I’d been walking to the gym carrying my heavy bag containing everything needed for the day’s activities: runners, gym clothes, toiletries and my trusty to-do list. The sandwich board was parked in front of the shop that sells healing crystals, angels and books on spirituality.
When you have a sign on the street right in front of you and practically trip over it, you’re forced to reflect on it. Whether you want to or not.
“Do I take time to play?” I ask myself.
Well no. At least not lately. At least not enough. Not with THE LIST.
Just then a man brushes against me in a hurry on the sidewalk, and I wonder if he’s read the sign. “Hey buddy, do you take time to play?” I want to ask him. I want to stand by the sign and take a survey and get some answers. Is everybody else having fun and taking time to play but me?
I continue walking and pondering. I mean, let’s be honest, how many people take time to play? Really, with so much going on, who has enough time to take from? No, regardless of what the sign says, it’s simply not possible. There just isn’t enough time. I go to the gym and tackle my list.
A few days later, I’m in a bookstore looking for a birthday gift for my uncle (#7 on THE LIST). I notice their “What’s Hot” display near the front of the store advertising, “Coloring for Adults.” Drawn in, I pick up one of the books and read an invitation on it to “color outside the lines.”
“Wow, this is new.” I say to myself. Although, is it? Maybe I’ve been so busy I’ve failed to notice this coloring trend. Apparently, people are indeed taking time to play. It’s “What’s Hot,” and I’d just failed to notice.
I look at the titles of the coloring books on offer: There’s “Enchanted Forest,” “Splendid Cities,” “Animals,” “Paris,” and that’s naming only a few. There’s a plethora of choices. All are gorgeous.
Pleasant childhood memories surrounding coloring spring up: kindergarten, tuna sandwiches for lunch and making art in class. Displaying it afterwards proudly on the classroom wall. I remember how Mrs. B, my kindergarten teacher, encouraged me to expand beyond the color purple. For some reason I’d insist on coloring and finger painting using shades of purple only. That’s a lovely memory, the slimy feeling of the purple paint on my hands. It was fun to be so messy. The feeling of excitement and anticipation about what I was going to create. The feeling of just doing and not worrying about the outcome. When you’re five, you don’t care if you’re good; don’t care if you’re Picasso. What a gift that is, and what a relief it would be now. Not to care. A memory I hadn’t thought about in years.
I pick up the Paris coloring book and flip through it, admiring the intricate design of the buildings and streets and sites. I’m intrigued with this strange trend. And…it dawns on me: I want to color! I want to color Paris!
But in a flash I second-guess myself. In a flash, I hesitate. My serious adult self takes over.
“No, this is silliness.” I put the book back on the stack. “I have no time for this.” The burden of the list and time and my whole life, actually, weigh heavy on my mind. On my entire being. What got into me?
I buy my uncle’s gift and exit the bookstore. I take out my list and a pen: Check. One more errand. Done.
Over the next few days, the Paris coloring book keeps coming to mind. I realize that the sandwich board is right: I do need to take time to play. As a kid you play all the time, right? I need to play EVEN MORE now. I’m play-starved. With this revelation, I lament the fact that I didn’t just buy that book. I could have. And I didn’t. And now I’m so overwhelmed with the usual chores I can’t find an opportunity to get back to the bookstore. If these duty-bound days were a color, they would be grey.
I meet my Mom for lunch one afternoon and after our soup and sandwich combos, she reaches in her purse and gives me a bookstore gift card.
“Here, buy yourself a book or something,” she says casually.
Just like that, out of nowhere!
I look at the card with awe and immediately plan my excursion to get the Paris coloring book. The universe, through the sandwich board, the coloring book display and this sweet gesture from my Mom, is conspiring to let me play!
“This is great! I’m so appreciative,” I gush, going to her side of the booth at the restaurant and giving her a hug.
“Will you relax”, she says, “It’s only a gift card for God’s sake! Calm down, dear!”
Precisely. I need to calm down and have fun, and I’m going to do it with coloring.
I take a detour on the way home so I can go to the bookstore. I gaze out the bus window and fantasize about all the fun I’m going to have coloring Paris. I’ll be sure to color outside the lines and inside the lines with every colored pencil in the pack the way I never did as a kid.
There’s an extra spring in my step as I enter the bookstore, and I’m almost skipping as I head to the What’s Hot display.
I’m no longer thinking about my list, about my responsibilities, about never having enough time to do the things I enjoy. I feel liberated. I feel energized. I feel excited. This is, after all, the adult version of when you were a kid, and your friends came to your house and asked. “Do you want to come out and play?”
Yes! Yes I do!