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Learning to Have Fun Again in 2021

 

"More Fun in 2021"

This is a motto I've been replaying lately in my mind.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that there is deep pain, hardship, suffering, and grief in the world — this much is abundantly clear. We are pressing against that reality, daily, in our work here at dignify.

(And, our friends in Bangladesh are in the thick of COVID-19 intensity; Friends of Basha continues to support women in brothels with life-giving relief & you can help here).


For me, one of the *necessities* to sustain energy for this work is to embrace joy, celebration, & fun. But this year, those things have felt pretty elusive. The past 16 months have enriched the depth of my close friendships and have brought maturation & focus to my time; these have been invaluable gifts!

But... I feel like I need to learn all over again how to have fun!

Here are some of the ways I've been thinking about, or practicing, fun lately. I would also love to hear about how you find joy & energy to recharge for everything else that life brings at us!

 

Taking (Little) Risks

This has been a season of risk aversion (for good reason). But the inertia of this timidity can keep us living in a withdrawn, low-grade funk, simply because we're out of practice. Taking small risks, in areas that have low (or no) real consequences, might flex our adventure muscles again.
 

  • The artist Paul Klee said that drawing is just like "taking a line for a walk". I am no artist, especially with a pencil, paints, etc. But, taking a line for a walk, doodling, cutting up paper a la Matisse, or other simple art dabblings can be great for non-artists like me. Reconnecting with the tactile and "giving it a go" with something that literally no one ever has to see (and commands zero improvement in skills) can be healing & emboldening! I find prompt books like Marion Deuchars' Let's Make Some Great Art or Adam J. Kurtz's 1 Page at a Time Journal to be super helpful. 

  • I dyed the very tips of my hair with a magenta pink. It's summer, it's fun, it's colorful. Semi-permanent means it will wash out in ~10 shampoos. Why not?

  • This year has required the comfort of the familiar to cope with so much unfamiliar. Maybe now we can begin to take small risks simply by exploring beyond our creature comforts and trying new things again. What a concept! ;)

    For example: I like a gin & tonic on a summer evening, and a friend told me about a specific, West Coast variety that "tasted like the sea". I was intrigued, but when I was at the store, I had to decide between buying what was reliable & known vs. something new that might not turn out! It sounds sooo silly, but it felt really risky! I reminded myself to "bring back the fun in 2021" & went for my friend's recommendation. No regrets!

  • Making eye contact, smiling, saying hi, reforging the loose connections that have been forgotten or lost this past year. Clare Sestanovich reflects on this beautifully in her article, The Joy of Crossing Paths with Strangers.

 

Fun for the sake of Fun

It's been well-documented that the pandemic was, for many people, a time for taking up new hobbies. And if bread-baking, or calligraphy, or show-binging have been fun & life-giving, then by all means — keep enjoying!

But, I suspect that some covid hobbies have developed a sort of, shall we say, patina of 2020...


When I took up piano lessons in 2019 after a 20-25 year hiatus (it should be noted that my "retirement" as a child/teen was from thoroughly average-ness), it was such a healing, life-giving experience. There was no outcome of me playing, other than my enjoyment & improvement.

It wasn't like other extra-curricular (extra-workicular?) activities like exercise or cooking that, while enjoyeable, had some other imperative within (maintaining health; feeding my family). And, by playing, I wasn't gaining anything, I wasn't furthering any aims of progress or justice or ambition. I was just... playing. Enjoying beauty & senses & play. It was self-indulgent, but also restorative. 

I stopped taking lessons, but the lesson of fun & play — simply for its own sake — has remained. 

A crossword puzzle, a handstand challenge, a silly skill like learning to whistle or shuffle a deck of cards like a pro... is there anything in your life that you do just for fun?

 

Something to Look Forward To

People

Are there reunions, great or small, on the horizon? Who are the people who you've missed out on? Or, maybe what you can look forward to is doing things together that you haven't been able to participate in, together, for a while. Sharing a meal, taking a trip, doing... anything other than going for a walk or chatting on FaceTime! 

 

Places

Many airlines, hotels, & other travel purveyors still have generous cancellation/rebooking policies in place. Anticipating a trip provides happiness even before consumption, even more that waiting on a material good (as much as you're excited about receiving that blanket delivery ;). 

 

Dreams Deferred

Harlem
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

 

What has become of our dreams? Forgotten? Deferred? Made irrelevant, or readjusted? If the pandemic pause has felt like survival mode, maybe it's time to begin dreaming again.

 

Put down the phone

Aside from all of the pandemic & isolation troubles of this year, there has been massive social upheaval and unrest. It's overwhelming and disheartening.

No, I'm not saying ignore serious issues to "have fun" instead. But, quite frankly, despair over macro & systematic problems can blind and debilitate us from the actual relationships & circumstances of our everyday life. That is: the places, people, and spheres of influence that matter much more than what we read/post/share!

Turn off the news, take a break from the social media onslaught of indignation. Focus on the joys and trials of real life, the real people you know and see. 

 

Freedom to start over

The unique reality of this year has given us a gift of reset for old patterns. I'm trying to leave behind the things that no longer serve me well, and be more intentional about going forward.

 

What's bringing you life? What are you looking forward to? How do you have fun just for the sake of... fun?

Nicole Melancon

Hi there: I just wanted to say how much I love your newsletters and stories! They are so inspiring! I found out about your blankets through my blog and since then have bought a few as gifts. I love the work you do and just wanted to let you know that I have really connected with your newsletters and stories especially this one. Thanks for inspiring! Nicole

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