Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.
“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass where ever you may be.”
– Robert Fulghum
Fun is something I have long equated with being a child. And as I’ve gotten older, I have found myself having less and less fun. I started to believe that the reason why I wasn’t having any fun was because I was a grown up.
But then Gracie (my daughter, now six) came into my life. And, like most children, she has become an expert at having fun. I’ve carefully observed her methods to try and learn from her, hoping maybe some of that magic might rub off. And while a child is NOT a requirement for having a fun time, I’ve learned a lot from being in her presence.
What Gracie has taught me, basically, is that fun isn’t something you have, but fun is something you make. It’s created by a mix of the right environment, a fairly good attitude, and a willingness to shift things around a bit to make it work.
And what I have learned from hanging out with Gracie is that the key to “creating fun” is figuring out not what you like doing, but *why* you like doing it. If you figure out the “why” you like what you like, your chances of finding more fun are much higher.
For example, Gracie loves art but isn’t fond of getting her hands dirty (terrible eczema as a baby has led her to a bit of a phobia about messiness because it means washing with soap which dries out her skin which causes itching… you see what I mean?) So she chooses art activities that aren’t too messy- she LOVES colored pencils, sketching, coloring things, and making art journal with photographs and stickers. She isn’t crazy about big messy paintings.
She also isn’t crazy about gardening because of the hands-dirty thing. However, she’s happy to sweep up or trim plants for me.
So she creates art and gardens in a way that’s fun for her simply by finding things in both situations that fit in with her personal requirements of “why” something is fun.
That inspired me to start thinking about *my* ”why requirements”. What were they? Could I figure them out so I could find more things that might be fun?
I started thinking about two very different things that both rank as “fun” for me: going to museums and going to Disney World. It doesn’t seem to have much of a common thread, right? But there is a very strong commonality between the two things, and it’s when I really started poking around at the “why” factor that I picked up on it.
I REALLY enjoy when I’m able to engage all my senses. Both museums and Disney are sensory experiences for me. I see colorful and amazing things at both places. Both environments are very aural: museums have a lot of “museum-y” noise, like the quiet whisper of visitors, the squeak of shoes on the floors, the collective sound of many people being collective in their awe and Disney actually broadcasts QUITE a bit of environmental sounds in each of their parks to enhance the Disney experience. Both experiences require physical movement, engagement with people on a sort of “be kind and friendly but don’t engage TOO much” level (perfect for my introverted and shy self). Both experiences make me feel a variety of emotions. The smells… well, museums certainly have a smell to them, and Disney can be quite “smelly” as well, but normally it’s more about fresh popped popcorn and things like that.
I also love an *expected* element of surprise. Surprises at museums are often for me- I’ll pick up on a new detail of a painting I have admired for years that will take my breath away or I’ll fall in love with a new work of art. And surprises at Disney… well, they sort of specialize in that.
And I also discovered I despise waiting for anything. Both museums and Disney can be crazy places. But I never go to Disney during peak season and you’ll never find me in some crowded gallery in a museum. I’m the one who prefers it when things are much more quiet and accessible. I don’t like jockeying for position or waiting in line.
By realizing that I’m kind of a sensory person, I started thinking about other things I could do that have similar environments and requirements. For example, I realized last year that I LOVE going to the movies. We found this awesome theater that allows us to reserve seats online before we get there, so there’s none of that “arrive 40 minutes before the movie to get a seat” nonsense so we just show up a few minutes before the movie begins. I get to lose myself in the movie- seeing it, hearing it, being surprised by it. There’s minimum interaction involved, besides a friendly “how are you?” to the ushers and a wave hello to the staff who have come to know us because we go so often!
All of these things are also things that my whole family enjoys, so we all get to go and have fun together. That’s a big deal for me. As I admitted last week, I’m a bit of a people pleaser, and I just feel a lot more at ease when I know that the people I really love the most are having as good a time as I am.
What I’m trying to illustrate here is that I have kind of been able to put together a list of “requirements” for fun. Sensory, not too much intense interaction, a chance to think and feel and see and hear, and maybe the element of surprise, too.
So, going to the Botanical Garden? Absolute fun. Beautiful plants, outside (sunshine is always a bonus), something I can do with Tom and Gracie, sensory? Check, check, check, check.
The book club that I enthusiastically joined but stopped attending a few months later? It was grueling for me. Not very sensory, lots of interaction required, plus I was supposed to bring a dish to pass and I don’t really cook so that added a whole other element of stress.
But now I realize that when I’m invited to join something like that in the future, if I look more closely at the conditions of the event, I’ll get a good feel for whether or not it will turn out to be fun.
So here’s my recommendation for you: spend some time thinking about some things that qualify as “fun” and start seeing if you can find the common threads in them. By defining your own set of “why requirements”, you can start to really create a lot more fun in your life. You’ll be much more likely to jump into a situation or opportunity if you are pretty sure it’s going to be a positive experience.
…. Oh, and don’t forget!
Bliss Habits will be starting up an interactive book club on the first week of October. The first book is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, which is hailed by many as *the* go-to book for both creative people and those wishing to bring more creativity into their life. It’s also been known to be a bit of a challenge, since there’s lot of exercises, ideas, and discussion material in the book.
So each week, on Tuesday, we’ll be discussing one chapter of the book and then carrying the discussion into the comments and on the Bliss Habits facebook page. We’ll be sharing reactions, responses, inspiration, questions, and just generally working through the book, one chapter at a week, as a community. I truly hope you’ll join us. It’s a great opportunity to “do” the book in a focused and organized way, and really have the benefit of a supportive community that’s along for the ride with you. Even if you’ve read it before, please consider giving us the benefit of your expertise!
It all starts October 2nd, 2012.
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.