October 31, 2011

Finding Your Fun

My husband and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. We were pretty giddy and corny about it, so much happier on that day in October than we’d been last year, and we tried to figure out why. First, there’s that fact that everyone says the first year of marriage is very hard. They start telling you that as soon as you arrive home from your honeymoon. It’s a very warm welcome back to reality.

But we also gave some credit to a piece of paper that’s been hanging on our refrigerator since January. It’s written on a piece of Elvis stationary my college roommate brought back from Graceland, and it has a faded tomato sauce stain of on it (a memento of the spaghetti and meatballs we ate as we composed it). On it are more than a dozen things we wanted to do in the new year. Written at the top is, “The 2011 Wish List of Terrificness.” (That was my handiwork.)

We’re kind of big on lists, traditions, and superstitions in our house, so having a list like this was nothing new. There was the year I drew an elaborate picture at the bottom of a list envisioning my look for the new year: I had short curly hair and was wearing cowboy boots. I didn’t cut my hair that year, and I didn’t buy cowboy boots either.

We got serious about our recreating in 2011. And so we went camping––sort of––even when we couldn’t secure a campsite in a state park over a long holiday weekend. We drove right up to my mom and stepdad’s house with a tent, my cast iron pan, a bag of taco Doritos, and made a campfire in the backyard. I’m not going to lie to you: It felt utterly absurd and embarrassing to me at the time. Why can’t we do anything the right way, like, for real? But that feeling passed as soon as we started having fun: cooking the most amazing campfire eggplant, going inside to brush our teeth and waking up to the sound of birds signing. We called it our trial run, and took notes on what we’d need for next time. (Flashlights, bug spray, more Doritos.)

It was also the summer I finally took the swimming lessons I’d been talking about for years. I had taken lessons as a tot years ago, but my skills had dwindled. I wanted to swim in the ocean, strong and unafraid, like Katharine Hepburn out in cold waves of Long Island Sound into her 80s. So on hot muggy nights, after putting in a day of work that left me feeling knotty and spent, I’d walk to the windowless basement pool at the Y and slip into the water. After an hour of paddling around, I’d slip my sundress back over my head and walk home in my wet swimsuit, hungry, exhausted, cooled to my core, and happy.

Then, on a lark, I bought a cheap guitar just so I could sing my favorite country songs. I looked up chords to my favorite Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline songs and slowly strummed through them. I am not very good, but I enjoy it anyway. Sebastian bought a keyboard, and then a ukulele, and before we knew it, we were having evening jam sessions. We carried the ukulele to a dinner party recently where after chicken and waffles another guest brought out a packet of song lyrics and chords, swung a guitar onto his lap, and we all did our part to sing, strum, and harmonize into the wee hours.

I spend my days talking, listening, reading, and writing, and I realized something both of my new past times had in common: they were blessedly nonverbal. Underwater, the volume of the world gets turned way down, and my mind got quiet; struggling to land my fingers on the right spot of the guitar neck took all my concentration.

The difficulty of dipping our toes into new ways of having fun is, of course, the humiliation of being a newbie. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have pinpointed our favorite ways to recreate, and we’re good at them: you’ve got a mental catalog of obscure ’90s rock, a flair for crafting cocktails, the speediest knitting hands, a strong, unstoppable run that can go for miles on country roads. But usually to be new at something is to not be good at it. To fumble with the chords, and gasp for breath in slow lane at the pool doesn’t feel especially cool. But there’s something to be said for that part of the fun, too. We may be hooked on perfectionism in our regular adult lives, but with what’s new we have to practice. It feels awkward at first, and humbling when you’re the type who likes to feel good at things (and who doesn’t?). But isn’t there also something liberating about just giving it a try, shrugging your shoulders, and keeping on, just for the fun of it?

So I’m collecting new ways to have fun: What gives you a thrill and makes you smile? What’s the newest just-for-the-sheer-joy-of-it habit you’ve picked up? What were you doing when you last lost all track of time?

