This Is Fun?

Swing it, Sista!

This past summer we went to the local Exposition, or, as I like to quaintly call it, the fair. Oooo, I used to love the fair as a teenager. I used to actually enjoy crazy rides like the Kamikaze. Most of these rides have new names now, and the rides are even crazier. Guess I’m getting old.

One of my favorites has always been the swings. This is not a crazy ride. I find it quite soothing, actually, spinning around a little faster, a little higher, than usual. It’s a perfect place to people watch.

Well, at the fair last summer were some swings, but they were, shall we say, elevated. I thought, Cool! Higher up, more to see! We climbed on. My son Theo was sitting beside me, having a blast. The old and responsible person inside of me took over my body and apologized profusely in my head, over and over, to my eight year old son for ever suggesting this. It was terrifying. So fast I could barely breath, so high I could barely blink. Good times.

A week or two ago we had a glorious snow day. I love snow days. Most days I feel trapped in my house, in my schedule, in life just a bit, but on snow days, for reasons I cannot define, I love being trapped in my house. The idea that I couldn’t go anywhere even if I wanted to opens up possibilities for play and even some work I might often put off (cleaning out the Pit of Despair, for one, which is what we call our basement storage area). This last snow day was perfect in that it wasn’t too cold, wasn’t windy at all, there was just enough snow to consider travel dangerous. So we decided to go sledding.

Back behind our house are some woods, and a creek, and a little bridge over the creek, then some more woods with a climb that is steep and slippy, even without the fat flakes of fresh snow. And once you make it through that charming gauntlet, which I often stare at while smiling serenely through a cup of steaming coffee in the morning, but rarely venture into, there is a park. With a perfect sledding hill. We decided in the morning we would head out after lunch. After lunch, we decided we would take naps, and then head out after naps. After napping I woke up with a sense of worry. Would we be able to make it through the snow? Would it be too hard to carry Chloe, who does not walk, up the hills and down again? Would it be safe?  Maybe I would drive with Chloe, and meet them over there.

“I’m thinking of chickening out,” I confessed to my husband, Sean.

“No!” he and our son, Theo, exclaimed together.

I was split in two. I really wanted to go, to take Chloe, who loves sledding, to spend time with Sean and Theo, to have a small adventure as a family. But I was hesitant, plain and simple. I imagined us getting all of our gear on (what Theo calls “blubber”) and getting out there, only to have Chloe get upset, and have to come home. This fear was actually based on a past experience. Really, I could have come up with a million reasons not to go. I sucked it up. We went. We had fun. I put off sledding down the hill at first, because I was nervous. When did I turn into this lady? When did I get so fearful?

I’m going to wax philosophical here for a moment. Won’t you join me? First we’ll wax on, then we’ll wax off.

Being a grown-up just womps. We spend our whole lives waiting for the chance to do whatever we want, then, when we have the capability, we trade it in, for fear, for a sense of duty (some might call this “maturity”), for cynicism, for apathy, even. And we wonder why, at the end of the day, we are sucked dry. I think I would be a dull and pitiful person if I didn’t have kids to let loose with every now and then, but what is it that makes me reserve my fun for the kids?

When I was a kid, I used to relish each writing assignment. It was my favorite part of school. As a teenager, I would stay up way past everyone else in the family, light some candles on my little writing desk, and go to town, writing until I was done, through aches and pains and sleepiness, write until I was spent, with no promise of publishing, no place for all these words to go except onto the page. I loved it.

Going to college made me a better writer, but a cynical one. The refrain was this: “You need to do this to get published, but you’ll probably never get published.” Pick up a magazine for writers, you’ll hear the same refrain. I wanted to someday be published. So I did what I was told. I got better, for certain, more polished. But I started to wonder at the point of it all. The joy of writing had been traded for the duty, or to push it even deeper, the guilt whenever I didn’t write, or when I wrote and it wasn’t so good. Yay for growing up! Huzzah for soul-sucking maturity!

I want to get back to a place where writing is more like sledding, or a carnival ride. I want to strap myself in, with no promise of reward or recognition at the end, despite my fear, and let my heart drop out of my chest, let my innards get all soupy, and then, when the ride is over, I want to push myself back from the desk with a resounding BOO-YA, and plans to try and contain myself until I can jump on the ride again. Maybe I’ll just sit in my desk chair and spin around a few times, fast as I can, in an attempt to get started.

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