Are You Sacrificing Your Joy and Playfulness?

I’m at the age where I think a lot about retirement. I’m not that close but many of my friends are either already retired or close to retirement. The other day I was talking with a doctor friend and it was somewhat of a heart-wrenching conversation. He described how he has been so consumed with his job and how he regrets how that has gone and the struggle he’s facing about if and when he can retire. It was a combination of a flawed system as well as his failings. I didn’t know what to say.

I don’t know anything about the medical profession and can’t imagine the times when you’re literally dealing with life and death. While it’s hard to relate to the life of a doctor, I did think about those in education who may face some similar challenges. It’s not hard to see that many educators are not thriving. They aren’t experiencing the joy of the profession and the system at times makes it difficult.

While I’ve spent the last decade or so talking about joy, I’m always somewhat hesitant with that message. I don’t know how much of it is based on individual experiences and circumstances. and how much of it is based on personal dispositions and personalities. I’m always suspect of anyone who tells you to “get over it” or “be happy”. I’ve always prefaced my message but saying, I’ll share my experience and I trust you can determine what and if it applies to you.

What I can tell you is that when it comes to my relationship with my work, joy has always won. I’ve certainly been blessed to work with people and organizations that have supported me for the most part. But there have certainly been times when it’s been difficult, when people have been challenging when I’ve felt like quitting. Like everyone, it takes time to get over those moments but I think because I decided a long time ago that play and joy were not ideas that were only for the young they are the basis of who I am today. There’s no question that the amount of time I’m able to spend with my grandchildren makes this much easier but I know even before that, I knew these things mattered. When I wrote my book, it was before any grandchildren and it was my desire to help educators get back to their own childhood and keep it with them. I’m still committed to that work and am grateful for any opportunity I have to share that message. While I’ve been doing it for a while, I forget the message remains and in fact is likely more important to share as time goes on.

I used to think this was just about a lack of joy but it’s also about the need to justify our existence through our work. Many times those that either act like work is the most important thing or think that work is the most important thing sacrifice joy and play in pursuit of…I don’t know what. Unlike my doctor friend we rarely are dealing with life and death issues in education and while I know many things are serious, I’m not willing to take myself that serious.

I was prompted to write this after a friend shared this video with me. It is eerily similar to the doctor friend shared with me and it serves as a reminder to remain playful and joyful no matter what age we are or what we do. It’s not easy but it’s what I believe makes for a beautiful life.

Delight 32: The Pocket Museum

2 years ago, on one of my many drives between Florida and Manitoba to move my Father’s vehicle to and from his winter and summer homes, my wife and I stopped in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. As is our habit, we like to find hidden, lesser-known places and spaces to explore. My wife came across the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum. Without knowing exactly what it was, we arrived on a Sunday and struggled to find the exact location. That’s because it’s in a back alley. This museum is a series of tiny toys and figures placed carefully on the various objects and infrastructure of this back alley. You’ll find these strategically placed in cracks and crevices, on metal boxes and benches. Each time you find one you shout “Oh look” or “Come see this one”. It’s a true surprise and delight scenario.

This past week we returned to see some new displays and once again were delighted and enjoyed this little detour.

Thinking about this made me think about how simple this idea is. It’s something that could be done almost anywhere. We love finding little treasures and elements of beauty that happen simply because someone thought it might be nice. I hope the creators of this museum realize how much pleasure and delight it brings to visitors. I think it’s a reminder that creating small moments of delight might be missed by some but for those who are paying attention and seeking out these simple but brilliant acts of creativity, it’s something very memorable.

Delight 31: My Dad the Celebrity

My Dad turns 92 in a month. He’s active, plays 100 rounds of golf a year, and regularly shoots his age or better. His mind is sharp and he’s still loving life. I’ve been blessed in so many ways to have him as long as I have. We’ve been golfing together for about 45 years and he remains my favourite golfing partner. Along with my sisters, he’s one of three people I’ve known my whole life.

On the other end of the spectrum of favourite people are my 3 grand-kids. As I’ve mentioned often, they are truly my pride and joy. Biased, I unabashedly brag about them and show them off whether in person or via social media. I love them and am proud of them and take delight in them. I feel very similar about my Dad.

When we golf in Florida, we’re often paired up with people. Without exception, they are amazed at how fit and how well he plays the game at 91. Probably for the last decade, I’ve seen this response over and over. People envy his health and all desire to be able to golf as well as he does when they reach that age. I watch in delight as he gets asked lots of questions about his life and they watch in awe as he still can hit a drive nearly 150 yards. Yesterday the couple we played with was a man and a woman in their 70s. Dad is a great golf partner for several reasons. He plays quickly, compliments and encourages his playing partners, and always shares a story or two that makes people laugh. At the end of our round, they asked if they could take a picture together. It was like watching a celebrity with his fans.

It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am. I’m grateful for all the time I’ve had with him and understand like he does, that this is all bonus time. My Dad is a delight in many ways and this was another cool example.

2024 #OneWord: Patience

Over the past couple of years it’s been fun to see others find a word they want to embody and use as reminder or focus. Last year I officially joined the ranks using the word “savour“. In past years I’ve unofficially used words like delight.

I was generally pleased with how savour became a focus. Not perfectly but with a greater intent and it will remain something I remind myself to do on a regular basis. For 2024 I want to be more patient. I don’t think of myself as particularly impatient but I also think it’s a very contextual term. There are instances when I am patient. I know I’m much more patient as a grandfather than I ever was as a father. When it comes to travel, I’m very patient with travel delays and mishaps and I even pride myself at how much more calm and patient I am than most. As I work to savour more of my life, I can see how patience is often required. But I do know that I could be more patient in a number of areas.

I tend to take great joy in efficiency, particularly efficiency of time. My kids laugh at how much joy I get when I go through a string of green lights or when I fast forward through a program and remark at how “time we saved”. I like playing golf in under 4 hours and so on. I’m not sure it’s about stopping these practices entirely but you see how much I value these perceived time saving practices.

As a result of that it often creeps into areas where it shouldn’t. When it comes to work, I am very quick to respond to emails and messages. I get somewhat annoyed if others don’t respond as quickly as I think they should. However, in my earnest desire to be responsive, I think I often miss opportunities to be more clear and thoughtful with my responses. I need to be more patient. I need to sit with ideas and conversations more.

When it comes to seeing results in health choices, financial goals and even work goals, I tend to want results more quickly than is reasonable or necessary. Being persistent but patient is usually a good formula for success. Changing habits and actions rarely offer instant results. In this case discipline and patience make a great partnership.

As I mentioned, I like playing golf and I like playing fast. That said, there are occasions when it’s not in your control. Rather than getting frustrated, I need to have patience. I need to remember, I’m outside, with my friends, playing a game I love in beautiful surroundings, why do I want to rush that?

While I’m relatively patient with my grand kids, there are times when they are telling a story or playing at the playground and I’m tired or bored and want to move on. I need to remind myself they are at the most wonderful stage of life and it’s going to be gone soon. Why not enjoy those moments and let them linger, rattle on and just be kids.

Even when I’m grocery shopping, maybe don’t look for the shortest line. Maybe use the time in line, not to look at my phone but maybe look around and have a chat with someone. The extra 3 minutes I might save aren’t going to matter in the end.

Life moves faster than we want most of the time. Not that patience changes that but for me patience is about acceptance of things I can’t control as well as making better use of my time to be more thoughtful, caring and attentive. I’ll report back in 12 months.