I recently came across this quote, “Rest until you feel like playing, then play until you feel like resting, period. Never do anything else.” — Martha Beck
Did you see that flash of light? Followed by the low rumble of thunder? That was me, getting struck by lightening.
I have long understood that pacing mattered. If I had no meaningful work, I was bored. If I had too much meaningful work, I was exhausted. Finding the balance in this work/rest cycle has been an ongoing discovery. My interests changed. My energy levels changed. But I felt that I had a handle on the basic questions.
But this is revelation! It is not supposed to BE work. It is supposed to be meaningful PLAY.
Say, What? Meaningful play? What does that look like?
Well, from the outside, it might just look like meaningful work. But from the inside, it’s just fun, fun, fun until you get tired.
Real life example from last week: Through the Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, I attended a training session on how to canvas a neighborhood of registered voters on two local ballot initiatives. I value the work these folks are doing, but the closer we got to actually going into the neighborhood and knocking on doors, the more my body was screaming, “NOOOO!” I personally did not want to knock on the doors of busy strangers and engage them in a political discussion. I bailed on the activity.
Fast forward five days and I am out in a 100 degree F heat index digging up an old footing. This footing is a remnant from the old meeting house sign, which was broken when a Bradford Pear [invasive species-bad, but has large canopy-good] threw down an especially large branch during a storm and broke the sign.
I am working to remove the footing, because we want to get the new sign posts in the ground before the native species plants arrive on October 6, so the new plants won’t get trampled installing the posts.
South St. Louis is known for it’s beautiful 1860’s brick buildings. What is not so well known is that when disasters struck in the 1800’s (think earthquake or large fire), the buildings that could not be rehabilitated were pushed down and the refuse buried.
So, the place where I am trying to dig out a footing has more broken brick and limestone parts than it does actual dirt. There is a utilities line close by. I start with a spade, but that proves ineffective and I end up working with a dandelion fork and gloved hands. It feels a bit like trying to escape Alcatraz with an ice pick and a teaspoon.
And yet, despite the heat and the sore muscles in my hands and the frustration of having to remove those broken bricks and stones one by one, it felt like play.
I have a vision in my head of this beautiful old building, cleaned and restored, as a place of worship open to all. And a vision of our landscape as a garden that welcomes both locals and visitors to the neighborhood.
So what looks like work from the outside is play. Lesson– I would rather dig in the rock and brick than do a political canvas of the neighborhood. Good to know.