Let’s Play!

I’m writing this on January 2, 2022, with my attention predictably focused on resolutions. I have a process for developing goal-oriented, measurable resolutions but this year I was inspired to choose an overall theme for the year based on a need that has been generally unsatisfied. I’ve decided 2022 is my year of PLAY!

Everything has just been so serious and heavy for so long. I’m not just talking about covid but also the Trump years were so hard. I’m perpetually clenched. I’m worried about something ALL OF THE DAMN TIME! The simplest decisions, the ones that were once no-brainers like whether or not to go to the movies or whether my daughter can hang out with friends, require research and ultimately a roll of the dice because I’m never sure what’s safe to do. Friends – I’m exhausted. I need to play more. I need to have more fun. I need laughter and I don’t mean a little chuckle. I want the big-time laugh that makes me feel like I’m going to pee my pants. I want more of that in my life. I NEED more of that in my life!

Even difficult conversations can be approached with a sense of play. Playfulness is a part of my nature but it’s a part that can go dormant if it’s ignored too long. I want to reawaken it and allow it to permeate even some of the serious stuff. For example, let’s say someone says something about veganism that triggers a response in me. It could be something as simple and common as, “I could never give up cheese,” or, “I don’t feel well when I don’t eat meat so my body needs it.” Depending on my mindset, this could trigger an inner sigh or even an eye roll cemented with a snarky comment. But, with my consciousness aimed at play, I could take a deep breath and say to myself, “Okay, let’s play. Let’s explore these ideas together. It could be fun!” I imagine for the other person it can potentially be much more pleasant to converse with me when my mindset is more like a child up to try a new game rather than a weary traveler who has heard it all before.

Of course, there will still be somber moments (read my post, “Compassion for a Sociopath?” for insight into a recent experience that sent me into a tailspin of woe). I can’t always harness my inner playmate. That’s okay. I’m not shooting for a Peter Pan life. I’m going for greater balance, not for toxic positivity. For too long, my mindset has been skewed toward seriousness and I’ve grown weary. Over the course of 2022, I’ll consciously seek out ways to integrate play. I’ll keep you posted in my newsletters and monthly zoom meetings on how it’s going and what I learn along the way. 

I want you to feel inspired to choose your own theme so let me share how I came up with this idea for myself. For years, I’ve been studying Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC is a philosophy and set of tools that help us address disagreements and conflicts. As many of you have experienced via my monthly zoom meetings, I’ve integrated NVC tools in my Conversations with a Friendly Vegan approach. The basic idea is that feelings and needs are universal – we all have them and we all have basically the same ones. We also have strategies to help us satisfy our needs. The strategies we use to satisfy our needs and address our feelings, however, are varied. We’ve all learned strategies over our entire lives and some work much better than others. Conflict occurs on that strategy level. We may not like someone’s strategy but, if we can recognize the underlying need, we can access a degree of empathy that helps the conversation move to more productive territory.

One of my favorite NVC teachers, Marianne van Dijk at Cup of Empathy, recently sent a message recommending that we look at a list and see what resonates with us as a need that has not been met and could use some loving attention. You may have enough play in your life and how great is that?! But, you may find another word on the list that pops out for you. Pay attention to your body as you look at the list. Your gut will know the right word before your brain. You can find a version of the NVC needs list here:

I’m curious. What makes you smile? When do you feel most playful? What thoughts help to shift your focus toward play? What would life be like if you integrated more of that in your life? I’m looking for inspiration! Please share by using the form on my “Dear Anne” page.

In the meantime, here’s a panda that found some time to play:

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