Archive for the ‘LEARNING TO PLAY’ Category


January 1, 2010

As a child, I have few memories of playing. My perception of myself was always of being serious, an old man in a young body. (I seem to recall T.S. Eliot having some similar perception of himself, bringing criticism from the establishment for calling himself an aged eagle at age 21 or some such.)  I have very few memories of early childhood, either good or bad.

Part of this may have stemmed from the death of my father at age 3½ from suicide and, being older than my sister, having to become the “man of the house.” When my mother remarried some 4 years later, my new step-father turned out to be an alcoholic and wife-abuser. (My mother was his 2nd wife, and his 3rd shot him in the back and ended up living with him till his death.)

I remember being a loner, immersing myself in academics and reading fantasy. I had few friends and was a “nerd” before the term was coined. I remember wishing I could be grown up, always wanting to be in on adult conversations, and disliking being forced to stay outside to play in the yard.

My first marriage was by and large a serious matter. My wife Iris was paraplegic, having had a spinal injury at age 22 months and being confined to a wheelchair with no movement or feeling in her legs. She was 4 years older than I—we married when I was 21 and she was 25. I had just finished my MA, taking exams the week I turned 21.

I worked at being an electrician, and we had a couple of kids, but most of the time our focus was on serious matters—work, family, church. Occasionally there was play, but it was almost incidental, certainly not a focus.

When she died after 25 years of marriage and I began to get serious about Diane over the internet, I actually asked her to marry me sight-unseen. I remember talking to my pastor in a roundabout and indirect way about beginning to date again. When he said that would be OK, just not to get serious too quickly, I retorted, “Bill, you don’t understand—dating for me was always serious. I would never date anyone who wasn’t a potential mate, and the sole purpose I see in dating is to find a mate!”

When we married (7 months to the day after my first wife died) Diane had her work cut out for her. In building my electrical business, I had become a workaholic, and work interfered with our marriage. I carried a pager as well as a cell phone, and it took her several years to rid me of the pager. Work always came first. In the first 3 years of our marriage, we built a huge house, I took a church-related leadership course (VLI—Vineyard Leadership Institute, a 7-quarter period requiring 20 hours per week for 10 weeks of each quarter), and maintained the electrical business.

In our wedding vows, Diane and I pledged to try to make each other laugh every day. Learning to do that has been a growing process, and not always an easy one. We often laugh over mistakes we’ve made over the years—like when I told her to get on the back of the jet ski at the dock, and we both went into the water without leaving the dock. We have a lot of fun with our kids and grandkids, hers and mine, and love playing jokes on each other.

We find it easier to play when we go off for a weekend jaunt or a vacation, getting away from the stress of everyday life. After we built the house and finished VLI, we took a 2-week vacation, the first in either of our lives. We experienced a joy in playing we had never known. Though our play is not physical—we’re both in our mid-50’s and neither very physically active in sports, etc.—we do “work at” learning to play as a focus, and it is still a priority.

Having enough to meet our needs can be done by increasing income or by decreasing expenses. One of our current goals is to sell our home and get ourselves back into a situation of less debt load, in order to free ourselves up to play and enjoy life more. When Diane and I first married, we owed very little on our house and, looking back, were better able to make it on less income and enjoy it more. As I’ve counseled with mentors about my life and my work goals, I’ve realized that “going for the gold” may not be the best choice for me. I’m more ready to wind it down, relax, have fun, and really focus on learning to play.

(originally written January 29, 2008)