Photo: etsy.com via Sarah on Pinterest

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Comments

  • Morgan: running! i’m going to run my first half marathon on saturday.
    sooooo nervous but excited too6 years ago

  • Kristina Strain: That’s so sweet! And so funny– Patrick and I have just begun having evening jam sessions– hootenannies, we call ’em. He’s an accomplished guitarist, and I love to sing, and want to get better at it. I LOVE Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, and sometimes throw a little Gillian Welch and Eilen Jewell into the mix, as well. Enjoy!6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: I love this post a whole lot. I decided to stop mumbling about how I can’t draw because, in reality, even though I’m not a good ‘from my imagination sketch artist’, I actually LOVE picking something- be it a bowl of pretty pomegranates or the cat sleeping in the sun and sketching it. Or drawing silly, nonsensical, fairy tale pictures of The Little Prince or Gudgekin The Thistle Girl for the kids. I certainly am no ‘serious artist’, but to doodle or sketch for an hour- occasionally takes my mind of things and gives me something new to share with everyone.

    I’m finding a silly kind of joy in ‘learning’ how to play with my son. I’m such a girls girl, through and through- so learning to play more rough and tumble things that are his preference because Owen is a physical busy-body kid has been an adventure and actually more fun than I thought it would be.

    It’s been an odd summer and fall. I kind of went into hiding from everything that I like and enjoy and as I was cooking for a friends going away dinner party we had Saturday night, I thought “Why have I been avoiding stuff like this? Stuff I love? I feel stupid, my life has been all stress and very little joy for too long.” I make a year end resolution to put more joy in my day to day living and that DEFINITELY means more fun. 🙂6 years ago

  • Amy --- Just A Titch: Like you, I tend to struggle with just enjoying things. Unless I’m the very best, I don’t usually want to engage in them. But lately, I’ve been painting again, learning to knit, trying new things at the gym and trying to just enjoy the process. It really can be fun.

    Love this post. Kindred spirits.6 years ago

  • Cadi: Lovety love love this post, and kindred spirits indeed, swimming is at the very top of my list of goals! I really want to learn to swim better, but for fear of looking like a fishing bob next to all of the glistening, strong swimmers in the lanes I haven’t done it yet. My fear of getting it ‘wrong’ stops me from doing a lot of things in my life. I need to get over it, but easier said than done!

    Being creative is where I lose myself and all track of time. If left unattended I can spend an entire afternoon sewing, or crocheting, or working in my yard. I’ve slowly been peeling away my roadblocks to giving myself more time for this; just this weekend my dear husband helped me muck out our office so I could have my own little corner of the room for my sewing table. After getting it all set up and covering the table and a chair with some spanking new oilcloth I sat down and spent the next two hours blissfully sewing a new wrap skirt uninterrupted and uncaring of the passing time. Never mind that I cut the pattern out wrong at first and then the hem came out crooked – that’s part of learning, and I enjoyed it just the same (gotta learn to apply this to swimming). Bliss! I can’t wait to get back there this afternoon.6 years ago

  • Margaret: Love! Let’s see, I dance when I feel like it at home, not according to some regimen; I started a novel, not for NaNoWriMo, but because I thought Why Not?; and currently I’m questioning my roles in others’ eyes- why positive, why negative.
    Love your point about the nonverbal element- really a good discovery since it relates to how we recharge ourselves. 🙂6 years ago

  • Kristen: Love that you call it the ” wish list of terrificness.” I’ve really started enjoying running for runnings sake not just to stay thin. That’s great that you took swimming lessons this year. I’ve been wanting to do that. I can only swim in the not drown kind of way.6 years ago

  • Kristina: This is so wonderful and an excellent reminder to have fresh things to look forward to when the day-to-day gets sooo boring! And then to think that you get to look back on your year and the several check marks you’ll have on this list and know that you did that…and that and that and what a year it was. Very inspiring. Thanks for the reminder!6 years ago

  • J: My fun thing I’m not good at is German. I am fortunate to have a very patient German friend. Sometimes I feel kind of ridiculous with my poorly formed sentences and invented vocab, but I know if I don’t practice, I won’t get better, and it’s fun to giggle over my crazy mistakes.

