Just for the JOY of it!

For the kid in all of us

It is time to playChildren don’t ever “forget” to play. Why then do we as adults seemingly forget nearly completely?

Best case, maybe we at least tell ourselves, “Okay, I’ll get to have some fun when I take a vacation.” And, maybe that vacation never comes…? Or, it does, and yet as soon as your vacation ends, you return to your day-to-day life, and playtime gets put back into the Vacation Time Capsule for safekeeping.

Are we really too busy to enJOY what’s happening around us?  With this edition of Soul Notes, I say it’s time to play!

PLAYtime is JOYtime


Sometimes, you just need a quick play break

  • “Playtime is for kids.”
  • “You need to be a ‘responsible grown up’.”
  • “There’s no time for such foolishness!”

Any of these sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve heard them from someone in your life, or from the media, or even coming from that ‘little voice inside your head.’

I know that for me, I find myself seemingly caught up in the profuseness of all that is in this thing called Life – that I lose myself in the depths, and forget that it’s okay to lighten up! My inner Lil’ Lori from time to time, though, does come to my aid – it’s during those long periods of ‘deep work,’ that she will proverbially reach up and grab me by the hand, and say “hey, wanna play a game?”

And, my 13-year old corgi/border collie mix Molly (the Wonder Dog), still tries to get my attention with earnest persistence. In my home office, when I’m focused on working from the computer for a long stretch of time, I’ve often looked down to discover that she has one-by-one brought toys in from the other room, and has set them down at my feet. Squeaky toy, drop. (Wanna play?) Tennis ball, drop. (Can we play now?) Frisbee, drop. (How about now?) Rope toy, drop. (Let’s play!!)

Dogs naturally take time out to play. They even have the body language for it, known as the “play bow,” that indicates to other animals that they are ready to engage in some fun.

Hmmm…What if humans started doing this?

It seems that most of us are overdue for a quick play break.

SO, I say we all take a stand together, one and all.

Playtime Pledge:

Please join me in taking the following oath.

Raise your right (or left) hand (or put one or both hands on your heart), and say:

  • “I hereby give myself permission to play”
  • “I hereby declare I will engage in playtime more than I ever thought possible”
  • “I pledge to keep incorporating play into my life, on an ongoing basis”
  • “I make this proclamation, right now, in this very moment”

Extra credit: And to really seal it in, you may wish to add the following:

Tap-tap, no erasies.”

This was something my friends and I would say on the playground at school. Once you had declared whatever it was about the game you were about to play (we’d reach a consensus about the rules for that particular game, for example, tetherball) – you would then say aloud, “tap-tap, no erasies.”

That was our little ritual which would make it clear to the group that there was no going back now, on the agreed upon stipulations.

Maybe we should apply this ritual to business negotiations, and mediations, and arbitrations, and small claims court? I’m only partially kidding. (Kidding, get it?…oh, well, puns with me are always intended…grin.)

 The importance of playtime

Now that you’ve given your adult self full permission, I invite you to let your inner child out to PLAY.

As a young one, I would take sidewalk chalk, and map out a bicycle “route” on the blacktop in our back yard. To maximize the space, I’d chalk out lines for streets that wrapped back and forth, complete with intersections and four-way stops. Then, I’d ride my bicycle through the self-drawn roads, using my imagination along the way – looking for and responding to pedestrians, other ‘motorists’ and road hazards. Sometimes friends would join me, and we would ride our bikes, criss-crossing at intersections, and allowing for merging and passing within and between “lanes”. It involved using our bodies, our minds, and our imaginations, all the while fostering all kinds of being-in-the-moment creativity.

When I was three, a few friends and I collaborated on-the-spot (again in the back yard) to form our own makeshift musical group. I remember taking a large plastic bucket, turning it upside down, and proceeding to bang on it with a couple of wooden spoons. I made myself the drummer in the band. We didn’t really know how to play any songs, so we just made them up! It was great fun.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

In our goal driven society, may we all remember that the focus of play is the experience of it. There’s nothing to “achieve.”

Play is how we connect.

Additionally, play brings joy, and joy brings a renewed energy and a fresh perspective.

It also creates space. There’s no room for fear to hang out with you while you’re playing!

Challenges too have a way of working themselves out to some degree. Feeling stuck at a certain point in a project? Needing to clear out some energetic sediment that needs some composting? How about seeking a new take on a seemingly unsolvable problem?

Well-timed play breaks often result in increased productivity. Go for it! A change of scenery will do you good!

Taking a play break

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Pick up a box of crayons and a coloring book. Start coloring! (Coloring books for adults, by the way, are becoming increasingly popular!)
  • Arrange a night of “mini-golf” out with your friends or family.
  • Play fetch with your dog, or a neighbor’s dog.
  • Play “marco polo” in a nearby swimming pool.
  • Dance to one of your favorite up-beat music videos.
  • Swing on a swing set.
  • Look at the night time sky through a telescope.
  • Finger paint!

While engaged in these types of activities, notice the feelings they invoke…openness, expansiveness, joy, pleasure, love. When you’re in that state, just imagine all the goodness that is possible!

