January 20th, 2013
Where is my playground? I am considering this week if I allow myself enough play time. After watching Rob Forbes, of Design Within Reach, speak about Havana, Cuba as his playground, I have been wondering where I can go to play.
Several times, I have attempted to complete The Artist’s Way. Most of me feels that this 12-step program for artists is a lot of kumbaya-feel-good-whoo-ahh, and a bit creepy, but it does have some great ideas and forced discipline. One of these self-imposed actions is the commitment to artist’s dates, which are outings that one goes on with oneself only, and the date can be anything that is outside of one’s normal activities. The author, Julia Cameron, writes of the importance of restocking one’s pond—like a fishing hole—of creativity. This element of the program is one I have taken to heart. It also gives me an excuse to try new things in the name of necessary fueling of my creative reservoir.
The need to re-energize is a vital one, particularly for creatives who give so much of themselves in their processes. I can find these restocking venues all over the place: public gardens, independent shops, the library, farmers markets, the woods, busy streets, microcosm neighborhoods in cities—like Chinatown or Little Italy, markets, museums, ruins, junk shops, Ikea, Anthropologie (love the full-out installation displays), dumps, Pinterest … the list goes on. However, I do not know if I am taking the full opportunity to play.
In many ways, my approach to any potential play experience is the deciding factor: do I allow myself to observe and appreciate? (My sister and I have a joke about that: we call or text each other and ask, “Are you appreciating?!” We send photos on our phones of foliage or the sky or a funny traffic pattern.) Is observation and appreciation the same as playing, though? Is it enough?
Since my son was born almost five months ago, I have been hyper-attentive to appreciating his every moment and change. I know it will be fast, and I know it is all precious and that I will want to experience and remember it all. Because of this, I have put aside my camera for much of it. That seems counter-intuitive to others. I take photos, and I want to record his babyhood, but I am afraid of experiencing my life through a lens.
So much of contemporary life is obsessively documented and displayed that I fear that we are not experiencing it. From social media to reality shows, everyone has a sense of miniature celebrity. Acutely aware of this, I want my son, and my experiences with him, to avoid being documented and mythologized. My husband and I decided before his birth that we would protect him from an online presence until he was old enough to make that decision for himself. We do not post photos of him or use his name online. This frustrates distant friends and family who want a regular stream of Facebook albums documenting his every moment.
There is the factor of mindfulness and being present, and I work at that, but I am not sure if I am making the most of playful opportunities. In my life, there is a lot of opportunity for playful moments with friends and especially my husband—I am surrounded by creative and funny people who are fun and playful and often child-like in thought and action. So play is nurtured. However, I think that I could do more to proactively nurture play in grander ways. I would like to grow my play opportunities.
I do not yet know what those opportunities could be or how I will nurture them just yet, but I am committing to it.