So, here’s my latest confession: I am not good at fun. Really. I’m great at work- any kind, all kinds. I
practically run toward those situations (inner or outer) that have any kind of roll-up-you-sleeves-and-get-
in-there requirement. But I’m not good at fun- at hanging out without any kind of plan or agenda or
meaningful conversation. I get testy when people (usually those close to me) tell me I “should just
relax.” Attending a workshop years ago, I felt my anxiety rise when directed to spend an evening “just
playing” with movement. (Had I been told to dance I would have been fine, but the “p” word put me off.)
Recently someone sent me an email suggesting that developing hobbies would be a good way to deal
with the stress of my current marital break-up. I bristled. I don’t do hobbies.
There are of course, lots of reasons for all of this, and it’s hard to separate nature from nurture in my
family background. We were the poster children for the Protestant Work Ethic. To this day my parents,
now in their seventies, love to put in a full day of rigorous work around the house. Once, when I was
imploring my father to slow down a little, he told me he would rather wear out than rust out. When I
was a child we spent our holidays camping at provincial parks in Ontario. My mother brought along a
child-sized gardening kit (small, so it could be packed easily) so she could rake-up the leaves and twigs
and other “debris” around the campsite. My father wasn’t really happy until he’d split a cord of wood
for our use and left a neat stack for the campers who came after us. They both just shook their heads at
a fellow camper who built a fire with gasoline soaked twigs and proceeded to sit in his lawn chair and
used the toe of his boot to gradually push the end of a whole uncut log into the flames.
You can see how my work and play wires might have gotten crossed. Along with this, my basic
personality was (and remains) pretty serious. Even as a child, I liked serious questions, serious dilemmas,
serious efforts. There is of course an upside to this: much of what I do for work (writing, reading,
studying, group facilitation, counselling and spiritual direction etc.) is truly what I enjoy. My work, in
some ways is my fun. Given my upbringing and personality, choosing work I enjoy may have been a pre-
emptive (albeit largely unconscious) move to ensure I’d have some fun.
But there’s a downside to this also. If you turn everything you enjoy into work you can become good at,
offer to the world and maybe even get paid for, you can end up always working. So, while lots of folks
have to ask themselves what they would love to do if they could get paid for what they love to do, I
need to ask: what do I enjoy that has absolutely no chance of being shaped into meaningful or income-
At this point it’s a very short list. Recently my sons introduced me to the computer game Rock Band- the
Beatles version (since, as they put it- the songs, like me, are “old” so I know them.) Now playing
computer game drums, guitar or singing with two people you love and enjoy (one of whom has
absolutely no sense of rhythm) can be a lot of fun. As I sing “Hard Day’s Night” or miss a beat on the
drums for “Yellow Submarine” it’s impossible not to laugh. Fun- pure enjoyment with no other
redeeming features, no prospects of being turned into meaningful-contribution-to-the-world work.
Why am I concerned with learning to have fun? Because life is too short to always be working, even if
your work is enjoyable. Because the human mind, heart, body and spirit needs fun, needs some silly
time if it is to truly rest, rejuvenate and regain perspective on what matters. Silliness heals. Play protects
us from taking ourselves too seriously. Of course, knowing this, I am tempted to say I am working on
having fun, learning how to play, and practicing silliness. Maybe I could teach a workshop on silliness!
Sigh. Old habits die hard.