Play. Have we forgotten what this word means? We certainly know what work means, but what about play? Our typical day involves mass quantities of many things, but playtime is not usually one of them. Between climbing the corporate ladder, pressure to perform and live up to everyone else’s standards, caretaking, achieving some sort of fame, and trying to cram as many tasks as possible into one 24 hour period, we are great at hitting the ground running, but it’s usually in the direction of some sort of electronic rather than out in nature. Heck, we can’t even go to the toilet without our smartphone. And yet, deep within, there is a longing…a longing for nature and playing in it.
Yet still, we find ourselves multi-tasking, checking our Facebook feeds while talking on the phone, and texting and driving with voice apps, standing in line at the grocery store while paying our bills online, and even surfing the web while feeding the kids. It’s as if we can’t seem to do one thing at a time any more, and it’s as if electronic stimulation as become our new drug of choice.
And in the midst of all the work, productivity, multi-tasking, and busyness, we somehow seem to feel we can’t get anything accomplished. Too many irons in the fires of life, leaving us devoting just 10% to everything we have our hands in, rather than 100% to the one thing we really love.
Studies have shown that we are more over-worked, moreover-stimulated with stress and anxiety than ever before, and have more sleep problems and depression problems than ever before. Because of it, we are also more dis-eased than ever before with heart issues, diabetes, and even cancer. While we put work at the forefront of our minds and lives, our health and happiness takes a back seat to what successes we think will make us happy in the long-run.
We think that zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a long day with a beer or a glass of wine is our play and relaxation time, but yet if we really think about it, is it really what we desire? Is it really soothing our inner calling? Is it pure pleasure or just a way of escape from the harshness of the day.
We “Like” Facebook images of serene beach scenes, and extravagant SUP shots of far away places. We daydream about that summer where we camped out under the stars. We ask for the window seat on the airplane so we can see the scenery. We want the corner office with the windows on both sides. Just seeing an image of a whale or a dolphin invokes a feeling of happiness and peace. Why? What are we longing for? It’s the call of nature. The call to connect to that from which you were intended for. The call of the wild to be wild and free and get out and play. And it sings to us, even from our tropical screensaver.
Humans by nature were not designed for corner offices, treadmill desks, webinars, smartphone games, and drive-thru fake chemically laden fast food. The home screen image on our iPhone of a sunset over a calm lake is nice, but doesn’t do it for us. Humans were designed for hikes amongst evergreens, walk outside instead of on a machine, talk face to face with those they love, play outside with grass between our toes, or water splashing around us, and we were made for pleasurable, real food made with love by hands who love. This is pleasure. This is what we are longing for. This is what we inevitably all want, yet are confused by societal pressures as to how to attain it. This is why stand up paddling is one of the best ways to naturally experience it.
In the land of SUP-lovers, who amongst us hasn’t hopped off their board after a nice long paddle with a new sense of stress-free exuberance? Who amongst us hasn’t left the water and bragged to all our friends about what an amazing day it was being out in nature in the sunshine? Who amongst us felt stress and anxiety melt away while paddling against mangroves or along a calm riverbank? And who amongst forgot about the meetings, the emails, the honey-do list, and the errands when sitting on our SUP watching the sun go down?
The experience of paddling next a dolphin, a blue heron, paddling towards a sunset, hearing the splash of a fish nearby, or the spout of whale leaves us beaming with smiles and finds us taking in a deep breath of calm. Hearing the sound of the water slap against the board, and breeze move through your hair, and your paddle glide through the water causes “the hamster wheel of thoughts” to dissipate and you begin to connect with YOU – the real YOU. The YOU who loves outside, and who loves water, and is passionate, and creative, and open to new possibilities and has child-like wonder. The playful you. SUP takes you there. SUP helps you find the real YOU without any online quiz or fancy new app whatsoever.
It’s what I call “Vitamin P” – Pleasure, Passion, Purpose, and Play. (And Paddling). And it’s something you are seeking without even realizing it. That inner ball of tension you feel day in and day out…that chronic anxiety…the burning desire for more…the “something is missing” feeling…and that foggy brain is not looking for a beer at the end of the day to numb you out, or that smartphone game to help you not think, or that TV show that helps you escape. Those feelings are the desire for purpose, passion, and play, and with Stand up paddling you can experience all of those.
Going back to the definition of play and what it is: it’s essentially the freedom to quit. The ability to stop the seriousness and just frolic. That’s a good word for it. When’s the last time you “froliced”? When’s the last time you just stopped, put down what you were doing, grabbed your board and hit the water? “I have too much to do,” you say? That’s precisely when you need to quit doing what you are doing and frolic and play. We were not designed for “too much to do” or “too many irons in the fire” or “too much on our plate”. We were designed for a fine balance of work and play, where we work to earn a living, and then enjoy creation and the gifts that await us out in it, in our spare time. You won’t find these gifts in your Facebook feed, or on your favorite television show. You will only find the balance when you balance non-nature activities with nature. And what better what to find the balance (both literally and figuratively) than with SUP.
So if your board is getting a little dusty this time of year because you are too busy with the busy-ness of the season, it’s time to quit what you are doing, grab your board and go outside. Make a resolution to play and to seek pleasure. Find water, find sunshine, leave your electronics behind, and go explore to experience happiness like never before. You never regretted any other paddle session you’ve had before so what makes you think you will regret this one. It’s time for pleasure, passion, purpose…essentially the Vitamin P you are lacking.
How many mornings have you awoken to a sense of dread at how much you had to do that day? There’s so much “have to’s” in our lives, yet where are all the “want to’s”? What happened to that sunny, excited child you used to be who bounded out of bed to slam into the day full speed with passion for what lie ahead and all the many things he would do with his imagination running wild?
He became an adult and took on the stressors of society? Well, it’s time to go pick that kid up from adult day camp and take him out for ice cream and a SUP session and remind him how good it feels to engage in some “want to’s”. Where is your “playful spirit?” We use this as an endearing term for children, yet when did we as a child grow up and lose our playful spirit? It’s to find it once again. If it was within you once, it’s still there. You might just have to dig beneath the mounds of files in your brain labeled “Have-to’s”, have the freedom to set them aside for a bit and fire up that dusty old playful spirit.
It’s time for play. You don’t have to be a child to play. You just need child-like qualities of the freedom to quit, the freedom to stop and be still, the freedom to slow down and stare and enjoy things around you. Finding the value in play adds value and purpose to your life. And I know that’s a “want to” we all are seeking after. This year, today, resolve to play more, find pleasure in living, and enjoy connecting to the nature and the real YOU.
Written by: Jodelle Fitzwater, BiC SUP Ambassador and SUP TV Fitness Instructor, Certified PaddleFit Instructor and Self-proclaimed “playful” mermaid.[author image=”http://standupjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Jodelle-Fitzwater1.jpg”>Jodelle Fitzwater "Jodelle Fitzwater is the Midwest Ambassador for BiC SUP and Certified Fitness Trainer for SUP TV. She is also a self-proclaimed mermaid because she has no fear of depth and a great fear of shallow living. Find her instructional fitness videos by visiting SUP TV on YouTube and by visiting www.getfitwithjodelle.com "liking” on Get Fit With Jodelle on Facebook.” [/author]