How often do we jump as adults, or swing, or hang upside down, do a handstand, even cartwheel? So how seldom do we squeal, giddy with excitement, or experience our stomach in our mouth, without fear, just with that funny feeling of butterflies flitting joyfully around our insides? And how rarely do we feel as though we might fly, actually touch the sky?
While some of us have the gene for extreme adventure, I suspect its time many of us put some playful balance back into our lives.
Balance your playful and serious sides
I can still cartwheel – you use muscles you’d forgotten you had and it’s like your insides have gone on a rollercoaster ride (which I guess they have, circling 360 degrees). I used to turn cartwheels down the big hill at my school, around and around and around until I was flushed and faint – heady on life.
And I still enjoy the sensation of swinging high, stomach along for the ride, but it feels strange, like I’ve forgotten what it’s like to really let go. When Miss Yin was little I made up a swinging song that I now sing to Little Yang – “I feel funny in my tummy when I swing, it feels like my belly is full of jelly’. Maybe I’m a little queasy from that sickening feeling that I can’t quite remember how to be a kid anymore.
Jump just for fun
We got the kids a new trampoline recently – the old one was rusted, with several springs missing – one of those rectangular ones without the net enclosure. The new one is round and much bigger, with a net allowing for higher jumps and backflips in safety (of course I can’t exactly flip, but Miss Yin is quite the Queen of acrobatics). It’s fun on steroids – or springier springs at least.
I seldom used the old trampoline, so I’ve rediscovered the joy of jumping on the new improved version. You actually get a really good view high up in the air (the new trampoline sits at least half a metre higher off the ground), and the blood rushes to your head in a surge of serotonin. You get air, and you gain a whole new perspective. It can turn into a headache after a while, and your stomach muscles certainly get a good workout from all that springing up and down. Especially when you’re laughing at the same time, because it’s so much fun (I may have come up with the perfect exercise for the abs – laughing and jumping simultaneously – much more fun than crunches).
So much of life is serious, or we make it so. Maybe we become afraid to have fun, because we’d look like we’re not taking life seriously enough. Perhaps we think we’d come across as selfish, or childish if we stopped to have fun. Possibly we simply forget how to.
Yet when we do make time for fun, we achieve the balance we need between our practical and playful selves. We find the space to be in the moment, the perspective to look at things from a lighter side. We can help ourselves overcome even serious problems when we forget about them for a while in having fun. All the blood that rushes to our brains surely has to be good for problem solving in that dizzy whirl of thoughts in our heads. All those happy hormones have to stimulate satisfaction, contentment in life.
And when we still, after the swinging and swaying, jumping and flipping, our stomachs back in place, our other organs regaining their normal positions in bodies that might be old, but yet somehow feel so much younger – it’s then that we can feel a real sense of balance.
When was the last time you really played with childlike abandon? Of course it helps to have kids to play with, but even then how often do we stop to enjoy playing for our own sake, not just for the kids? Love to hear your stories.