Last night I sent a tweet to a friend who was anxious about attending a party and told her to “Have fun. Just have fun, always and everywhere.”
Yesterday I was chatting with another author who was deep in edits and we were commiserating on how our lives had changed once we had been published, and how so much time was being spent on marketing and promotion and maintenance, and how little time we had to actually write anymore. Her comment: “Remember when writing was fun?”
Once, when I was talking to my mother on the phone the evening before I was going out of town for an SCA event, she said, “Have fun.” Then she stopped and added, “I don’t know why I always say that—you always have fun.” And it’s true. I do.
I’m a firm believer in fun. Not mindless pleasure, not the frenetic search for fulfillment, not the need to have or do or be whatever society and fashion tells us will make us happy that fills so many people’s lives, but fun. That other stuff might pretend to be fun, but it really isn’t. It’s obligation, and not even obligations that we’ve accepted, but obligations that are imposed on us. Just say no. Only say yes to it if it’s fun.
What is fun? It’s joy in what you’re doing. The part of the word “enjoy” that really matters: “joy.”
Fun isn’t something you get. It’s not something that’s given to you automatically when you do or are or have something. Fun is something you make. You can have fun doing those other things, like partying with friends or going to a sporting event or some other social thing. But you can also have fun watching grass grow. Or doing laundry or cleaning house. Or sitting on a porch with your bestie not even talking. It all depends on what you bring to it, and what you can make of what you’re doing.
Sure, doing laundry isn’t always fun. Sometimes your back hurts and sometimes you’d rather be doing anything else, but sometimes, when the time is right and you’re in the right mood, you can make it a game. Or take pleasure in the smell and warmth of clean clothes. Or of empty baskets and a full closet.
I normally loathe housework, and my house looks like it. But one day two weeks ago, I was in the mood to do it, and spent 10 hours enjoying every moment of the cleaning.
Whoa, Pollyanna time! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Cockeyed optimist much?
Yeah… no. Anyone who knows me knows I’m no Pollyanna (who, if you don’t know, is the main character in book written a jillion years ago, who was so cheerful and optimistic that she changed the lives of everyone in her creepy little town. They did a Disney movie of it back in the ‘60’s when Disney made movies like that). I’m occasionally crabby, have a very short fuse, and do not suffer fools gladly. (Riding on the cliché train!) But I know what I enjoy, and I know how to make things I do fun when I have to. And you can too.
The first key is to know what you enjoy. It took me mumble-mumble years to realize that no, I am not a “People Person.” Back in the day, that was sort of a required statement in job interviews. I do not play well with others. I am a classic introvert, which, contrary to popular belief, does not mean that I am shy or withdrawn (just ask anyone who knows me). It means that I am happiest when I can work on my own, or with one other person.
There is no “I” in team—and I like it that way.
The second thing is to figure out what you really want to spend your time on—and then do it.
Yeah, I know. We all have things we have to do. Work to earn a living. Take care of our families. Maintain our homes. Fulfill social obligations. But these things don’t have to be completely devoid of fun. Figure out what you have to do, and then what you can do to make those things fun.
If your job isn’t fun, if you’re not satisfied at the end of the day, find a new job. Or better yet, find ways to improve your job. Look at what you should be doing—and what you could be doing. Challenge yourself. Rearrange your job so that it works better. Rearrange your desk so that everything works better. If your environment is stifling, you’re in the wrong place. You got that job—you can find another. It won’t be easy, but why put up with misery for a third of your life?
If you’re not having fun with your family—your family’s not having fun with you. And that’s just sad.
I remember as a kid my mother taking us (there were six kids in my family) out of school to spend a day at the museum or zoo. We didn’t suffer for it—we all did very well academically, and I think it was because we discovered early on that learning could be fun. Mom also would do things like rent famous paintings from the library and hang them in our living room, and we would all try to find out something interesting about them. Cue love of art. My dad was musical, and played the piano, and told long rambling stories of growing up in the ‘20’s and ‘30s. Cue love of history and music. And every week we had a long, multisyllabic word written out and hung up over the kitchen table that we were challenged to learn to define before Sunday dinner. Cue love of language.
Learning=fun. Is it any wonder that several of us have advanced degrees—and some more than one?
We all had chores, of course, but even those could be fun. Racing to finish first (and still pass muster). Negotiating to switch jobs you were bored with. I used to clean the bathroom, and when I was done, I pretended with my Barbies that the sink was a lagoon and waterfall on a deserted island where they’d been stranded. Pirates were usually involved.
Around the holidays, our regular chores were assigned monetary value, so we would compete for the right to sweep down the stairs or clean the bathroom or shovel the walk. Of course we’d get aggravated sometimes, and sulk and fuss and whine about doing them. But a lot of the time they were fun.
I sometimes feel sorry for kids nowadays who don’t learn responsibility at such an early age. They’re missing out on the fun. And their parents, who run around taking them to soccer and dance class and play dates and all that stuff—yeah, they’re missing out on the fun, too. It’s not fun being a glorified chauffeur.
So why not try to find ways of making it fun? Why not indulge in a little make-believe? Buy a gray cap and pretend to be a chauffeur. Wear a Groucho nose and glasses. Embarrass your children.
And when you can spend time with your kids, or your Significant Other, or your mother-in-law, spend it doing something simple you enjoy, even if it’s only talking or playing cards or badminton. (Does anyone play badminton anymore?) Turn off the TV, turn off the computer, turn off the Nintendo. You can leave the Wii on if you promise to share.
Really, the most fun stuff is the simplest stuff. But you have to make it fun.
Okay, Pollyanna time over! You may now return to your regularly scheduled life, or the facsimile thereof.