permission to play

     Did you know that most cultures spend more time playing than working?

There are natives of New Guinea who spend more time looking in the jungle for the colorful feathers they use for decoration in their ritual dances than they spend looking for food. And this is by no means a rare example: art, play, and ritual probably occupy more time and energy in most cultures than work.

excerpt from Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience      by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“But, we no longer live in such simple times!” you might say. “I have a full-time job and school and a family and a social life and doctor’s appointments and…. “

Ok, I get it. Believe me, I get it.

And I confess to being a (recovering) workaholic. It’s not always easy to put things aside to do something seemingly pointless.

A strong work ethic runs deep in my ancestral bones.

For example:

When I arrived early at my parents' house on Sunday to help set up for Mother’s Day lunch, the whole deck was already completely set up with tables, umbrellas, place mats, a food and beverage station, and decorative butterfly statues.

Her mother, my Grandma, is 85 years old and will still get down on her hands and knees to scrub the floor. Being busy is always a good thing in her book.

My father’s mother, my Nonna,  grew up working on a farm in Italy and hasn’t shaken her instincts. Here she is at the Mother’s Day party tilling the soil of my parent’s unkempt garden:


Now don’t get me wrong –

I love working and am proud, grateful, and humbled to come from a line of such strong women. They have not had easy lives and have done so much to provide for their families.

What I recognize and continue to learn throughout my own process is that I can carry on the legacy of being a  hardworking woman, but in my own way. I can redefine what work is for me by learning the meaning of play and using it in my life. 

My best teachers for this are my younger cousins. (see adorable pictures above!)

We can all learn from kids: they thrive on structure, they have scheduled play dates and dance classes, they never hesitate to make toys out of unlikely objects. The only difference between us and them: as adults we don’t have someone automatically giving us the structure. We must create the container for play, just like we do for work.

So my recommendation for you this week, you creative being you, is twofold:

  1. Schedule time in for “play” - It doesn't have to be at an actual playground, although that could be fun, too. What's something that feels fun and freeing to you that doesn't necessarily provide a tangible result? Go there.
  2. Indulge in some spontaneous, unscheduled playful moments - Especially in the midst of a busy work day, or sitting in traffic (see my video below), what could you do to break up the serious energy? Make music, dance, a prank phone call? Try something new, just for fun.

You might even find it makes you more efficient with your work ;)


What’s your ancestral lineage in regards to work and play?

What kind of play will you experiment with this week?

Please share your responses below – I think we all could use an arsenal of ideas when it comes to this topic!

And just for fun, here's a recent example of a spontaneous, playful moment from my own repertoire: