ETP

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first step in finding your joy: play

I’ve been having an interesting craving lately. A craving to do something I haven’t done in a very, very long time – something our culture tells us is no longer important somewhere between the time of adolescence and college graduation when recess is no longer part of the curriculum and summer vacations turn into paid (or unpaid) internships and mandatory networking happy hours.

In the last month or so I’ve had the craving – the overwhelming yearning – to connect with my inner child and play.

I don’t mean the grown up type of playing either – you know like when adults use the term play as a secret word for sex. I’m also not talking about the type of playing as in the casual game of beer pong or flip cup at a Fourth of July party. To be honest, I’m not even talking about playing as in taking a vacation to the beach and spending the weekend sleeping in a lounge chair (not that there’s anything wrong with this particular activity. I enjoy napping on the beach as much as the next girl desperately seeking a summer glow).

The type of playing that I’ve been longing for this summer is the type of playing we all so effortlessly engaged in as children. The type of playing we would immerse ourselves in all day long until our mothers and fathers would call us in for dinner. Last week I was watching my friend’s children while she stepped out to run errands. Her daughter, Libby, and son, Jack, took me into their neighbor’s yard where two trampolines stood before us – one small and one big. As I watched Libby and Jack make their way to the larger trampoline, I felt a powerful energy come over me, and with that energy a soft voice from within told me to join them.

So I did.

I stepped onto the smaller trampoline and began jumping. After two or three jumps, I had a reaction that I hadn’t had in a long time. I instantly began laughing hysterically. How can I adequately describe the purity of this laugh? It was the kind of laughter that found me back in Kindgarten when my best friend Abby fluttered her eyelashes as quickly as she could during nap time, and no matter how many times Sister Valeria threatened to send us to the principal’s office, we couldn’t stop laughing; It was the kind of laughter that found me when my father would pretend he was a wild bull and I tried with all my might not to fall off of his back; it was the kind of laughter that found me in bed at night with my mother when she would trace pictures on my back with her finger and I would guess all the wrong answers.

This uncontrollable laughter that found me on the trampoline transported me back in time to an innocence I had buried deep within myself for so many years. I, like so many of us, had become disconnected from my inner child who truly wants nothing more than to jump on a trampoline, and capture a flag, and run through the sprinkler on a hot summer day.

But as we grew older we were told that unless our choices were helping us get in shape or pay the bills or get promoted, they served no purpose.  As we entered into adulthood we were even convinced that the only form of playing consists of drinking games and fancy cocktails and binge watching Netflix. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these forms of playing immensely. My argument here is not that we should all give up ANY of these activities. It would be a sad world without the casual game of flip cup, moscow mules, and 24/7 access to the entire series of Gilmore Girls.

Instead what I mean is that there is something very freeing and nourishing that comes from playing the way little kids play, playing the way we used to play. As I continued to jump on the trampoline with Libby and Jack, I felt a rush of joy come over me, and it felt as though I had found the very thing I hadn’t even known I was looking for. I felt fully present. I felt completely alive. I felt connected to a part of myself that I feared no longer existed. In this moment I realized that what is truly sacred in this life of mine, and arguably every life, is the raw and innocent feeling of joy that results from playing with our inner most child.

And perhaps nothing serves greater purpose on this planet than the choice to play and laugh and experience joy. 

So, yes. I’m asking for a trampoline for my 26th birthday. Won’t you jump with me?

Always Learning,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Piper