Mindful Distractions

kids_playing_006_01When we’re children, we celebrate play. We expect play will be a constant in our lives, like celery and peanut butter at snack time, and at various intervals during the day, we’ll be encouraged to pursue activities that bring us simple joy.

If we’re deprived of this pastime, we sulk. We may throw tantrums. At the very least, we’re sullen and uncooperative and no fun to be around.

As we grow older, we’re told that play comes second to work, always. Leisure time is shifted from being a daily occurrence to something we’re promised on the weekends, if only we work diligently enough during the week.  We can earn the privilege of relaxation, however, it’s no longer guaranteed to us as a right. Welcome to adulthood, when you’re expected to spend the bulk of your waking hours at work. Still, while all work and no play may make Johnny a dull boy, it will at least guarantee he gets to eat and sleep under a roof at night, which are no small feats.

I’m a big fan of work, in fact, I’ve mentioned before I find it to be relaxing. Washing dishes, folding laundry, and sweeping the floor has an almost therapeutic effect on me. However, there’s a difference between engaging in the mundane, which can be restorative, and engaging the intellect, which can be draining.

For much of my adult life, I spent the majority of my time pursuing the cerebral: writing, editing, publishing, and producing in general. I felt if only I were fitter and more productive, I’d be happier.

As a result, I filled my every hour with industry and activity. I left no space for laziness to creep into my routine. I also forgot to schedule time for relaxation. Play could still be earned but I came to see it as a waste of time I could otherwise spend involved in more productive ventures. So, I worked more, and longer hours, and after a while, even sleep seemed like an obstacle to increased productivity.

Eventually, of course, like anyone who’s tried to keep up a relentless pace, my wheels finally refused to keep turning. When that happened, and I was forced for various reasons to slow down to the point of halting, I rediscovered the recuperative power of play. I found activities I once considered mindless distractions became pursuits during which I could turn off the noise and hear the still voice I’d ignored for too long. It became important to me again to nurture the child inside, and like a child, to celebrate play.

I still work hard, and I log a lot of hours at my desk and in the classroom, but I also make leisure time an equal priority. I encourage our staff to do the same, which is why this edition I filled in for Retro Whiz Chuck Brutz in the Entertainment Chuckwagon (Congrats to him as he’s celebrating a big move!) and I gave our technology columnist (AKA my husband) time off to go play Pokemon GO. (I’d say I was kidding about this last part, but the proof of his interest is in his full report on page 11 & 12. Next issue, he’ll be back to sharing with you how you can slash your cable TV bill.) As for me, I’ve recently discovered how calming coloring can be, as evidenced by the three coloring books now sitting on my bookshelf.

Whatever mindful distractions bring you joy, I encourage you to make them part of your daily life.

Until next time, Carla E. Anderton