  • Find more fun.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Go off the path.
  • Start a collection.

I loved love loved this chapter! Did you?  It hit me on so many levels. First of all, the idea of "Go outside and play" is exhilarating to me!  Just to play. To be yourself. To be free. To be silly. I think it's one of the things I want most from life but lately I haven't been finding.  And I love the definition that play is "an activity that's very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn't create social harm, and doesn't necessarily lead to praise or recognition."  When I thought of this, I immediately thought of some of my favorite childhood places and memories -- the burnt out center of a tree where I made a fort; an evening when I was a kid and two of our families played kick-the-can (one of the dads jumped off the roof to kick the can and win!); and a Christmas evening when my nephew and I played secret agent Star Wars with walkie talkies.  I'm really going to hold onto these memories and let them inspire me for what I want to do in my life that's more silly and childlike.

Like we learned in chapter three about work, I love asking yourself the question "What did you like to do when you were a child?" I think I think about this all the time -- but I don't think I've ever posed that question to myself so simply.  I feel like I'm always trying to get back to that joy.  That's why I have Lucy. That's why I really really really want to get horses back in my life. That's why I enjoy hiking as a workout. Do you incorporate this into your life now? Are there things you loved as a child that popped into your head when you were reading this that you want to try to add back in? Please share!

I always love how Gretchen comes back to her "Be Gretchen" mantra -- and how she's learning to embrace that just because other people like it (or that you should like it) doesn't mean it makes you happy.  She needed to acknowledge "what I enjoyed, not what I wished I enjoyed." I wish everything came as easily as her example of the children's lit book club.  Maybe it took more soul searching than it comes off in the book but it certainly was a magical connection.  But isn't that the perfect example of not caring what anyone else thinks -- and then in that moment, you bring yourself new friendships and so much joy? I need to find my own version of that ... I just don't know what it is yet.  Did her idea give you any ideas?  Fingers crossed I can find something similar for me! I just don't know where to look quite yet.

But the part that I've been thinking about the most after this chapter is this -- "I can do anything I want, but I can't do everything I want."  That hit me hard. And it made me breathe a sigh of relief in a way.  You see, I am a list maker. And I feel like there's so much to do in the world and that I'm not going to have enough time before I die to do it all. I literally feel the weight of this stress on a daily basis! So since I read this, I'm trying to lighten up and put it all in perspective -- that doing it all isn't light and fun and playful. It makes me stressed, not happy. How much happier would I be if I could just let go of some of my crazy lists and just enjoy being silly and playing in the moment.  Whew! Heavy, I know.  Do you ever feel this way?  When I figure out how to let go, I'll let you know.

Side note:  I literally laughed OUT LOUD when I read the part about Blank Books.  I, too, had an obsession with blank books for a while. I still do, to an extent (and part of that is now this blog). And it's right up there with doing what makes you happy -- not what should make you happy.  I started my books in college.  I read so many magazines and was always in love with the fashion, the inspiration, the ideas, the words.  So I started clipping them out and making dreamy notebooks. Then I graduated into a shopping book that I kept in my handbag -- it was a collection of all that I needed and wanted to buy.  One Saturday night when I was about 23, my brother said to me "Are you going to go out to that party? Or are you going to stay home and paste in your books?"  He meant it to be so sarcastic (and probably condescending) to try to show me that I should be out partying and whooping it up ... but all I really wanted to do was be home by myself and my dreams (because that's what the books are, really).

So on this note, the idea of her Happiness Box or her Interest Log were things I immediately wanted to do! But I realized I already do a version of them in my own way.  With the Interest Log, I sort of need to let that be more authentic and naturally take its course rather than putting it on a list because it makes me happy. Because all I think it does it make me realize how I don't have enough time to do all the stuff that makes me happy, you know?

And finally, start a collection.  What do you collect? Is it something like teapots and figurines ... or is it something for memories? Do they make you happy? I loved that quote from Andy Warhol about how once could be exhilarating but something everyday just loses its appeal (well, it was something like that!). I collect a few different things but the most important thing to me -- at least right now -- is pinecones.  I've always liked them (they remind me of my childhood) and I just think they are so beautiful. And now they have a special memory of trips with my husband -- so that definitely makes me happy.

Childhood, childhood, childhood ... wow, it really all comes back to that, doesn't it?

I'd love to know how you go off the beaten path!  Please share your tips.

(Psst! Don't forget to check out MJ's happiness project on her blog.)

{Photo ©Jeanloup Sieff. Found here}.


  1. Hey lady, I loved this chapter! I really never think about fun just for the fun any more, and it was refreshing to reflect on it again. I adore blank books and sketchbooks. It's my go-to present for friends, too! :) XO, MJ
    PS. thank you again for linking up to my post for tomorrow!!

  2. Sometimes it is hard to have fun just for the sake of fun - career, family, life stuffs. Or to do something with no outcome involved - not to get better at it or be more fit or smarter - just for fun.

    I too had and HAVE a zillion blank sketch books and journals! Trying to use them up...and not buy any more in the meantime.

  3. I laughed out loud at “in an irony that didn’t escape me, I prepared to work doggedly at fun and to be serious about joking around.” It reminds me of my husband’s joke about me that I am going to “plan to play it by ear.” Needless to say, I have to work at having fun!

    Recently I was thinking about my hobbies. I remember what they were before a husband, house, dog and kids, but I don’t think I can claim them as hobbies any longer since they have been so long neglected. So, I love the idea of capturing all the things that I find fun and/or interesting so as to maybe rediscover what I like to do, just for me. Most of my fun these days involves fun for our family – accommodating fun. Of course, I enjoy being with my family and doing things they find fun. However, left to my own devices, I don’t think I’d spend some much time watching and talking about baseball!

    I sort of like the idea of starting a collection. I have quite purposely not collected things, as I am not a fan of clutter. However, I do like the idea of having a mission and special stories associated with each piece. I have a girlfriend who is a huge collector, so maybe she will take me under her wing. :-)

    Sort of a random aside, but do you remember when your dog was a puppy and always into mischief and very playful? Our dog is nine now, and while she is quite spry and in great shape, she just isn’t playful usually. Sure, she will fetch the ball if you throw it, she loves her walks, and she’ll get excited for visitors and cookies. But, in general, she is much more serious; serious about her naps, cleaning up under the table, staying away from the boys when they get too crazy, etc. So, it makes me feel better to think that even my sweet Bloomy needs to be reminded to have fun!