Ready to go play? Really, truly? Tap-tap, no erasies!

Okay, your turn:

When’s the last time you (voluntarily) stepped (or better yet jumped!) smack dab into a rain puddle? Blew bubbles? Flew a kite? Whistled?

Or, when was the last time you sat on the grass, looking up at the sky, and tried to identify the funny shapes and formations in the clouds?

When walking with a friend, when’s the last time you turned to them, and said: “Hey, I’ll race you to that telephone pole – Go!”

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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When the phone rings at 3 AM…

That call at 3 AM

Yes, that one. The one that jerks you awake – the bolt straight out of bed when the phone rings – kind of phone call.  Some years ago, I received such a call:

In the jet black of night, I answer the phone.

“Hello, is this Lori Noonan?” I hear a man’s voice ask on the other end of the phone line. “Yes,” I manage to say while in complete darkness as I fumble for a light switch.

“This is the County Coroner. I have news about your brother.” I am barely able to register what he’s saying and what’s really happening. I feel as if I’ve fallen into a deep, dark, hollow well.

The Coronor continues speaking, and says rather matter-of-factly: “He shot himself in the head and killed himself.”

The voice continues, stating rather brusquely: “He was found out near some railroad tracks, in his car, with a gun. In his wallet, the only contact info was a card with your name and telephone number on it. So, I’m calling you.”

I try to keep my composure and attempt to process what I’ve just been told.

Without skipping a beat, however, the Coroner just keeps talking, asking me questions and rattling off directives.

“Can you call the other family members?”

“They need to be notified.”

“Can you take care of that?”

In that moment, all I desire to do is to ask about my brother. My heart and my mind go straight there — to my brother, out in the rural outskirts of town, in the dark of night. In my mind’s eye, immediately I picture my brother out there in his car, in his final moments, full of despair.

Why by the railroad tracks, I ponder. Was he planning to stop the car on the tracks? Was that his plan and it somehow went awry? Was he worried about injuring others on the train, and backed away? Or, maybe he waited for a train to approach, but a train didn’t come by at that time of night? Oh, but he brought a gun with him, though, too. What exactly was his plan, and how long had he been planning this? What were his final thoughts? Did he really see suicide as his “only way out”?

My mind jetted from one scenario to the next and back again. Meanwhile, the Coroner is still talking.

Suddenly, the voice on the other end of the line punctures my imaginings, and pierces straight through and into my mindstream. This is when I heard something that I hope I never hear again, and pray that no one else ever has to hear when receiving this type of news:

With agitation in his voice, the Coroner says: “Okay, I gotta go now. I’ve got to get off the phone. Half his skull is missing, and there’s all kinds of blood and mess that I’ve had to clean up, and I’ve already had to stay past the end of my shift.”

I had just been envisioning my brother in the moments before his death. In my mind’s eye, he was still out there in his car, and was still very much alive.   I certainly wasn’t prepared to have that image immediately sliced through with a proverbial scalpel from the Coroner. Envisioning my brother with half his head blown off, and blood everywhere – that was an image that I neither needed nor desired.

The call just seemed so very callous. It was not as if I was an objective bystander, a non-interested third party, a ‘passer-by’ learning of this, for the first time.

It’s 3 AM, and I’m now standing in the middle of my apartment with the phone in my hand, and I feel so, so alone, so very alone.  And, my heart aches so, so deeply, for my brother. It felt as if my chest suddenly had caved in on itself. Heartache, in that moment, was anything but a euphemism.

And, it hit me that I would be the one then calling and informing the other family members.

From the darkness out into the light

Now, my intention here is not to vilify Coroners. I realize that they have a stressful job to do. I just wish that he had handled that conversation differently – with at least a bit of civility, a modicum of compassion, an ounce of sensitivity.

This happened quite a few years ago, and perhaps training and call protocols have improved since then? Or, maybe this one phone call was an anomaly? I’m realizing that it may be helpful for me to find out. It may be time for me to reach out to others who are facing or have faced suicide in their family. It may be time for me to advocate on their behalf, and to help medical professionals understand their point of view.  I’m feeling that it may be part of my own spiritual path.

Answering a Call of a Different Sort

I’m looking into ways that I may be of service, and share my experience with those in the mental health professions, and medical personnel, and the like. Recently, I’ve learned that here in the United States, there is a national organization that provides educational programs and classes for staff members who provide mental health treatment services. And, this organization has trained presenters who present on topics such as “ending the silence” in schools, and out to the general public as a way to promote awareness of mental illness.

Is this part of my calling? Yes, it feels as if it may be. Perhaps I may hold a lantern — to shed light along the dark passageways – for those with suicidal thoughts, and for those family members who feel so alone in helping themselves as well as their loved ones through such travails. At this point, it remains somewhat undefined. I am willing, however, to explore, follow my intuitive impulses, and find out.

Okay, your turn:

Do you recall a time when you received such a phone call? What, if anything, could that person have said that would have “lessened the blow”? In what ways would you be prompted to convey such a message, if you are or were in a position to inform someone of such news?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.