Monday, November 5, 2012

Playing Games in Life

As my boys get older, how they want to play changes. A Mom friend asked me, "Does your son (oldest 9yr old) still PLAY?"
I asked, "Like imaginary play?"
"Ya, with toys." she said. My brain hiccuped, you mean someday he won't do that? Oh man,of course....they grow up...what a bummer, I thought.
"Yes, sometimes...he is starting to want to play video games more, when usually that is my 7 yr old. That one is a gamer. But they both play together still...hide and seek,legos...I love it. I think it's so good for them, to play."

"Oh, well , my friend's son is about 9 and he doesn't want to play anymore. He just wants to read or play video games on his Dsi, by himself, so when he comes over, I don't know what to do with him."

We talked about "that stage" in life when boys suddenly see toys as babyish and retreat into a world of their own, where play is restricted and being cool or aloof is the way to be. It's heartbreaking to a Mom and sad to family members, it's like something dissipates...the sense of play, picking them up, twirling them around, getting down on the floor with them...floats out the back door like a wisp of a ghost...but doesn't have to be that way.

"I think it's important to keep playing with your kid," I add, "to show them that playing together, no matter how old you are, is important."

I flash back to when I was a kid. My parents would invite their best friends over and after dinner we would all play a board game. It didn't matter that I was 7 and they were 58. We all played together, joked, laughed and someone won fair and square. Sometimes my father, brother, and Fred would disappear to the Rec Hall, where they played a few rounds of pool. Sometimes I would break the unspoken code and sneak in in and join them, watching them strategize, discuss politics and hit the balls across the felt into the deep green pockets. They didn't drink alcohol either, they just joked and talked and had fun completely sober. Looking back, I admire that, what an example of enjoying life that is and being present and clear. The game created the excitement, it was the glue that held together the real reason for playing, which was just to be together.

Soon after that I began to hunt down a foosball table. The pickings on Craigslist were thin and far away. I almost forgot about it. I bought a bunch of board games at a rummage sale for 25 cents each and they played Life constantly for a few days. Then A neighbor invited us over and the boys went nuts on their foosball table..shrieking, cackling, high fiving. It was awesome.
So I checked Craigslist again, (I love the principal of not paying retail), and found a game table, with five games, foosball, ping pong, pool, bowling and hockey for 65 dollars. I was thrilled to drive to Trabuco, pay the kind man and squeeze it into our mini van.

Since then the challenges to play are daily and delightful. Their loud hootin' and hollerin' is a sign of living life fully to me. The competition gets your blood going and the camaraderie builds confidence in our family unit. Last night we played with our exchange student and even though I lost I was clear we have all won.

Games expand the present moment, create something that was not there in the previous moment. One second you are sitting, wondering whether or not to wash the dishes, or if you are a kid, why your brother chews like that....and the next minute you are facing off your opponent, heart rate pumping, body buzzing, screaming like a girl who just lost her balloon or a boy who just won the rodeo. Why is that? It's because of the way the world occurs to us. One minute the world occurs as mundane, the next, it occurs as a challenge...and we rise to challenge. We don't have to ever stop playing. We have a choice. Choosing to be challenged creates connections in the world, gets us off the proverbial couch and jumping into life.

So when LIFE occurs to us as mundane or hard or too much, even overwhelming...all there is to do is to shift how it occurs to us, and play a GAME in life.
Just like a game, where we make up that the ball is better off not here, but over there, we can make up that our bodies are better not here, but running a marathon, or selling 2x more product, or our kids can make up that their body is better of winning a gold medal or being able to earn a badge or championship. And when your marathon gets cancelled, as in NYC after hurricane Sandy, many of the runner chose to play a new game, called supporting the survivors and volunteering downtown. That is a game worth playing!
They are all games, made up for us to expand that present moment, to further deepen enjoying what is before us, be it a friend, a soccer ball or a job that provides income for adventures, home and food. Make it a game and no matter what it is, we will all soon be shrieking with delight.

Zen Honeycutt

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