    And after a really long week for us at work, my Tall Guy and I had some much needed couple-fun – we went to a costume party dressed as Frankenstein and his Bride! Dressing up was so great we’re thinking of having a Christmas-themed costume party.6 years ago

  • EB: Put me in water an my happiness quotient goes up by 300%. I am one of those crazy ladies who jumps in the freezing ocean waves and loves it. My new-not good at it but am trying- hobby is journaling/writing. It’s something I’ve never done, but I thought I might give it a whirl. I bought a pretty notebook and everything 🙂6 years ago

  • jiji: In the winter, I like to use my lunch break to hop over to Bryant Park and ice skate for half an hour. In the beginning, I would be so wobbly and scared of falling on my arse, but after a few attempts, I managed to glide effortlessly and felt like I could do a triple sow cow (my ankles are very glad I did not).

    Even though I am sooo not looking forward to colder weather, I am excited at the thought of putting on those cute white skates and pretending I’m an Olympic skater for a hot minute!6 years ago

  • Alexis: I started doing yoga this summer and often times when I am not familiar with a pose or can’t imagine getting my body twisted into that position, I get flushed and feel silly! Like my body is not my own but I still keep going back because my mind is quiet aside from concentrating on moving my body.6 years ago

  • Jennifer: Love. This. So. Much. Maybe it was the part about the guitar that made me tear up, thinking about how one of the themes of my life could be, “If It’s Hard I’m Probably Not Going to Do It.” Or something like that. I love to sing, and if I had a dollar for every time I thought to myself or said aloud that I would love to be able to sing and play guitar, I would be rich (at which point I would take some of those dollars and buy an Ingrid Michaelson songbook and go to town). And I’ve never learned to swim; not afraid of water and can do a lot of stuff in it but never really learned to “swim swim for real” and your post makes me think at the age of 41, it’s not too late. Or that I could learn to play guitar (though I’m wondering how my acrylic nails would hold up with that… ). So thank you. Your post is beautiful and inspiring and hopefully it won’t inspire me to go get some Doritos. Dang, those are really tasty.6 years ago

  • Bethany: This is something that I need to practice. Like many, I’m a perfectionist and I hate to fail. My boyfriend told me I need a hobby.6 years ago

  • brie.: just as soon as we’re out of this season known as ‘my husband is between contracts’ i am finding myself a singing teacher. i love to sing. used to take lessons. gave it up after highschool. it’s time to start again!6 years ago

  • Julia: Love this post Sarah. After a spell of depression I have emerged wanting to take more pleasure out of life. I have re-discovered reading, which definitely makes me lose track of time; fallen back in love with cooking; starting going for walks again; and finally, I have started making things again. And actually showing off what I have made.
    Ok, so these are all ways of having fun that I have re-discovered rather than newly discovered, but either way there is something very empowering about actually doing the things you thought you didn’t have the time, or the energy, the confidence, or the whatever for.6 years ago

  • Jane B: I ran my first half marathon a month a go. I started training back in May – the first time I had done any running since high school (can it really be twenty years ago?!). I was full of fear at first: it took me weeks to buy some running shoes, then they sat under my bed for a month before I plucked up courage to put them on and go out for a run. For some reason I felt self conscious. But soon it became a habit and a pleasure. It’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time – and the half marathon itself was an absolute blast.6 years ago

  • Eva Peightal: I’ve been just shrugging my shoulders a lot lately, something new to me & it feels fantastic! (I was a serious kid who grew up into a serious adult.)As a step-mother of 4 kids I’ve absolutely learned that taking a cue from children is a great way to loosen up & have some fun.6 years ago

  • Lana: I looooove this! My new things are this: Being a mommy. I am trying my very best to create the most perfect world for my 17 month old daughter. I know she is going to have bumps and bruises (and ringworm! YIKES!) but for now, while she is small, I am trying to make things magical.
    Also, I just made homemade caramels for the first time in my life last night. I even bought a candy thermometer and I have to say, I think they turned out well! 🙂 I plan on perfecting them and sprinkling them with Kosher salt and giving them away in beautiful holiday tins to all of my loved ones for the holidays!6 years ago

  • Christine H.: “But isn’t there also something liberating about just giving it a try, shrugging your shoulders, and keeping on, just for the fun of it?”

