Do you Play!?
Do you Play? Do you ever stop "working"??
Remember being young and play was your work? It taught us so much. But we used our imaginations, we pretended things, we created and we didn't think it had to be perfect, it just was.
Somehow, as we got older, we gathered up that playfulness and decided to accept that it was trivial, a waste of time, unnecessary. Play was for children. If we wanted to be a grown up we had to get serious and get our heads out of the clouds.
Even riding our bikes became something we did for exercise, not because of the joy of feeling the wind in our faces, moving fast, seeing what was going on in the neighborhood, waving at our friends, popping wheelies. We justified it by "I have to stay in shape, after all, so I don't get sick".
Don't get me wrong.
I don't believe we can wander around with our heads in the clouds expecting life to be this big, free pile of fun. But there is a place for play. In fact I think it's very important to take time to play, to use the right side of our brains as well as the left.
I mean, really? Who wants to be lopsided?
When I started quilting it really became an obsession with me! There were so many elements to it:
- visual texture,
- designs and patterns
- paper piecing,
- curved piecing,
- coloring on fabric,
- doing any/all of it by machine,
- stitching by hand,
- what machine to use,
- what threads to use,
- should I get an embroidery module?
- What value,
- which era I wanted to "mimic",
- if I wanted to dye fabric,
- what all of the tools were,
- how I could create more and
- do it efficiently,
- more accurately,
- if I wanted to create fiber art,
- if I wanted it to be useful,
- making bags,
- creating lap quilts,
- sewing bed quilts,
- making quilted clothing,
It's easy to become obsessed...
If you have been a viewer at any of the programs I have presented you have probably heard how I didn't sleep for months, or feed my children, or husband, or dog until I had figured out quilting wasn't going anywhere that I was not able to follow or lead. I could slow down my heart rate and take a deep breath.
It's easier to find a way to justify...
Somewhere in all of this I think I felt like it was OKAY TO PLAY with fabric as long as I was creating something useful. Either that or I am the kind of person that must have a reason to do something. A tangible reason such as:
- I'm making this as a baby blanket because a friend is pregnant
- It's commemorating an event, like graduation!
- I need something to put in the living room to cuddle up under
- I want to (all of a sudden) decorate the boys bedroom
- I want a table runner for my dining room
- I want to give something at Christmas that will endure
It was so cool. I could make playing an essential activity. Instead of doing it for the simple joy of creating I could use it as a means to an end. Not like reading a romance novel (although I did try to fool myself into thinking I could keep the spark alive with my husband if I just read enough of them). Not like listening to music or playing ball with the boys, making a Lego kingdom or painting a picture just for the joy of painting.
Quilts are useful. People need them. I was able to justify it.
What happened next?
The byproduct of this is that I gave myself permission to play, which I now know is essential. I know it sparks exploration. It helps develop key cognitive skills, may even play a role in a species' survival.
So... Is Play Important? Why?
Bob Fagan, a researcher who has spent 15 years studying grizzly bears, found that bears that played the most survived the longest.
Apparently, play prepares these bears for a changing planet because play presents unique challenges and ambiguity. Animals are prone to behave, during play, in flexible and creative ways.
According to Greg McKeown, author of the book "Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less", "Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore; to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged. Play is fundamental to living the way of the Essentialist because it fuels exploration in at least three specific ways."
I love this book. He explains how it play
- broadens the range of options available to us, helps us to see possibilities we would not have seen otherwise, make new connections.
- is an antidote to stress (which can actually shut down the creative, inquisitive, exploratory parts of our brains) making it difficult to think clearly.
- and play has a positive effect on the executive function of the brain. These include planning, prioritizing, scheduling, anticipating, delegating, deciding, analyzing and more.
The three ways are discussed in more detail in Greg's book, on pages 86-88 if you want to read more. Greg McKeown talks clearly and extensively about how we can be more productive, more valuable, less scattered, less guilt ridden, by the pressures we put on ourselves. It's a wonderful invitation to be kinder, more giving and loving to ourselves, having permission to develop all aspects of who we are.
The bottom line...
I look at this as a great way to be more productive, not less. To utilise ALL of who we are created to be, and to feel satisfied. Fulfilled. To avoid being stretched so thin, feel so overwhelmed, that we are emotionally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. All of this at a time when we really need all of our powers to be working at full throttle.
Now, more than ever in history, there are so many demands on us, so many things that require us to splinter, fragment, and try to take care of it all.
If you have been experiencing this sense of overwhelm, you are not alone.
What is the answer?
Take time for yourself without guilt and condemnation and let yourself create things for the joy of creating. Not because you have to give it to someone as a gift. Not because you have to justify taking the time.
Remember that playing, no matter what your choice is, quilting, painting, running, board games, hopscotch, making jewelry, whatever... whatever form play takes for you, it helps balance your whole mind and body and spirit.
You become whole. Complete. Better.
You do NOT have to feel guilty. You are allowing yourself to become all that you were created to be, to flesh out those neglected areas. You are exploring things that restore and rejuvenate you. Filling you back up so that you have more to offer others, more to share with those that you love, more understanding and compassion because you are fulfilled and are not spread so thin anymore.
Step out of the zone of Left brain and join me in short, doable, fun projects where you can take 15 minutes to relax and become stress free! Aren't you worth 15 minutes a day? 15 minutes where you can lose yourself in creating something whimsical, that will make you smile and you will LOVE doing it! You won't even realize time has passed.
I show you how to paint on fabric. One simple, short step at a time. I hope you will come play with me soon. I'll be offering these workshops on my website so please stay tuned to this blog or my Facebook Page: artfulquilter. I invite you to join me every Wednesday at 11am CT for a Facebook Live visit. Sometimes I demo, sometimes I share other things. I'd love for you to be my friend. Grab a cup of tea, coffee, glass of water, what ever suits you, and sit down with me for 15 minutes that is just for you.