“Play is joy. Play is where we lose ourselves. Play is why we are here.”
My spring gardening fantasies remain just that, fantasies. Day after day of rain has left our tiny patch of space completely water logged so even when the sun does return, we’ll need a few days before we can plant anything. LP & I have tackled some rainy day weeding but that’s been the extent of our garden action. I’ve got soil and seeds ready and waiting…and waiting.
I’m excited to be adding a significant amount of workable garden space with a new 3×3 grow bed. It has been here, hanging out in its box for a few weeks now. Yesterday, I took it out and set it up for LP to play with inside.
So there it is…one indoor garden, complete with tiny dogs. Good for an hour or so of rainy day fun.
I took an unexpected hiatus from blogging the past two weeks.
I just have not been feeling very playful.
First there’s everything going on in the world at large that has me by turns anxious, worried or wondering. Between unrest/protests/crackdowns all over the Middle East and an earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor trouble in Japan, there’s plenty for a brain to stew on. Add to that the closer to home world of politics that I find increasingly troubling (include in that my rabbi’s home being vandalized because of his politics). Then seemingly endless days of rain (good to California’s water supply but I’m running out of rainy day fun ideas AND have had weather-related migraines almost every day for two months now). Top off with navigating a girl in transition ~ LP is taking some major developmental leaps (including starting to use the potty – at last!) so we’re entering a new stage of parenting.
Early this week, I did a three day rest and writing retreat. I worked a good bit on my novel and also worked on finding my center and focus to explore the importannce of play in difficult times.
First I notice that the mental break and stress release I get when I really play with LP — even if it is only for 20 minutes — is deeper and longer lasting than other choices (like watching something on hulu, my current vice). Due to my general distractedness lately, I’ve been trying to make it a regular practice to have 20-30 minutes that I’m really completely available to play when she gets home from preschool. I’m much more intentional about it than I have been in the past. I’ll have something set up that we can do…be it playdough or cooking or just a new object/materials to explore. (Since I’m multi-posting today to make up for lost time, you can see yesterday’s project in the next post, LP’s Indoor Garden)
Second, I’ve been thinking about how play, particularly improvisational play, is useful in disaster preparation. There’s a post in the works on that one too.
And third, the truth is worry and anxiety on their own don’t create change. Transforming worry into action — be it making a donation, fundraising, increasing our own and our neighborhood’s disaster prep, writing letters/emails and making calls about issues I care about — can make a difference. Play is one of those actions. Playing together keeps our family strong and connected and feeling able to take action.
In improv lingo “going into the cave” means taking a risk or taking on the thing that scares you.
In an scene, if your character comes up to a cave where there’s a lion, you’ve got a choice. You can stay safe outside the cave or go into the cave and find out what happens. Perhaps you get eaten by the lion. That would be terrible in real life but is wonderful in improvisation because now you have the opportunity to find out “what comes next?” — do you survive in the lion’s stomach like Jonah in the whale? Or move on to the afterlife and explore Heaven or Hell or some alternative? Are you absorbed into the lion’s consciousness? Or reincarnated as a lion? In the world of imagination, there are limitless possibilities IF we are willing to go into the cave.
I’ve found that the practice of going into the cave through improvisational play has helped me be more brave when I have a real life cave to enter. There’s plenty of research as well as anecdotal evidence of how children work things out through play, I believe it holds true for our whole lives if we are willing to continue to play.
LP is circling in on asking about my mom. That’s a cave for me.
My mom, Joan, died when I was 16. I’ve had many years now to grieve, mourn, miss her, come to peace with life without her and go through that cycle again when life events stir up my desire to share great happiness or have her love and support in difficult times. Becoming a mother certainly has stirred that pot many times. Overall my experience has been that being a mom reconnects me with her spirit and reminds me of her in positive ways. And…I know that at some point, LP will want to know where her other grandmother is (and ImprovDad’s father as well but that is his story to tell).
We have photos of my mom. LP has a few things that my mom made for me when I was young including a cat pillow my mom made that we call the “Mama’s Mama Cat.” I’ve told LP stories (especially during some rough times in the middle of the night) that start “When I was a little girl and having a hard time, my Mama would…” These objects and stories are for me, a sweet spirit connection between my mom and my daughter.
A few weeks ago, when I picked her up at preschool, LP asked “When will Joan pick you up?”
For a moment I couldn’t breathe. I was surprised at the question and not sure how to answer. My heart sank and all my fears about not knowing what to say bubbled up inside. Hello cave. LP has only recently started the questions about death with all the innocence of 4 years old and ImprovDad and I are walking that line of answering her questions openly (hopefully with ease) while not giving her more information than she’s ready for.
In the moment I gave her an honest but somewhat evasive answer along the lines of “I’m a big person and mamas don’t usually pick up big people.” As I took the time to reflect on the interaction and let the sadness be present, I realized the other side of going into this cave. Although it is sad for me both because I miss my mom and because it leads to LP’s awareness that ImprovDad & I will someday die as will she, I can look forward to sharing more about my mom with LP and there is a lot of joy in that thought. LP’s awakening to who is missing in her life, is an opportunity.
Yesterday LP asked “Will Joan look more like you?” (She’s overheard people comment many times at how much I look like my mom.) It is the first time that she has asked about my mom that I greeted her questions with a genuine smile. And I said something along the lines of “I do look more like my mom as I get older.” It was all she needed in that moment and her attention shifted to the next thing.
I know that over the years we will have many different kinds of interactions both around her growing understanding of death and about my mom in specific. Allowing my internal state to shift has made that cave not so scary.