Monday, December 10, 2012

Rediscover your sense of whimsy

From Sept. 22, 2007

While cleaning out a desk drawer in my office on Wednesday, I came across a package of crayons, a box of 16 with a few colors missing and one or two half-melted crayons. A wave of nostalgia swept over me, for the days when a coloring book and a box of crayons could keep me happily occupied.

In my childhood, the biggest box of crayons I ever owned was a 64-pack. I always coveted the 96-crayon box, so when it came time to buy my son his first box of crayons, that is the size I purchased. Now that my son is in middle school, crayons have dropped off the list of school supplies needed. Scented markers were apparently never “cool” for a boy to have, so I haven’t had fun with those since I was in elementary school.
My son has been the recipient of a lot of toys and gadgets that remind me of my youth. While someone can never be too old for Play-Doh, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him use it. Opening a can for that distinctive, familiar smell and squishing and rolling it around in your hands is soothing, better for you than squeezing a stress ball. Silly Putty works too.
Last Christmas I found a metal Slinky in my stocking, a joke from my sister to replace one she had bent out of shape years ago. It found a home in my son’s room. Most card games can be found on computers today, but I still have a few packs of cards around. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing games like War, Old Maid, Go Fish, and variations of solitaire, our favorite being clock solitaire. Rubik’s Cube was big in my childhood, but I could never solve it. My son has one, and we still haven’t lined the colors back up.
What I could use was the Rubik’s Snake, which could be contorted into lots of shapes like a dog, a duck, a swan, a telephone, and various gun shapes. My specialty is the ball, which I can still create in less than 20 seconds, even if blindfolded or holding the Rubik’s Snake behind my back.
I once loved building blocks, especially Legos, so naturally my son has tubs of them. Sadly, I seem to have outgrown building fanciful structures and cars with blocks. Instead the blocks bring out my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and I find myself compelled to sort them into piles by size, shape and color. My son finds this habit useful when he’s picking up his blocks.
From time to time, I think we need a little play therapy, an escape from reality back to pursuits that made us happy. We need to embrace our sense of whimsy, and take delight in simple pleasures, like coloring or playing with childhood toys and gadgets. If there’s a bottle of white glue handy, you can rub some glue onto your fingertips, let it dry and then peel off your fingerprints.
It’s just as important to take a nature time-out and watch butterflies, hummingbirds or fireflies, or lay back and stare up at the sky, watching for falling stars or trying to spot shapes in the clouds. I don’t do it often enough, but it’s fun to spin until I’m dizzy and then try to run. It usually ends with me collapsing on the ground in a fit of giggles.
I think brainstorming meetings would be more productive and creative if the first five or 10-minutes was spent coloring, playing with play dough or clay or even tying up long strands of yarn or string to play cat’s cradle.
Last fall, I tucked away a few fallen leaves I picked up during a walk, to have a reminder of my favorite season when winter seems to drag on. One leaf remains after a year, and it has been sitting on my desk. On a whim, I pulled out a crisp sheet of white paper, dug into the rediscovered box of crayons, picking out autumn colors, and made leaf rubbings. In a few minutes I was done, but the sense of peace and calm I enjoyed afterwards lasted much longer. It fired the creative spark that made this column easy to write.
Find a way to recapture your sense of whimsy, taking delight in the small moments that make life magical. Remember the importance of play, even if it is just for five minutes.

No comments: