Play On!

brother dick (2)I notice two things about the guy on the right. First, he’s dressed kinda funny. Second, he’s happy. This is my brother Dick, a PhD nutritionist who’s consulted on five continents, worked for Fortune 100s and many foreign governments, given scholarly talks all over the world, and…. played dress up since he was a kid.

Dick is blessed with a big capacity for passion, whether he aims it at work or play. Here he’s in his Mountain Man attire, meaning everything he’s wearing he a) made himself, and b) made with materials and tools available to a hunter/trapper/explorer in the American West prior to 1840.

For decades, Dick has organized and participated in “rides,” periods of days or weeks when he and his buddies re-enact the life of mountain

Dr. Patton, consulting in Ireland.

Dr. Patton, consulting in Ireland.

men (and women), disappearing into the wilderness to make do, get tired and dirty, see magnificent scenery and (I suspect) drink firewater. They’re playing in other words, with the exuberance and focus of fortunate adults.

I’m getting happier as I age, and I think most people do. Why should this be, as our bodies and minds slow down, we come closer to death, our options shrink, and our losses accumulate?

Dr. Patton, MFH (Master of Fun and Happiness)

Dr. Patton, MFH (Master of Fun and Happiness)

I think part of the joy of maturation is that we develop the time, skill and determination to play again. Some of us are lucky to play as my brother Dick does, with tons of planning and preparation, friends of long standing, and a breathtaking intensity. Others are more comfortable with a monthly bowling night.

The hallmarks of play are that we do the activity for the sheer joy of it, not to accomplish a goal, and the benefits are nearly limitless. Enhanced creativity, stress reduction, better relationships, increased problem-solving ability, greater energy, greater resistance to disease… Play is such wonderful stuff that savvy employers build it into the work place, and it benefits EVERY aspect of childhood development.

This tends to get lost in our discussions about the educational system, but the research is clear: Kids need recess (I suspect teachers do too!).

Dr. Patton, world renowned animal nutritionist, pictured with colleagues

Dr. Patton, world renowned animal nutritionist, pictured with colleagues

I’ve been anxious lately, in a pattern of all work, too much time reading about death and destruction on Facebook (which is why you’ll see me less there), and not enough play. I relax–with a book, with a massage, with solitaire on the tread desk–but I need to play. I play in Scotland, wandering around being amazed and happy, trying new things, seeing new sights, but Scotland is far away and expensive.

Still, this is part of the reason I want to take a bunch of writers and readers to Scotland–to PLAY. Last week, many of us said clutter is a pea under the mattress of our happiness, and I wished we could get together, to talk books, to haul junk to a roll off dumpster, enjoy some good food, and laugh.

two_kittens_from_behindIf you could set up a play date for yourself, maybe not entirely for fun, but mostly for fun, how would you spend the day? Who would your playmates be (if anybody), and what would you love about the day?

To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 American Express gift card.

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26 comments on “Play On!

  1. Each September, I meet one of my corgi pals and we spend a morning walking the beach with our corgis. My friend summered in the area and has great memories of my beach community. The dogs all get along and they tire themselves out running in the sand and in and out of the water. My friend and I spend a couple of hours catching up on family news, dog news and current events. We look at the pretty cottages and pick up pieces of sea glass or shells as we walk along. We laugh at the dogs rolling in the sand, chasing each other up and down the beach and swimming. It’s nice to relax and laugh.

    It’s two hours of uninterrupted time together. No cell phones, no call waiting. And she takes the best photos. Some of my favorite corgi memories have been photos taken at the beach.

    It’s nice to escape work and it’s associated pressures and relax for a few hours. I spend the rest of “Sue Day” reading or watching a movie. I stay off the Internet and do not answer the phone.

    This was a great question…. I had to think about my last play date. I realized how much I look forward and value these beach walks.

  2. I think people exercise as a form of play. Purposeful play is still play. I think that’s why anything done in a group setting is so popular. Shared misery and all the fun it entailed. 🙂

    I’m planning summer trips the next few years (Yosemite this year, Europe in a couple of years) with my siblings. I can’t explain how giddy I am about these trips. So excited to spend some time playing with my siblings.

    • Oh, those summer trips sound wonderful. I know what you mean about the giddy…. the internet surfing, calendar checking, website cruising… Yosemite is like no place else there is, ever.

      SOME people exercise as a form of play. I was married to one, and I think it’s like introversion and extroversion. If you love exercise, love hanging at the gym, look forward to those 5k’s, you can’t understand the people who regard it all with loathing, and the loathers (who might well be quite fit), don’t get the other kind. But here we are.

  3. I would love to set up a play date for me and my autistic son to ride the Polar Express. He absolutely loves steam trains and it would mean the world to him to take a ride on a real one and it being the Polar Express would make it the best trip ever. I live in the south and the train doesn’t come down this far, but it would be a great trip for him one day.

