“Work hard, play hard,” I once said, “turns out to just be hard.”
Well, that was just plain wrong. Work hard, play hard—shouldn’t they be two in the same? We’ve all heard it. Hell, I’ve said it. Work, if you’re doing it right, should feel like play. It’s not play, but it should feel something like it. Some days that play will prove challenging, like trying to capture the flag from a pit-stained linebacker named Wubba. StephanieKlein.com used to feel like play, but lately, and I guess this is true in fits and starts throughout these past seven, nearly eight, years of blogging, it feels like work. “Yeah, and it shows.” Figured I’d beat you to those words.
I’ve been distancing myself lately, trying to maybe send my MacBook Pro, my Air, my iPod and iPad, and especially my iPhone a subtle hint. “I need space.” I get this way sometimes, needing to unplug, not just from technology, but from people, too. I ignore emails and let them stack up into the hundreds, unread. My voice mailbox becomes too full to accept more. I don’t even check it. I just need to check out and turn the world around me off for a while. It’s to avoid burnout.
Burnout?! Ever hear a kid at Disney say she’s ready to go home because she feels totally burned out? Exactly. But, we as parents know exactly when our children have hit their limits, when their bodies and brains need to rebuild and recharge. They stop listening and start acting silly, cracking up, doing baby talk, rolling on the floor, doing a shake your booty dance, then spreading their ass cheeks. Inappropriately tired, I like to think. Yet, we full on ignore these same—okay, similar—signs in ourselves. Powering through, using phrases like, “so busy,” “swamped,” and too often, “exhausted.”
Perhaps my Jewish New Year resolution is just that. To be less busy and exhausted. To prioritize play. And by play, I don’t mean drinks with girlfriends (though while not always play, it is restorative), restaurant reservations, or stealing away to a movie. I need more whimsical play in my life, purposeless, voluntary things that excite me, thrill me, make it hard to sleep with the anticipation. Love used to do that for me. Early love, and dating in general, because there was curiosity and a sense that anything could happen. It energized and agitated me. Depressed me a shitload, but mostly, “new” electrified me. Unlike commitment phobics, though, I’ve always loved discovering the new in people I already knew. And the new in me. Curiosity is the key to youth as much as it’s the cornerstone of play. With play, anything can happen.
Obviously play is different for all of us, and what’s titillating to me, might seem flaccid to you. Also, I think our inherent drive toward one activity over another changes over time. Playing Cats & Cradles and hand-slapping games doesn’t exactly light me up anymore. I also think we straight up forget what arouses us because we’ve ignored it or shoved it aside for so long. I’m going to create a “Play History” in my next post (and invite you to play along), to maybe get some insight into what might blow my hair back, now, as an adult who uses a hair diffuser.
Also, here’s my official apology for not having returned emails or phone calls, for not having initiated plans. I need to recharge and to play, to try horseback riding, take out my watercolors, and ride waves in the ocean. I wish I could find a class on food photography, specifically how to set up the lighting, a table and backdrop I can keep in place permanently. Because reading about it isn’t the same as having someone show you how to do it in person.
Along with belting out Christmas songs year-round, food, menus, anything themed, from birthday parties to dinner parties—that is my play. A handful of readers have commented on Greek Tragedy, asking why I’m “so into presentation,” “Just let it go.” “You don’t always have to try so hard.” While well-intentioned [read: judgmental] they don’t understand that planning and brainstorming is my play. I enjoy the planning and details and imagining, applying my creativity, sometimes far more than the actual event. I like planning a dinner more than I enjoy eating it, if that says anything about my priorities.
I’m starting to think that “People plan, God Laughs” could have an altogether different meaning—one that makes me smile.
More recent post on the same topic: Museum Moments