Every morning I read this column by writer Cary Tennis published at Salon.com. Cary answers letters from various troubled souls, and he does it with his own unique blend of personal wisdom gleaned from his own struggles with depression, addiction, and life instead of some dry college degree. It’s like the uber-intellectual hippie version of Dear Abby. In answering the letter of a stressed-out and anxious soul recently he proposed the very simple solution that that person go out and do something fun. Then he asked the letter-writer the question “What do you do for fun?”
As usual with Cary Tennis’s letter-answers, I sat there thinking about how profoundly his words applied to me as well. I too have been stressed out. I’ve felt like I have too many things to do, too many responsibilities to handle. But of course I have fun too, right? Wait a minute, what do I do for fun?
I’ll tell you what I don’t do. I don’t watch a lot of tv. I don’t have cable and while I do have a television set, it’s only hooked up to a DVD player … which I also don’t use anymore. I don’t play sports either. I’m not athletic. I do score for a local cricket team or two in the summer when the weather is nice, but I’ll get to that in a second.
There are a lot of things I would like to do that I can’t afford to. I would love to go to the movies more often, but not at $10 a ticket. I would love to eat out at really nice restaurants, but really nice restaurants are super expensive. So are concerts, plays, and the ballet, all of which I would also do if I could. Then there’s travel. Oh man, if I had money I would be all over this globe of ours! But alas, I am poor (buy my books!) so I can’t do any of these things.
Okay, so now I’m back where I started. What do I do for fun? Here’s the thing. Like a lot of other people, I’m sure, a lot of the things that I used to do for fun have become more like fun responsibilities. Obviously I write for fun. But writing, whether books or blog posts, has turned the corner into being something I do with a purpose as opposed to something I do to relax and unwind. It’s still fun, but daily word count goals and editing makes it feel a little like work. I used to do a lot of theater … until I ended up in charge of things and it was suddenly very, very un-fun. Even cricket has morphed into something where I go to perform a job and fulfill a responsibility.
So wait, what happened to fun?
Well, those things are still fun, but not 100% pure relaxation.
At this point I started to panic. Do I even have fun anymore? Have I slipped into a pattern of hopeless efficiency and competence? What am I going to do? I mean, even reading, the classic thing to do for fun, has become something I just don’t have time for. Uh oh.
There is one thing though. Knitting. I knit on my lunch break. I just finished a scarf for my BFF last week and I’m working on a pair of socks this week. That’s fun. It will be even more fun to walk around in a pair of warm, fuzzy, pretty homemade socks. And as much like work as writing has become, I do actually have genuine fun handwriting notes on stories I’m either working on or may or may not write someday. Whew! I have something fun in my life.
But it makes me think…. I tend to feel just a little guilty when I’m doing something that has no constructive purpose or quantifiable results. Maybe it’s the feeling that I shouldn’t actually be having fun. There’s no time for it. If it’s not productive it’s a waste of time. I sit around feeling guilty about all the things I should be doing instead.
Good God, perish the thought! There has to be fun in the world! Even for responsible, competent adults.
So as I sit here a while longer and contemplate what I can do to kick back and relax and enjoy myself without feeling like I’m being irresponsible, let me ask. What do you do for fun? How do you relax and unwind from the business of life?