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Permission to have fun

Permission to have fun

Well, friend, it’s been the summer of a lifetime. Not for the big trips or events—there weren’t any. But for one simple reason. This summer, I put fun at the top of my to do list, over and over again.

When I was a kid we didn’t have many big trips or events either. But I had two best friends—a brother and sister—and we had sprinklers, a trampoline, blankets to ride down the stairs on, pet adventures, and inside jokes. We had evening walks around the neighborhood, epic forts, volleyball in the backyard, laundry baskets for wagons, music blaring through the house on cleaning day, and water balloons tossed back and forth off the deck. In short, we had fun. And when you’re a kid that’s really all you need.

But we don’t stay kids forever. We start jobs, get married, have kids of our own, and in the process replace all that unapologetic laughter and enjoyment with heaps of self-imposed obligations and guilt and stress. At least that’s what I did.

I didn’t mean to forget to have fun but somewhere between health crises and medical bills, job drama and moving, fun became a luxury, not a priority. And to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve felt well enough for fun to sound, well, fun. I’m a bit out of practice, it turns out.

On one hand, gratitude, hope, and positivity have always been a natural way of life for me. In doing so I’ve managed to keep happiness and joy close company most of the time. But while I was filling up the sidewalk with a thick stick of chalk one morning this summer, I felt a contentment so full and rich I hardly knew what to do with myself. I’ve been wondering ever since why this morning of spontaneous art alongside my kids was so special? How could a rather regular summer piled with baking days and seed planting and fort building and a trailer project represent such bliss?

And though I can’t be sure, I think it has to do with how wholeheartedly I’m enjoying it. I stopped holding those moments up to the light to check for traces of productivity or letting guilt, for any reason, tint the beauty unfolding. I’m not responsibly holding back to reserve my limited energy. I don’t question or hesitate so much. 

Somehow this summer has unlocked the kid in me and opened the door to having fun just for the sake of having fun. And I’m lighter, happier, more resilient, and closer to my family because of it. Add some fun to the mix and it can work wonders for your well being.

Truth be told, it took some effort to get these words down on the page, to accurately translate this experience and put my finger on why it’s felt so unfamiliar, yet so pivotal. And I’m somewhat surprised where the words have taken me. For someone who's convinced down to her very core that happiness is always within reach, it’s surprising to stumble on such a powerful joy-amplifier I’ve spent so little time in the past few years exploring.

It’s one thing to find joy in the struggles and storms or seek out the hidden rainbows in the otherwise ordinary skies. It’s another to be given a morning of nothing but sunshine, and take it without a second thought. To not try to share it with a to do list item or spread it to someone else. To resist believing that soaking up the sunshine somehow makes the dark clouds others are facing darker. To not pause the too-good-to-be-true moment to wonder with wary caution: What’s the catch? To feel well enough and strong enough to leave the sidelines and join in.

I know fun isn’t always in the cards. Life on this planet comes with responsibilities and hard work and bad news. There will always be times to cry tears of our own or offer tears for another. There will always be days when fun takes more energy than we have in the tank. And there will always be plenty of productive, responsible things that must be done. Sidewalk chalk art doesn’t make dinner, after all. 

There can be no rainbow, as they say, without the rain.

All the more reason to take in that perfect ray of sunlight as often as you can manage, and enjoy it—body, mind, and soul.

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