Yesterday I was a friend’s house helping her sort through clothing to purge in a move, and we came upon a t-shirt that read “Make Time For Fun”. The sentiment percolated throughout the day and sparked a (not wholly original) thought: We don’t buy t-shirts that say “Make time for making breakfast for your kids” or “Make time for menial but necessary tasks” or “Make time for your 45 minute commute”. These are the things we assume we’re going to be doing with most of our time. We don’t need to be reminded to make time for them, we just make them happen. Fun doesn’t get that same kind of prioritization. We need to remind ourselves to make time for fun because it has for some reason been demoted – usually, fun is what we schedule in when we’ve completed most everything else, and often, fun does not make the cut at all. (Incidentally, the t-shirt made it into the “keep” pile, if you were wondering).
Why don’t we have more fun? What makes it so difficult for us to invest in our own daily joy? I’m not certain, but in my own case I suspect it has something to do with the Mayflower.
I seem to find myself a member of something called the Mayflower Society. This is not because of a choice I made. My grandmother is a Mayflower descendent, which means I am also a Mayflower descendent, so my very-brunette-y, very Italian-looking self receives something called the Mayflower quarterly four times a year. This descriptor of daily Pilgrim life in the 1600s is a juicy rag.
Let me let you in on a secret, in case you didn’t know: Pilgrims were not big on fun. To read the quarterly, one gets the impression that life was pretty much a work-centered enterprise. It seems as though the Mayflower set were very concerned with not-dying, and to secure as much, they invested singularly in everything that they thought would keep them alive, which was almost exclusively toil-oriented (and also, it seems, shame-and torture-oriented). In fact, according to the quarterly, all things fun-and-joy-oriented often resulted in torture-oriented penalties.
I spring from decidedly no-nonsense if rather anxious stock.
Like many of us, I have this skepticism of fun-for-its-own-sake living in my bones. There’s all sorts of judgmental words associated with the notion of fun. Fun is frivolous. Fun is unnecessary. Fun takes us away from the things that keep us secure, and what keeps us secure keeps us in control, and when we’re in control we stay alive, so fun is dangerous. Yeesh.
Maybe it’s just those Mayflower roots talking here, but I don’t think so. These themes come up in the therapy room all the time, with all sorts of different people. It seems many of us have long-standing challenges baked into our feelings about fun. Guilt associated with fun (If I let myself do this fun thing rather than that responsible thing, I’m definitely a bad person). Rescheduling of fun (I’ll have fun on the vacation that I can’t go on just yet, but maybe in the summertime. Of 2023). Fear of fun (If I allow myself to do this fun thing, something bad will happen later because I wasn’t doing something productive instead). We are just as adept as Pilgrims at self-flagellating when it comes to fun, and, to no one’s surprise, I think we’re all finding that it doesn’t make for a very good time.
What if the pursuit of joy is a noble one? I could likely write a dissertation on the mental and physical health merits of fun; but that’s not this post. This post is here to acknowledge how hard it is to get into that mental space. Truly, fun is a discipline. It takes work. It takes intention. For fun to figure into our lives, it must be made priority.
So that’s what I’m calling for, here. I’m making the suggestion that perhaps we consider prioritizing fun to the same degree that we do all the responsibilities that keep us feeling in control and alive. I know it’s hard, and it feels scary, and sometimes wrong. I think that’s okay. Maybe let’s see what happens if we gently work with those fears rather than accept them as what’s true. Can we validate the pursuit of joy to the same extent as everything else that we prioritize? Even more so? What would that look like?
Make time for fun. A worthy endeavor, even (especially) when it feels hard to do.
**If you are a person that engages with fun above other things already, and is looking for a blog post inspiring an extra dose of discipline and responsibility written by a very disciplined and responsible psychotherapist, this is probably not the post for you. That said, I cannot imagine that anyone that reads my blog is oriented in such a way, because my blog might as well be entitled “Life-Care for Type A individuals,” so you might also ask yourself what you are doing here if this is you. That said, you are more than welcome here, and please teach us all your ways.