Every Sunday, I get the honor of speaking with my 89 year old mother over the phone… We share a selection from a daily reflection book that she purchased for me in 1997, “The Pilgrim’s Almanac” by Edward Hays. I LOVE THIS BOOK because it doesn’t matter when I read it, EVERY TIME what is being expressed accurately reflects the current state of things.
How many of us just don’t feel like playing? If age is mostly about attitude then why should I resign to the chaos of today when she, as a single Mom then, was able to make/find time to LIVE… Today in my 50’s I feel “middle-aged” when she in her 60’s then would take and participate with my brother and I roller skating EVERY WEEK. Knowing now what she was going through at the time gives me that much more admiration for her example (and less regard for current events, my own choices included).
READ ON FOR THE CURE
The other day, while reading the Farmer’s Almanac, I discovered an interesting quote, “Middle age is the time of life when work begin to be a lot less fun and fun begins to be a lot more work.” Those who are at or near “middle age” tend to shy away from that term. No one, even an eighty-nine-year-old, wishes to be called or thought of as old. And perhaps the term “middle age” is avoided because it is seen as the beginning of old age. Yet if the quote from the Farmer’s Almanac is true, middle age comes early in the lives of many people. Some of us are middle-aged as early as our twenties!
When are we middle aged? When our work becomes a lot less enjoyable. I remember once hearing about a research director of a large corporation. Every day he would walk around the laboratory and ask his researchers a single question, “Are you having fun?” His theory was that if they were having fun, enjoying their work, they would be more creative and would eventually discover a new product of great value to the company.Edward Hays
The same is true for you and me. For when our work ceases to be fun in the fullest sense, it also ceases to be creative and redemptive. The disappearance of enjoyment in our work is usually accompanied by the absence of fun in our free and leisure time as well. As the saying from the Farmer’s Almanac said, “and fun gets to be a lot more work.” When our work ceases to be creative and rejuvenating, we inevitably experience more exhaustion. When we come home from work, we are too tired to spend the necessary energy for enjoyment, and so fun becomes more remote and experience.
One reason why we are worn out is that we are weighed down by the burden of respectability. To always have to be proper and acceptable is too heavy a responsibility for any sane person to bear. Thoughts like “What will the neighbors say?” or “What will people think?” not only rob us of freedom but also drain us of energy necessary for enjoyment. Fear of being judged by others makes fun increasingly more difficult and can block any spontaneous fun. Playfulness is as necessary in our work as when we are not working. Titles and playing roles, even the role of being a parent, can also weigh us down.
In these changing times, a sense of respect for persons is frequently absent. The comedian Rodney Dangerfield speaks for all of us when he bemoans, “I just don’t get no respect.” Indeed to be holy and wholesome, we do have a need for the respect of our community and of those with whom we live and work. But our need for respect can be an obstacle preventing us from from enjoying life. And enjoying life–having fun in living–is one of the major reasons we are created. God made us to know, love, serve and enjoy–to enjoy the divine presence here and for all eternity. If we cannot enjoy God here in this life, how can we enjoy God in eternity? Gratitude is always a prayer. But the expression of gratitude that most delights the giver i when the receiver of the gift really enjoys the gift. The enjoyment of life, having fun with it and in it, is a prayer that God truly enjoys.Edward Hays
Whatever the lifework each of us has to perform, let us look at it and ask ourselves that question, “Are you having fun?” When we look at our family life, our religious vocations, our present activities and the answer to the question is “No,” then we should take the time to examine what we are doing and how we are doing it. And we should ask another question, “Why?” The time to ask such questions and the time to search for such answers is during our prayer. The time we take at work or at home to add a dash of fun to our lies is also prayerful time. Furthermore, we can sprinkle our schedules with space for some spontaneous enjoyment. Then we will find what that whether we are twenty-five or seventy-five, we will still be young because our work will be fun, and fun will not be work.Edward Hays