“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw
Earlier this week, I found myself in a pissing match with a disappointed buyer. The dress she received did not match her expectation; it was the wrong shade of beige. She expressed her disappointment aggressively, assuming the worst of us, already certain that she had been duped and was about to be cheated. Victimized as it were.
As an aside, I recently reacted the exact same way when confronted with an insurance claim, so I can’t be too self righteous. Mine, like hers, was an off-putting approach to resolving an issue that only existed in the imagination.
After hearing her aggrieved voice mail and reading her strongly worded email, I really didn’t feel the need to speak with her. I simply sent her a return merchandise authorization and instructions.
That wasn’t good enough for her. So I got another strongly worded email.
Thus started the internal conflict between my professional, adult, business person and my outraged, indignant, defensive inner child.
I have several child personalities.
Honey Bunch is my toddler self. Peter Pam is my six-year old. I call the hormones-out-of-control, angry-at-the-world teenager, who answers every criticism with “fuck you,” Little Dick.
Guess who showed up?
You know how it is when you start running it about someone who’s threatened you in some way and you can neither turn off the self talk nor turn the other cheek.
I started one nasty email after another to retort, respond, put her down, tell her off, give her a piece of my mind, shame her for a reaction that I felt was disproportionate to the offense and deleted every one.
I walked away from the computer a dozen times, each time coming back with the intention to respond humbly, graciously, killing her with kindness. I just could not summon it.
Finally, I googled her name and discovered that she is a child psychologist. WTF? Physician heal thyself. But this suddenly cleared up the ferocity of her communications: when was the last time you played with your inner child?
Then I realized it wasn’t her inner child who needed a hug and some fun.
This recent incident makes a contribution by Melissa Kirk to Tiny Buddha on 10 ways to make your life more playful so apropros
When we lose ourselves in play, whether creating a make-believe world, throwing a ball between friends, frolicking with our dog, or watching silly YouTube videos, we allow ourselves to get out of the linear, problem-solution, adult mindset.
We’re activating a part of our brains that we don’t use much in the grown-up world: the one that doesn’t care about deadlines or mortgages or how much we weigh, the one that doesn’t care how we look to others.
In the land of play, we make connections we wouldn’t normally make. We see things in new ways. Play can boost our creativity, heighten our mood, make us laugh, and can engage us in the world in ways that regular “adult” life often doesn’t.
And yes, once I pictured the scared little girl behind the bitchy woman who was demanding my attention, I was able to summon sufficient humility to put her fears to rest. And I stopped working for a while to be, play and laugh.
What are you doing for fun these days?