Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do You Play?

A few weeks ago, I heard a program on NPR about the importance of play, and its message really got me thinking. The guest on the program has written a book about play, and he talked - as you might expect - about how important play is to children's development and how kids today don't have enough time for free play. But he also talked about the importance of play and fun in the lives of adults.

His message really stuck with me. Last weekend, I was feeling frustrated and a bit depressed because it seemed like all I do is try to "get things done", and, of course, that job is never finished! If I have any unscheduled time when I'm not rushing to take care of our family or the house or my work, I look at my never-ending list to see what else I can accomplish. Living this way leaves me feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities, constantly behind, and severely lacking in fun.

When this feeling hit me hard on Sunday afternoon, I did something about it. I went outside and threw a Frisbee with my boys. I could only manage about 20 minutes, but it worked! I had fun and played and felt much better afterwards. The problem is sustaining that kind of mindset on a daily basis.

I've been thinking - what do I do to play? I used to know how to play. My mother is like the Queen of Fun, and Ken and I spent our weekends having fun when we were first married. Things have changed, though. Somehow, our lives now seem full to bursting with responsibilities. I spent hours last evening just trying to catch up on all the paperwork for school and other necessities - field trip forms, checks to write, permission slips to sign, dates to write on the calendar. It feels like this kind of maintenance stuff has just taken over our lives - not to mention taking care of our family's basic needs, like planning meals, shopping, cooking, dishes, laundry...

I know lots of parents feel overwhelmed like this, but there's also the added challenge of living with a chronic illness. How on earth am I supposed to have time for play when I barely have enough energy to feed my family? And what does play look like when you can't do anything physical? For most people, play means activity. Before I had CFS, we made sure to go hiking at least once during the week, I took walks with friends, we played soccer in the yard with our kids, I did all sorts of things that I'm only rarely able to do now.

So, how do I play? Well, I read a lot - that's something I can do even when I'm very sick. And we spend time most evenings watching favorite tv shows or a movie on weekends (by evening I don't have the energy for anything but lying down). So, I enjoy reading, tv, and movies, but is that really play? I guess any leisure time helps. I participate in two (sometimes three) book groups when I'm able to, and I enjoy that very much. I love my weekly walks with my two closest friends, but I haven't been well enough for that in a couple of months now. I really love to play games, and my kids know that Mom is always up for a board game or card game. With the added bonus of wonderful memories of marathon game sessions with my best friend, Michelle, when I was a kid, games definitely qualify as play for me.

So, I think I do have some fun sometimes, but I could definitely use more play time in my life.

How about you? How do you play or have fun?


Knittah said...

Knitting! I can do it on all but the worst of days. It's tactile, it uses good parts of the brain. And it's practical. I love it! I don't know how I ever coped without it.

Renee said...

Hi Sue
I found your question interesing and timely for me right now! I have spent so much time trying to improve my health ~ reading books on Lyme/CFS, reading journals, investigating sites on the web, doing meds, supplements, etc. resting 4 times a day which is necessary for seems like even though I am housebound and mostly bonding with my sofa I had NO time for play except tv at night and the rare game of scrabble with my husband.
I do play a couple of computer games at times, play scrabble, cribbage, and cards at times. I also play an electronic game of Simon to help my memory. But what I discovered when I started my own blog is that creative writing and maintaing a blog has brought out a word I have not used often lately FUN! This is fun for me. I am also going to go back to doing needlework to add more playtime into my life.

Anonymous said...


I've enjoyed reading your blog. Recently, I saw an article about chromosomally integrated HHV-6 which can be passed from parents to kids genetically. Since HHV-6 has been a focus of CFS research recently and you and your sons have CFS, I thought this might be of interested to you.

Go to the HHV-6 Foundation site -- L column -- 'chromosomally integrated HHV-6'.

me/cfs warrior said...

Thanks for reminding me about the importance of play! It's all to easy to forget about while living with this illness.

I'm also responding to your October 2 post. It sounds like a wonderful weekend! I'm so glad for you and your family.

Amy Bennett said...

Oh yes I play! I am such a kid at heart! I work very hard & I play hard too! Somehow, even with the stupid Fibro & other problems, I am still able to ride horses. Rock climbing & spelunking are a bit too hard now...but maybe again one day?!?