“Do you think it’s too late for me to become a fun person?” I called out to Brad from my perch on the sunroom loveseat.
“That’s a really un-fun question to ask!” Brad called back from the kitchen. His answer made me laugh, but my question was a serious one. I wanted to know: is it possible for a person – for me – to learn how to have fun?
This past September my 14-year-old son Rowan and I drove to the sprawling Lancaster Event Center to attend the Lincoln City Library’s annual used book sale. I’d marked the sale on our family calendar months before, and we’d been anticipating it for weeks, eager to see what literary treasures we would uncover among the thousands of books.
“Now don’t get your hopes up,” I cautioned Rowan as we wound our way through the packed parking lot, recyclable grocery bags tucked under our arms. “The sale started two days ago, so the selection is probably pretty picked over by now. I don’t know if there’ll be anything good left.”
I continued along in this vein for a few more seconds until Rowan interrupted me. “Geez, you really know how to suck the fun out of everything, don’t you?” he huffed.
I stopped walking. “Wait, what? What are you even talking about? I’m fun! I love fun! I’m way more fun than Dad! [When in doubt, always throw the other parent under the bus, right?] I absolutely do not ‘suck the fun’ out of everything!”
Rowan and I each left the library sale that morning with a hefty bag full of books. But weeks later, I was still thinking about his accusation. Do I suck the fun out of everything? Am I the nail-biting, naysaying, fretting fish to Rowan’s exuberant, fun-loving Cat in the Hat?
Do I even truly know how to have fun?
Lately I can’t help but wonder if perhaps I’ve camped out a bit too long (read: my whole life) in the realm of responsibility, rule-following and routine at the expense of spontaneity, creativity and fun.
Being responsible and fulfilling obligations are very good habits, to be sure. But I’m beginning to realize that responsibility can also be a cleverly disguised means of self-protection. Keeping on task, meeting deadlines and ticking items off a never-ending to-do list are all ways I attempt to maintain control over my life. After all, if I’m in control, nothing bad can happen, right? While I know this equation is deeply flawed, I still often live like it’s the truth.
The same can be said for my tendency to manage expectations. Entering into an experience with rock-bottom expectations is one of the ways I try to protect myself (and those I love) from disappointment. The trouble with this attempt at self-protection, though, is that not only is it not failsafe, it can also detract from and dilute the experience itself (or, as Rowan so succinctly stated, it “sucks the fun out of everything.”).
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working through the Cultivate What Matters 2020 Goal Planner – considering where I’ve been, who I am and who I might want to become. One of the six goals I’ve identified for this coming year is to have more fun.
It feels ridiculous to admit that here, and it felt ridiculous to pen it into my planner as an actual goal. It seems frivolous and more than a little silly. I mean, this is my big issue…to have more fun? Woe is me, right?
And yet, while I know it’s a privilege to have the means to focus on fun, I also believe that having fun is important because it’s one of the ways we live most fully as God intended. I believe God created us to be responsible and productive, but I also believe he created us to be playful, creative and fun-loving – full of joie de vivre, the joy of living, as the French say. Having fun is one of the many ways we come alive.
I don’t want to ditch my responsible, dutiful, rule-following nature entirely, but I do want to embrace a more open, curious, creative, whole way of living, which means nurturing and growing the parts of myself that have lain dormant for a good long while.
I suspect there are as many definitions and iterations of fun as there are people on this planet, but the truth is, I don’t really know what having fun looks like for me in this season of my life…which is exactly why I’ve kicked my frivolity-shame to the curb and made “have more fun” a goal for 2020.
And as the mom of the kid whose favorite question just a few years ago was, “What fun thing are we doing next?”, I am glad to have a fun mentor living right under my own roof.