play nicely


Originally uploaded by jon.swanson

When I was a child and we would start teasing and poking and laughing, my mother would caution that someone was going to end up crying. She was right, of course.

And every time I was on a see-saw, I could play nicely for awhile, but eventually it grew boring. I would look at ways to use leverage to add an element of unbalanced excitement to the game.

I look at adults around me now and wonder if we need a bit of my mother’s caution again.

I know. That sounds depressing. But hear me out.

Think about how often we talk about needing to go back to work to rest up from our vacation. How many of us are going to spend the upcoming holiday weekend (in the US) running so fast that it will be a relief to come back to the office? How many of us work harder at our play than we do at any other element of our lives?

Somehow that turns play into work. We play hard because we need to take our minds off of our work, but somehow that provides no rest. It merely provides distraction.

Please understand that this comes from a guy who just got a cartoon from his parents which shows a man sitting on psychiatrist’s couch, typing on a laptop. The caption? “What makes you think you are a workaholic?”

I want to make the most of my leisure time. I want to make sure I get that book read. I want the day off to be able to get work done on the house. I keep checking twitter just to see how everyone else is doing at disconnecting. I want to be able to tell the people who ask me whether I had a good day off that I invested the time away from them well.

Sound familiar?

What if the way to make the most of our leisure is to stop trying to measure it?

As you look ahead to the weekend, consider taking your agenda and letting it drift in the wind and the sand and the leaves. Meanwhile, we’ll be driving 12 hours each way to spend 36 hours with my parents. But that’s more time together with family than many people ever get…or will ever get again.

And you know, I think at least once I’m going to try to laugh until I cry.


3 responses to “play nicely

  1. Jon,
    I just forwarded this link to about 5 dear people! A friend and I were just discussing this the other day. I’m calling this weekend anti-Labor Day Weekend. 🙂

  2. In our family, the place we laughed till we cried was around the dinner table. That was the place we were all together at least once a day.

    True experience: We have never been “tourist” vacationers–we go one place, be it family or vacation destination, and stay put. During our last trip to MI, we stayed with relatives but planned to “do” Michael’s home town of Grand Rapids. That lasted for exactly 3 days. By days 4 and 5, we were totally exhausted and spent the next 2 days chilling with our noses in books and our hearts in conversations with the relatives. Now we definitely know there’s a reason we have not vacationed as tourists!

  3. I struggle with that not checking email thing on days off. It’s almost like an addiction to drugs or something.

    Good reminder to lay off the technology-enabled-communications stuff for a bit!