    Oh my gosh—YES TO ALL OF THIS! It was in that spirit I took the plunge and decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have no idea what I’m doing, where this is going or how I am going to find time for it, but who know what? Who the hell cares! I am giving myself permission to suck and it feels exciting and scary and oh so liberating.6 years ago

  • Laureen: Love this post! And love your idea of giving myself permission to suck, Christine. I’m going to remind myself that the next time I’ve got my nose stuck in some project–work or personal–that I’m trying to make ‘perfect’ instead of just doing the best I can and having fun.

    I picked up a ukelele on Amazon a few weeks ago for the hell of it and am trying to learn how to play. This ‘learning’ mostly consists of figuring out a few chords with the help of a handy book and singing and ‘playing along’ to my favorite songs on youtube while pretending it’s really me in the video. It’s like a slightly more advanced version of singing into a hairbrush…. One other thing that’s really cool about trying something new is that it gives you a newfound appreciation for the people you know who have the talent and put in the time to learn how to do those things well.6 years ago

  • Sarah: I’ve been so without the time to find any fun this week that I haven’t even gotten to respond to all these awesome fun-filled comments! I might steal the idea about ice skating in Bryant Park on your lunch break from jiji!

    Reading through these in a particular busy week, Julia’s comment really stood out to me: “there is something very empowering about actually doing the things you thought you didn’t have the time, or the energy, the confidence, or the whatever for.”

    The times when you feel like you absolutely don’t have the time are usually the times when you need a bit of fun or creativity the most! All of you runners have inspired me, too––if not to sign up for a marathon, than at least to get a new pair of sneakers and pop in my Jillian Michaels DVD. It’s been awhile… 😉

    OH! and to the NaNoWriMos––hats off! Have so, so much fun!6 years ago

  • Ashalah: I just discovered you through Just a Titch and I think I may have a bit of a blog crush. That and you made me laugh out loud at the idea of you and your husband camping in your parents backyard. I LOVE that you did that! So much fun.

    I’ve recently discovered I love to knit. I’m not very good at it, I’m exceptionally slow and for the first week there was a lot of needle-throwing in frustration but I’ve got the basics down now and am having fun!6 years ago

  • Martie: You’ll never know how much I love and appreciate this post. As I get older, I tell myself that I don’t have to be perfect (although, it’s hard for me to believe myself), and getting out of my confort zone can be gratifying. Each year, I try to embark on something new that I may have always wanted to do, but always had an excuse not to try. Last year was rock climing and triathlon racing, this year was scuba dive lessons. Here’s to lists and trying new things or re-trying old things!6 years ago

  • Tereza: Thank you for these fantastic ideas!

    I took an improv class and went to a free-form ecstatic dance course last month. Both were incredibly difficult to do at first…in our culture adults are rarely uninhibited and goofy enough to play games and make believe and dance without copious amounts of booze. But it can be done, and it’s an incredibly fun way to play.6 years ago

  • Dane: This is, like so many of your posts, right on time.

    I sketch with drawing pencils, or sketch/paint with watercolor pencils (not as much as I’d like, but I am working on it) and while I am kind of terrible at it, I enjoy it so much. Like I told a friend of mine, sometimes it’s enough to suck at something as long as you get to do it.6 years ago

  • Susan: What a great post! I stared taking Taiko drumming class. I’m tall so I love feeling small next to the size and sound of the drum. It’s exhilarating to move and drum with a group. However, it is about precision so there I many times I suck out loud, and I do mean LOUD:) But I love it and love giving over to beginner brain and heart.6 years ago

  • geek+nerd: I adore this post! I’m currently chipping away on a 29 things to do before I turn 30 list. Though not necessarily fun – a new skill that I’ve picked up this year is running. I’m going through a divorce, and a few months ago, I desperately wanted to do something for myself that had nothing to do with the person that I had been for the past few years. I used to joke that I would only run from large, predatory animals, or during a zombie apocalypse. Last night, I ran 2.19 miles just for the heck of it. I’ve lost fifteen pounds and three inches off of my waist – and while it has not been all “fun” per say, I’ve found my running experience to be deeply *satisfying* I feel like a million bucks!6 years ago

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