We bounced along in the boat, the sun’s rays sparkling on the crystal blue sea.
The mountains faded into the background as we sailed farther from the shore.
Have you ever experienced the joy of a whale watch excursion, cheering on the carefree frolicking of these beautiful creatures? I had the opportunity earlier this year to witness their majesty when I traveled to Maui for a radically nourishing women’s retreat run by Celeste Frenette.
Eagerly jumping up to catch a glimpse of these beautiful animals, I happily joined in the squeals of delight and frantic clicking of cameras, trying desperately to capture their joy.
Since returning home, I’ve thought about how those on board anticipated and celebrated the whales’ displays of pleasure. We didn’t tire of their playfulness, nor did we question if they were wasting their time. We certainly didn’t chastise them for being too hyper or distinguish the young from the old.
How sad, then, that we place these judgments on our own play and even that of our children at times. We have become a society so pressured to do more that, as adults, we have lost the wild abandon we naturally had as children.
Chained to the clock, we struggle to justify time spent if there is no specific accomplishment or finished product at the end.
So often I hear people say they feel guilty or lazy when they take time to rest or play. But these same people are exhausted, burnt out, and either just going through the motions of life or suffering from physical or mental health symptoms. Many of these women and men have internalized that self-care is selfish and that they must put the needs of others first.
I used to be like that, trying to please everyone but ultimately pleasing no one. I’ve realized since becoming a mom that it’s actually through investing our time in the activities that bring us joy and peace that we have the most to give to others.
When we are blessed with children, we are given the gift of being led back to that playful, younger self. Their hearts and minds are fully immersed in the beauty of this moment, their doting eyes pleading with us to say “yes” and join in the fun.
Tragically, we often miss or even reject this gift, unless we are conscious and mindfully aware that “our children are here to help us return to our authentic self,” as Dr. Shefali Tsabary writes. We can even shame our children for the very qualities that we celebrated without question in the whales.
Just like these glorious creatures of the sea, we need space and freedom to be our natural, carefree selves. We owe it to our children and ourselves to do the work to reconnect with our inner child. She is waiting, ready to engage in the world with wonder and awe, ready to provide the relief we need to bring our best to our personal and professional lives, ready to unlock our creative potential, ready to lead us back to joy.
Will you dance in the rain or run through the sprinkler with your clothes on? I have; it was a blast and just so refreshing.
Will you squeal with delight sliding down the big shiny slide at the park or speeding down the snow hill with wild abandon? Parks are not just for kids.
Will you stop to sing and dance in public when the mood strikes or roll down that grassy hill, oblivious to the stares from onlookers? You might be surprised by the looks you actually get—smiles instead of frowns, as your playfulness ignites their own desire for freedom and joy.
The bigger question is, will you give away your power to others’ insecurities or judgments (or your perceptions of their judgments), or will you fully celebrate and dance with this one precious life you’ve been blessed with?
Life is filled with moments where we can either blindly continue to choose conformity, pressure, and stifling our souls, or we can be fully awake and authentically embrace the energy and enthusiasm that comes from play.
It’s time to let go of other people’s expectations or perceptions and savor the pure pleasure and freedom that comes from playing like the whales.
The more I’ve let the little girl in me out to play, the more joyful my life has become. I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been. I’m having so much fun creating and exploring and playing. All of this has enhanced my personal and professional relationships and has brought so much joy to my children’s faces.
What are you waiting for? Tag, you’re it! It’s time to make your big splash in this world. Start by following your bliss.
Author: Nicole Schiener Manary
Editor: Callie Rushton