Play Is Purposeless…not pointless!

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It shocked me, I mean really rocked me to read that play is as essential as rest; play is not pointless but has no point to it – other than for the fun of it. Play is not about achievement or accomplishment. Play is, well, its Play!

I seem to be more of a “do-er” than a “play-er”. But I’ve discovered that ‘m missing play, fun, and playfulness as essential to my life; to my healing and to my soul’s wellbeing. To play everyday, not once a week!

“Play is purposeless”, says Brene Brown in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”. How shocking is that statement to a goal-oriented adult?! This statement jumped out the page at me. Play has no purpose – but for the fun of the play. It has no “achievement”, no “accomplishment”, it isn’t measurable as to what I “did” today to justify and substantiate my day or life.

Play is not a waste of time.

That’s why children, for the sheer pleasure of it, play. It is fuel for, food for the soul. And I NEED it too. Gerson Therapy, having cancer, being unwell and physically diminished has killed off my sense of play. Or…did I kill it off, or “life” kill it off, parents kill off my play… and then I got sick? And now I have to heal and rest my physical body so it is up to playing again.

But, my sense of worth, self-worth, is tied up in what I “do” during the day. The filing is more important to me than the Nerf wars my son wants me to play. The business, website, income related tasks, washing, tidying up all have precedence over hide & seek, Bollywood dancing, our home-disco, board games and singing & shufflin’ in the kitchen (we love Foo!).

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But deep down inside I miss the play. It nags at me everyday; through guilt, my conscience and a sense that something is missing in me.

I need to play. How? What is purposeless play to me? Here’s my current list:

Dance, sing, bollywood, play card games, meaningful sex with my husband, fly the kite on the beach, ride the scooter, trampoline, swim, shoot nerf wars, play lego star wars, disco dance, walk outside, craft, stitch, crochet, guitar jam, hide & seek, paint, colour-in, play networked iPod games…….

Purposeless play needs to become my priority everyday.

Lately I’ve been feeling like the rigours of the Gerson Therapy have stripped me of being able to physically play. I couldn’t swim in the ocean with Zen, or surf the waves, throw a beach frisbee, climb that Mountain, make moats in the sea sand or ride our bikes together. It’s like I’m missing out on these critical years of childhood; from age 9-11, the things we did (he is a physical child) I can barely do. I felt such grief about it. But, in truth, in about 6 months time I will be able to build up to all that again. And, I can do the many other play based activities that I love and we share.

What started all this?

….I ate fruit salad last night. Yes, delicious, lip-smackingly succulent, flavour-packed organic fruit salad with a banana and orange raw sauce. Mmmmmm, I was in taste and food induced pleasure heaven. But, while it was Gerson food, I ate it as a substitute for my proper dinner of potato, soup, salad and veggies. Why? In hindsight (read on to find out why) because I was unhappy.

I was bored with the Gerson dinner, cranky that I had to eat when i was not very hungry, didn’t feel like large meal. So I thought. Russ & Zen are away, so I figured I could “get away with” breaking the rules without recrimination. Hah! Never.

Waking up in the night with a bad gut pain and cramps, which persisted past my morning enema forced me to look deeper at my physical problem. The fruit salad, and yoghurt caused gas and cramping that really hurt. I had to ask myself, why did I eat fruit salad – a huge portion – instead of my usual dinner (that never upsets my tummy)?

I broke the Gerson program. I rebelled. I was angry but not honest with myself. I felt trapped. I felt unhappy. I justified it. Fruit salad is healthy right? Depends on one’s motive for eating it!!

What were my real feelings?

After a morning in bed, in pain, listening to a self-help CD, journalling and the beautiful music of London Grammar (check them out), I realised that I felt angry (call it frustration, irritation, annoyance – its all the same; its still anger) at the restrictions of the regime. Not the food restrictions though. What was I specifically angry at?  I’m not having fun. There’s not enough of my kind of pleasure in my life.

The food, fruit salad, was heightened pleasure. I was pleasure seeking, not seeking to nourish my body. That was the Truth. And, my body produced the physical symptoms to show me I was blocked to an unexpressed, unfelt real need that food would not fulfil.

Yesterday, before the “fruit salad” episode, I randomly opened up the book about Imperfections that I’ve been slowly “digesting”…and the page said:

(p99) “a critically important part of WholeHearted living is play! 

I came to this realisation by watching my children and recognising the same playful behaviour in them that were described by the men and women I interviewed. These folks play.”

“Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest”

And that statement hit me in the heart and I had to stop, sit and let it enter me as a truth about my life. I’ve been resting, resting, resting, but not playing.

But sometimes purposeless play is like an anxiety attack waiting to happen, because that kind of play is just because we want to and yet our self worth = our net worth. Our self worth = what we accomplish. Productivity is King. I tick that box. Play is last on the list. It should be first.

It turns out that I NEED the JOY that play gives me. Not facing this simple need made me rebel against my healing diet, eat an “allowed” food the wrong way, so that I could get the pleasure, the joy I was seeking. I substituted food for fun – the story of my life.

My faulty inner voice/program says “I’m not allowed to have fun when work is to be done”. But, I am allowed to eat for pleasure; that’s acceptable. In my childhood family life work was praised, Play was not.

But, when I play, I feed my soul properly and that is what my physical body was crying out for. Food temporarily soothed the inner urge to have pleasure. What I realised was that I mistook how to fulfill my inner craving:

  • The urge/need to feel fulfilled – Real way to fulfill it: play, laugh, love
  • The urge/need to feel fulfilled – Learnt way to fulfill it: eat, bury it, get busy doing & achieve

This morning I vented my frustration, cried my tears of loss and with God’s help, felt this recognition of play as true in my soul and now I want to allow myself to play more. And…the physical symptoms and pain slipped away.

Over the past weeks I’ve felt increasingly like a caged lion. Watching everyone over Christmas time (13 people in the house over 10 days etc) eat, drink, be Merry, go to the beach and so on, which bought it to the surface. But I didn’t take the time I really needed to sit down with myself and examine what my restlessness was really about. Thus, the pain of cramps laid me out and I had too. Avoidance usually ends in some kind of suffering! I’m aiming to learn this lesson in the fulness of time, so it hurts less and I play more. Cancer is not a gift, but I’m determined to turn it into one.

Gotta go play now ….<3

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