My beloved husband, who is a structural engineer, said something very wise to me the other day. He said we are entitled to have fun simply because we are born human and we are designed for it.
I have never thought this way about having fun before - that having fun is as natural to human beings as breathing - but he's right. Having fun is not a learned response. It's not a response that needs to be directed by anyone else. It's a life-long part of what we are and do - our birthright as human beings. Our minds, bodies and spirits are made to delight in being alive.
As we grow up, we are taught by those who would direct our behavior - people in authority over us or by advertisers, in particular, who want to control our spending and consumption habits - that having fun is something that is defined for us by someone else. We are carefully instructed that we have to earn the right to have fun. Either we have to pay for it by doing something else first or we have to pay for it with money - another form of doing something else first. In all cases the message is that we are not entitled to have fun without a precondition, that fun is not a natural state. And to a large extent we come to believe this.
Without our being aware of it, these ideas shape our expectations and our willingness to have fun. We act as if there really are preconditions, as if we can have fun "if only". We can have fun "if only" we are driving a new, expensive car. That's what the car manufacturers tell us. It's not fun to drive an old car. Or we can have fun "if only" we work hard and earn lots of money, and not until we do. We can have fun "if only" we have a new lover, drink a certain drink, go on vacation, are able to play a sport............ "if only" we do or have something else first. No fun until all our homework is done. The list of conditions is endless.
Actually there are no preconditions - none at all. I am a human being. I am literally built to have fun. My sensory system is designed to enjoy life. Enjoying life is one of the ways my body knows how to stay healthy and alive. Having fun relaxes us, gives us space to reflect, helps us learn, and shows us how to promote our wellbeing. I can have fun just as a child can have fun with whatever I've got and just as I am. I don't have to do or be anything else first.
If I am willing to let myself, I can have fun putting on my shoes. We even can have fun while
we are doing our homework.
Having fun in any circumstance is our birthright and it is also a key to our ability to deal with adversity. A time may come when we cannot meet the preconditions we have come to believe we must meet in order to "be allowed" to or "qualify" to have fun. When we are injured or aging or have lost something that we once had, a lot us think it is no longer possible to have fun. We have forgotten how to trust our own natural ability to find wellbeing in the midst of the changes life brings. And that's sad.
I have four grandsons. I would love to be able to run on the beach with them but I can't run these days. How great would that be - to run with them! If I think that being able to run is a precondition to having fun, then not being able to run would mean that I could not have any fun on the beach. Does that make any sense? No, of course, it doesn't.
I remember my amazement when I discovered that it was sometimes possible to have fun in the rehabilitation center although I was profoundly injured, scared and grieving the loss of so much of what I thought my life was. Acknowledging the distressing truth of my injuries was essential. But discovering my capacity to have fun even in the midst of that adversity was also essential. Believing I could experience fun "if only" I were well would have been nonsense - quite literally "not sensing" my own innate capacity to be fully alive in any moment, even challenging ones.
If I deny my capacity to have fun, I deny my awareness of what my body needs to thrive. If I am experiencing adversity, anything that gets in the way of thriving will only make the situation worse. So, as my husband likes to say, "Have fun!"