  4. Being retired, I have a lot of play time now, but I don’t always have the physical stamina to do what I would like to do. When I was younger and still working, if I had a Saturday afternoon with nothing to do, rather than catch up on my housekeeping (ugh) I would take myself off to the mall and window shop for hours. I loved it and wish I could still do it sometimes. Window shopping is best done alone…if you have someone with you they can become bored rather quickly and rain on your parade.

    I found it interesting that your brother enjoyed dressing up as a kid. I think we tend to enjoy the same things as adults that we did as children. I think that’s why sports, action movies and romance novels too are so popular. I think that if Kim Kardashian is as popular as the media would have us believe, it has to be because of all the girls (and boys) who just never got over having to give up their Barbie dolls (smile).

  5. I am planing to go to Scotland and England in the fall… can’t wait… but with all the snow in the ground my nephews and I had a snow fight… goodness gracious I was worse than the 2 boys… I just could not stop laughing and jumping on the huge mountains of snow in my driveway… it made me feel young and reckless~ I had snow even in my ears…

  6. Since I’ve become a financially independent adult, my sister, mom, and myself like to take vacations together. We can go places that we couldn’t as children since we all pay our own way now. We’ve done several cruises together and this fall, we are going to Italy and Germany. It will be my mom’s first trip to Europe and I’m looking forward to experiencing it all with her.

  7. For me a playdate is visiting an amusement park with my son on a day when the park is not too busy. I love riding all the rides, seeing the lovely flora and fauna, attending shows and coming home tired but happy.

  8. The ideal play day for me would be spending it with my favorite authors, you, Grace, Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, Sherry Thomas and Diana Gaboldon. We’d spend the day discussing how you come up with ideas for books and how those ideas are developed from beginning to end. I am interested to know about character development. Where do these fascinating people and their lives come from?

    I’m not the least interested in becoming a published author writing. But I do have an interest in how things work. I’ve been fascinated by plot and character development since I began reading the works of the afore mentioned authors and others.

  9. I would go to the 4-day DOLs retreat in June which is exactly what I will do and what I have done for the past four years. We sew our own uniquely individual creative fashions and share them with a group of like minded friends. It’s play at a wonderful level just like Scotland is for you. And… bonus… it’s over my birthday again this year. SO important to celebrate ourselves.

  10. My playdate would last for more than a few hours. My pal Judi and I would get on the train, go to Portland, OR. Hopefully find a hotet close to the center of things and do the book stores (I use a Kindle, but still like books) then we would do the paper crafting places. I teach paper arts, she is one of my “Sr. Girls” We are 78 ! We would eat out, go back to the hotel, root through our finds etc. come home the next day (to WA state) We live N. of Seattle. We like books, fancy paper, rubber stamps etc. I have no sitter for my ole kitty Dusty, 16 in March. And we are low income, but we talk about it and it will happen. Maybe the talking about it is the most fun. At first were were going to WA DC, then we figured Portland was doable, for the fact maybe we aren’t up to that long on a train, but we love trains. We live 20 mi from one another now, but phone every night, and she comes to class (11 years). By the way, aging, while it has it’s problems, has it’s perks too. You can’t avoid it, so head on to it, wearing a funny hat!

  11. I’m looking to go to Minnesota for a weekend this summer to spend with a college friend. We plan to do not much more than talk and stitch. I really hope it works out!

  12. My birthday is next week. I am turning 51. I am taking the day off. I have class that day, but I won’t go into work. I am taking off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I am going to Winston-Salem with some girlfriends on Friday. I am looking forward to maybe eating at a new restaurant. Visiting with my girlfriends, laughing and being silly.

  13. I had a play date on Saturday. A friend and I–who live on opposite ends of our metropolitan area and meet for lunch in the middle–had lunch, a gossip and window shopping. We haven’t seen each other in person for about 18 months and we picked up where we left off! Dontcha just LOVE friends like that ?!?!?

    The great thing about Gigi is we have so much in common, it’s like speaking to another version of myself. We both have three sons and our eldest sons have autism….our sons are all in their 20s and 30s. I am choral conductor and she is a choral singer and works in PR for arts groups.

    Anyway, it’s always to refreshing to be with her because she truly understands my life and I understand hers. We support each other…though breast cancer scares, parents deaths and dealing with our adult sons with autism…..and can just *be*.

    It was a re-charge to our batteries and we both wondered why we don’t make the time to see each other more often!

  14. I agrees with Gail. I want to come hang out with you for the day and I also would love to spend the day with Christi Caldwell, she and I could both use a break from the kids and just enjoy a day of fun all for us. Too bad you both live on the other side of the country.

  15. I think I would pick my sister to have a play date with since we played together in our youth. We know what each other is like and what kind of play we like. It would be a great day.

  16. I just recently read your story in “Once Upon a Dream”. At the end of the book there was a reference to the story about the Duke of Hardcastle in an anthology “Dancing in the Dukes Arms”. When I clicked the link, it could not find it nor could I find it on your site except for an excerpt you posted back in 2015. Did you not publish it?