Posted by: gaylejervis | February 22, 2010


My grandson fell asleep sitting in his high chair while his Auntie Kristen was having lunch with us.  When he woke, he immediately began looking for her and I told him that she had to go back to work.  He proceeded to list all of his loved ones, saying,  “Uncle Dave:  work, Auntie Kristen: work; Grandpa: work; Daddy: work – well you get the idea!  I said, “Yes, but you and I get to play.”  Well, ,l I don’t think he was really satisfied with that answer since last week when he was here, he responded to my question, “Jackson, what are you doing?” by telling me, as he was stacking my coasters into a bowl,  ”Jackson, working.”

I feel rather sad how all of us have inadvertently made this two year old believe that work is more important than play.  For all of my adult life, I have chosen work over play since I had the false belief that there would be time for play once all of the jobs were completed.  I know that often we can incorporate play into our work but according to the author Lenore Terr who wrote the book, Beyond Love and Work, “We know we are playing when we are suddenly removed from all cares and worries.  We know because afterward we feel cleansed and refreshed, despite our tired bodies, our aching muscles, our sleepiness.  The interlude has been a healthy one.  It takes place entirely outside, or at the very edge of, our drive for personal success or survival. Play is disinterested, removed.”  (28) Our work doesn’t always give us those results!

Last evening Greg and I were watching the Olympics that as a non-sports fan, I was surprisingly enjoying.  Even though Lenore Terr advocates that most play needs to be active, she does concede that watching a sports game can qualify as play when “our minds have been emptied of pressing concerns.”   I could have experienced that if I had given myself permission to just stop.  However, even though I have all of the symptoms for anemia, I decided these past few days that I should freeze some extra meals that we will have when I come home from my surgery.  Yesterday, due to a lot of weakness and lightheadedness, this project of cooking a couple of meals became quite a huge and long undertaking.  Due to so many rests in between it took me all day!  Finally, by evening after I sat using oxygen, I decided Iwas ready to put the two meals in containers, label them and freeze them.  Rather than just sitting and enjoying the skating, I proceeded to do this while I tried to watch a little of the skating on the television in the family room while I was in the kitchen.!  Needless to say, my mind was not “emptied of pressing concerns”!

This morning as I was reading the beautifully illustrated picture book called The Rooster Grows, I was struck by the artists’ understanding of play.  The pictures are not just sketches or caricatures but they are real looking animals and people who are engaged in something wonderfully nonsensical and fun.  Then I learned that one of the artists, Maud Petersham began this project of recording rhymes and jingles when her husband was a soldier in World War 2.  She would often lay awake at night worrying about his safety and so she began recalling all of the rhymes and jingles she knew to help her relax and fall asleep.  In the morning, she would write them down and when her husband Miska came home from the war, together they illustrated the book that later received the 1946 Caldecott Medal.       Not only does this book remind us of the virtues of play, and how we don’t always have to focus on results, meaning, and accomplishmentS, how she used play to keep herself  relaxed is a powerful testimony to the importance of play!

Yes, I know that work is also important but it is rather interesting that more and more firms are using toys to promote creativity and to lessen stress.  Lenore Terr writes, “ Because work and play are not the direct opposites that people have traditionally thought, toys and pleasurable gadgets can be used to advantage in business and professional settings.”  (225)

I believe that chronic illness makes it even more difficult to practice play.  Over the years I have used my “up” time to catch up on laundry, paying bills, sorting through papers and cooking.  I never know if today is as good as it gets and therefore I had better use this day for any jobs that need to be done.   And yet, even though I have been experiencing a lot of setbacks this new year,  if  I am seriously intending to maximize my healing environment, I need to see play as a necessary component particularly for its relaxing benefits.   For my grandson, I think I could teach him a rather appropriate jingle,  “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. However, I think I should add one more line,  “All work and no play make Grandma a sick woman.”


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