Play = picking Einstein’s Nose
She filled the classroom with bright colors, large-lettered signs and stations stocked to the teeth with fat pencils, smelly markers and paper. She walked the parents through a day in the life of the kindergartener. I was captivated by the scissors and the pointer and the birthday hat. I wanted to climb up into the custom crafted, smooth-beamed play place in the center of the three classes. Then she showed her cards and I knew her genius.
She explained the classroom routine in terms of HAVE TOs and GET TOs.
Of course, the have tos were easy; hang up your backpack, put your lunch in the cubby and return your reading folder to the desk. I mean, duh. Any 5 year old can do that. At certain times, they GOT to pull out different puzzles, crafts or manipulatives (suspiciously designed to enhance the curriculum). But it was all fun. All of it. Dude. I would so go back to kindergarten. Glue, bits of tissue paper, rewards for tying shoes, swinging on the playground, peanut butter and jelly. Even quiet time after lunch.
The teacher knew how to motivate her students with fun. In turn, she made all the HAVE TOs seem like GET TOs.
As of this writing I’m mad about my running times. I’m so distracted about how slow I am while I run that I think I’m actually making myself slower. I find myself thinking about the tortoise and the hare and I shake my fist at that stupid tortoise. No dumb turtle ever won a race against a rabbit. That’s ludicrous.
As of this writing, I have completed writing a challenging scene, I’m nearly complete with this project, but I can’t seem to move beyond the sadness. It’s ridiculous to be mired in the fictional pain of fictional lives. I got enough of that in real life.
Good thing I never really grew up; I am always motivated by the promise of fun. Always.
I don’t HAVE to run. I don’t HAVE to write. I don’t HAVE to make healthy dinners for my family and I don’t HAVE to learn new sewing techniques. I get to do all of them; and yet so often each of these things feels like one big old time-sucking bore.
In order to stop marinating on my lack of zip, and I am aware of how silly this is, I made myself focus on the fun of the run: unintentionally ironic signs in my neighborhood, the troupe of construction workers on the route, the badly executed graffiti, the little dogs with big barks. The way I feel when I’m done. To cap it off, I made a detour once I got back to my street. A perfectly placed lawn sprinkler called out to me. If you can run through a sprinkler without smiling, you are dead inside.
Later, I put aside the painful fictional sorrow and pulled up a list of ten random words. I played with a new voices; when I do these writing exercises, I play. I can be a crazy lady or a curmudgeonly old man. Maybe I will write the dream of an Irish immigrant, maybe I will write The Dog’s Why I Run story. Anything to play.
Play takes us out of the drudge. It forces a new focus. It gives a pliable set of rules that are designed to be flexed. After all, there is no wrong way to swing or to write. There is no wrong way to imagine a different world.
What if we treated all of our have tos like get tos.
What if we found ways to make our have tos more fun?