Going back for the 35 year reunion of the Girl Scout camp I attended as a kid and worked at for three years after college reminded me of how much that job embraced play in all its myriad forms. We sang before meals, after meals, during meals, while washing the dishes (about washing the dishes) and made games out of so many of the tasks that had to get done everyday. When we weren’t doing that, we were sailing, windsurfing, paddling canoes and kayaks, swimming, playing games in the field, hiking, climbing on cargo nets, challenging ourselves on the ropes course, spelunking, rock climbing, riding on the pontoon boat, or playing rainy day games (mostly involving singing – again). For special occasions, we had all-camps, themed fun days in which all the units at camp came together in a carnival like atmosphere for more games and competitions and food. We read Winnie the Pooh at bedtime and ate themed snacks to go along with the book. We went on overnight adventures across the lake in sailboats or canoes and made creative meals over the campfire. It was so much fun!
I loved that job for a variety of reasons. It kept me in shape as we were always active and outdoors every minute of the day (even sleeping in our screened-in cabins or platform tents without electricity). It introduced me to new friends from around the world (as the camp always welcomed a handful of international staff), and around the country. It helped me learn so many new skills, and develop confidence – the same thing it did for the campers who attended and often later became staff members themselves. It was exhausting, emotional, sometimes trying (to put up with sunburn and bug bites and snakes in your cabin), often cheesy and always, always loads of FUN!
I was talking with a coaching client recently about fun and play and sweetness in her life. She has recently finished cancer treatment and is in the midst of a bilateral mastectomy, and trying to find her “new normal” among so many changes in her life. Her old ways of being aren’t serving her now – extreme athlete, overachiever – and she is struggling to reconnect with her body, which isn’t working in quite the same way as it did before on a number of levels. This post-treatment, now what? phase of cancer can often be the most difficult emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.
It is when your support system who saw you through treatment often high-five you, give congratulations for making it through the worst and return attention to their own lives, leaving you to resume yours. But resuming often isn’t possible, and re-creation is necessary. New fears, limitations, and obstacles are front and center, but new insights, perspectives and appreciations are present too that can lead you to create a life that brings you more connection, passion and, yes, even a level of playfulness that you didn’t have before. I love serving as a survivorship guide and helping people discover this new version of themselves.
Our discussion about cultivating play, fun, joy and sweetness led us both to recognize that we often reserve those things for certain places or times – the weekend, our cabin in the mountains, or for me, the closest approximation of my camp experience – on multiday river trips. So my challenge to my client, to myself and now to you is to find ways to incorporate play, laughter, sweetness, self-care, delight, joy and FUN into each day, not to save it all up for those special times away, for certain places or crazy groups of friends. September is gynecologic cancer awareness month, and in honor of that, I vow to seek fun, play, joy and laughter everyday and I will share what I’m experiencing on my Facebook page. I challenge you to do the same, and share your discoveries as well. What is possible when we find fun and rediscover play in our daily lives? I can’t wait to hear all about it