It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…
~ Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities
The aforementioned quote from Charles Dickens—born in 1812—illustrates the fact that humankind has always experienced a plethora of both light and darkness, good and bad times. Besides an abundance of good and joyful times, misfortune and tragic times are, and always have been, embedded in a human being’s life-journey. The point is, we are now in 2022 and nothing has really changed but the dates. As they always have, light and darkness continue to exist as part of the human experience and the irony is we need both to be fully alive in a human skin. Depending on one’s perspective, the past two-plus years could be viewed as good or bad. If we are being honest with ourselves, most of us would agree that the past twenty-four months have been a “buzz-kill” on various levels. Many people who might normally find ebullience in the simplest of things are still digging out of the trenches of a pandemic and seeking signs of the life they once knew. How they interpret what they find will define their future. As Dickens infers, there are seasons of light and seasons of darkness for us all, but it is ours to determine which will dominate our lives personally. The moral of the story is that amid our personal “winters of despair” we may need a reminder to “lighten up” a little. Playfulness is a very underrated activity for keeping our lives in balance.
Perhaps Dickens’ quote puts the question, are we having fun yet, in a new light. Here we are, two years into a devastating Covid pandemic that, for good reason, we could interpret as a dark time for many of us. It’s difficult not to take a pandemic serious; it has altered countless lives in a multitude of ways and we should not minimize this. While many of us have regained our balance and momentum, many others have not. Asking, are we having fun yet, may seem risky and perhaps offensive because there has been so much pain and loss for so many people. Perhaps the question needs to be put into the proper context. If we are at all mindful, this is when our compassion, sympathy, and empathy become the connective tissue, enabling a shift in perspective and perception. When we adjust the altitude of our attitude, it allows us to witness the drama—doing what we can—while remembering “this too (whatever it is) shall pass.” We know this is true because it always has and always will.
Serious-itis: A Very Contagious Dis-ease
It seems we have placed being playful on a shelf until later when things are “better.” Now, this day, this moment, is as good as it gets.
When we forget to make playfulness a normal part of our daily lives, we become like extras who just wandered off of the movie set of The Walking Dead—sort of gnarly, grumpy, numb, insensitive, and all zombie-like. You can see them in the grocery store, on the freeway and, maybe, in your own home; they appear to be physically alive but seriously dead in spirit. Irrespective of where we find them, there is not a playful one in the bunch; they go through their day helpless and hopeless, overwhelmed by limiting conditions they believe are beyond their control. Many of them seem to be infected with a “serious” disease—and I don’t mean the Covid virus, but a more undetectable dis-ease known as “serious-itis”; a dis-ease (lack-of-ease) affecting the altitude of one’s attitude, which distorts one’s perception of a life worth living in the present moment. The problem we all face is that being too “serious” too much of the time can easily become a lifestyle that spawns and spreads this communicable “dis-ease.” The point is, your attitude is contagious.
Check In With Your Joy Meter
“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different.”
― Oscar Wilde
You can personalize Oscar Wilde’s statement by asking yourself if you have recently been taking things overtly serious. Your answer really can affect history—especially your own as you move forward. And, as Dickens inferred, with all that is happening in our world, it is easy to lose sight of the light and get lost in the darkness. The good news is, it’s also easy to gage where you land on the light/darkness spectrum: Just monitor your joy-meter—which operates directly from your heart only in the present moment—and you’ll know. Ask yourself the following seven questions—and pay attention to your emotions because they will not lie:
- Am I having fun now—or am I waiting for things to get better?
- Am I thriving now—or merely surviving?
- Do I laugh or smile less now than I used to?
- Am I more easily moved to anger, resentment, depression, frustration, and judgement now than I used to be?
- Do I display less patience now than I used to?
- Am I allowing outer conditions, circumstances, and other people to determine my inner feelings and emotions now?
- Does my sense of spirituality now seem less alive?
If you get even a subtle “yes” it may be because your mind is preoccupied with a “serious” problem that drags you out of the present now moment. Because of the ongoing drama trauma of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to want to end, having fun now is MIA. The result is an aberrant amount of stress lingering in the air for many of us. This form of stress has a mind-numbing effect which creates apathy and depression because it casts our minds into the future (or the past) where we have no business hanging out. Could it be affecting you without your awareness? People who are easy-going are not as playful, as joyful, as they used to be, and that is a sad commentary about usually optimistic people—myself included. When I am feeling overly stressed, depressed, and repressed, it suppresses any form of playfulness and my life becomes a mess. The practice of a lifetime is learning how to remain playful in even the most challenging of times because having fun places you in the now. Notice, when you are having fun, the future and the past disappear because you have transcended time; you have become one with the experience you are having in the present moment.
Stress Is Your Call to Lighten Up
When we are too serious, too much of the time, it can become a stressful habit—and that is a problem. Fear-driven stress wears us all down; it is a surefire sign that playfulness has “left the building” and fear and doubt have transcended logic and muffled the subtle—but ever-present—voice of love and trust. The bottom line is, when serious-itis runs rampant for any of us, we become more difficult to be around because nobody likes a wet blanket continually thrown on their happy dance. If any of this resonates with you, this may be your call to take a deep breath, smile, and lighten up a bit. This crucial thread of wisdom invites us to be mindful and hit the pause button and drill down deeper into the “what is” in the present moment.
It is only in the sacred moment of NOW that we shall discover the link between Life as a principle, and life as a verb.
Being fully alive is the application of the principle we personalize; it happens when we merge our being with our doing. When you hear the question “Are you having fun yet” where does your mind go? Usually, it is an inference by whomever is asking that they are not having fun. It implies they not enjoying the moment, and that they would rather be somewhere (anywhere) else, doing something (anything) else. We have to be mindful of the signals we send to the Universe because it is always listening and it can’t take a joke. We may end up with a chronic case of serious-itis.
The Take Away
Spiritually speaking, we know that life is eternal and yet—at the human level—no one gets out alive. While this is a pithy double entendre, which requires a big-picture perspective, the sentiment is nonetheless accurate. Life seems to go on with or without us. It’s a matter of checking the altitude of our attitude and making a conscious choice to stay engaged in the forward flow of life when the temptation may be to withdraw. Our life in a human skin has an expiration date and we must continue to ask ourselves if we are spending our time wisely. This is precisely why making intentional time for fun and play is so propitious now. The wonder of playfulness connects us to the present moment. If you are like me, when you get emotionally stuck in a “serious” rut, it becomes your primary point of focus. When that happens, playfulness gets thrown under the preverbal bus, dragging us behind it without our awareness it’s even happening.
Practicing equanimity is the exquisite art of balancing our humanity with our divinity; it is the conscious, intentional, interaction and integration of spirit, mind, and body in the present moment. This requires emotional and physical awareness; it’s mastering the skill of taking what is happening in life in the present moment serious when necessary, while NOT taking ourselves too serious. In challenging times, it is easy for that line to become blurred because we get spiritual amnesia—we forget who we are and why we are here.
When we become over-the-top serious about anything, a part of our soul withers and withdraws from the present moment because it thrives on reverence, ebullience, joy, optimism, passion, and playfulness. Your soul came here to expand, play and enjoy splashing in the cosmic pool of life; are you honoring its mission? The practice is to remain self-aware enough to raise the altitude of your attitude when you catch yourself in a “serious” nosedive.
So, the next time someone asks if you are having fun yet consider replying, “I was born to play and have fun.” That is a delightful truth that will set you free in ways you can’t even imagine.