Creating inviting spaces has been a delight for me for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I used to spend hours on Barbie’s dream home. But it wasn’t the store-bought house that I played with. I used corners of my bedroom floor or the bookshelves behind the door to design apartments for my people. The plastic version of home was not at all comfortable and was exactly the same as everyone else’s. And where was the joy in a cookie cutter lifestyle?
With imagination flowing, books covered in washcloths became beds while gently folded tissues were the pillows. Sofas and chairs were more difficult to build out of tissue boxes and such, but I figured, if bean bags were legitimate furniture in the real world, Barbie and her friends could handle a few oddities too.
Rarely did I ever actually play with the dolls. By the time the elaborate home was constructed, my creative juices were entertained, and I was not interested in holding make-believe conversations.
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW
As a middle-aged woman, I still love setting beautiful spaces. I’ve recognized a similarity to my doll house years in the energy I give to setting the table for special occasions, planning holiday gatherings or seasonal redecorating. These activities are like play to me.
Recently an opportunity came up to partake in a remodel project. When I saw the space, my heart went pitter-patter, and my mind went buzzing into action. I felt like that kid who went hunting through linen closets in search of the right materials for Barbie’s Shangri-la.
Surprisingly however, an inner conversation began, one harking tones of shame-on-you and grow-up little girl. I felt embarrassed and guilty for the happiness that was bubbling within me over this fixer upper. What was that all about? Why was I squelching my joy?
Within me practicality was wrestling against dreaming. The parental tone was saying to the child in me, “You cannot rely on fun, what’s going to pay the bills?”
I remember a conversation with my father years ago that ran along these lines. Late into my teens, I was actively preparing for the future ahead. I have a clear memory of sitting at the dining table with him and absorbing the pragmatic lesson. Back then it felt like sound advice, but today I suspect my dad grieved his own dreams. Over my childhood I’d noticed that he stopped playing ball and rarely got together with friends. When did he play? Where was his laugh?
Life is full of the unexpected, much of it has felt like loss. Like my dad, I have grieved some childhood dreams, but the answer to grief is not to dream less. That is fear. And we are commanded by God to fear not.
LETTING THE PAST GO
This may be my opportunity to play house and be that child once again. And this time, the voice of fear is getting my snub. I want to be creative and take joy in the process. I see this imaginative way as being a somewhat like the image of God shown in Genesis, where the Creator designs and then calls it good.
Retirement holds the potential of being the resurrection of the child in me who laughs and loves freely. Releasing the binds of practicality for the beauty of possibility.
As I begin to focus on being more creative, judgement is a non-option. I’m giving myself permission to go crazy, like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia, enjoying the process and not just the end product. Watching a little kid enjoy himself is itself a delight. And I can’t help but think God desires for us to be liberally giddy.
If you’re like me, a little heavy on the cerebral and hesitant in fribble (isn’t that a fun word!), consider using your day of rest as a play day. Revisit the activities that brought you happiness in childhood and give them another go. Maybe you loved riding your bicycle or blowing bubbles. Perhaps you sought mystery, plinked on a keyboard, or smashed rocks. There’s laughter to be found in these things. And laughter is a release of a joy filled spirit!
The further I walk on the path of my life, the more I cherish simple things that bring big smiles. Maybe this is what mid-lifers do…second guess how seriously they took themselves and their responsibilities. Perhaps a couple years of pandemic has increased the margins of my curiosity in spending time differently. It’s also possible that practicing Sabbath has pushed me towards appreciating the value of hobbies and free time. Whatever brought me into this desire to explore and dream again, I am grateful.
Let recess begin!