You’ve mentioned the importance of “Refuel with free fun.” What do you mean by this?
Free, in this sense, means that you don’t pay for the fun on either side, before or after. That can be taken literally on the simplest level, as in finding joyful activities that don’t cost money, such as creatively assembling leftovers instead of going to a restaurant, going for a walk in the forest instead of on a treadmill in a gym, having an earnestly moving conversation instead of watching a movie, and deep, long kissing instead of three scoops of ice cream or shots of whiskey, for example. The idea is to invent from the abundance of what you already have, instead of just paying for and consuming what’s commonly sold.
But not paying on either side implies other, more important resources than money. One’s conscience, for example. This would mean that the chosen activity is free from reactive guilt and/or worry. One can refuel and find relief and joy, substantial fun, by making someone you appreciate happy instead of demanding that they make you happy.
For me, the free part is rather easy. Refuel and fun are more elusive. These require creative, discerning experimentation over time to determine that you’re not just doing something that is supposed to be fun and cause refueling, but in fact isn’t and doesn’t and you may not have noticed. In many cases, there’s fun to be found temporarily in the moment, but what you pay after is disproportionately more, causing depletion instead of refueling, which is a pretty good definition of addiction if you do it consistently.
So, finding activities that qualify for each of the three components — refuel, free and fun — probably takes some conscious study of actual impact over sequential time, otherwise known as maturity. In other words, the process to find such an activity involves some invested work to earn the right to free play. Totally free activities, in which no one pays before, during or after, can be surprisingly rejuvenating and rewarding, including on subtle deeper levels of being. A few that I’ve found that are consistently, perfectly free, fun and refueling: gardening, making my children laugh, playing with my dogs, engaging wild animals, swimming with friends in an ocean or lake, and making fun of some of my close friends who are very good at receiving that in the right spirit, know how to laugh at themselves.
This last example is not just a joke, as I have the luck to know a few persons who have a tremendous talent for receiving humorous criticism such that they and everyone else in proximity has fun and refuels — laughs, learns, strengthens intimacy and trust, releases weight and self-consciousness, immediately shifts perspective and finds joy, without demanding any additional work to smooth out pride issues. As an aside for those who enjoy poetic metaphors, making fun of these friends is a kind of integration of all the techniques listed above — gardening, making children laugh, playing, engaging wild animals, swimming with friends.
The other side of the equation in terms of free is that the activity does not require unwanted self-conscious discipline, or an anticipated need for sacrifice (cost). Like, for many of us, a breathing exercise or similar ritual is not always fun and free beforehand, as one may have to work a little to carve out the space and time for it without feeling exclusively inspired to do so. One has to pay some before, and sometimes during, such as consciously applying patience, at least until one gets to a certain freedom with it. Totally free would mean you want it before, during and after; it only brings joy and reenergizes. At the highest level, real mastery, the free, fun and refueling is across the board in all directions, including indulgent childlike playfulness and deeper resolution within one’s conscience and soul, across time (before, during and after) and across space (for everyone). Starting with simple activities and spreading those out across a wider, more challenging spectrum is a worthy creative pursuit.
But I fear that I’m making a simple phrase unnecessarily complicated. I guess the idea I’m trying to get across is to find ways to creatively exploit what we already have around us but have not really noticed and celebrated as we can, instead of mindlessly pursuing stereotypes and synthetic replacements that we haven’t noticed don’t actually work, that ultimately cause depletion of resources somewhere along the way and probably aren’t that fun, anyway. Just noticing the difference is halfway there.
© 2015 Darrell Calkins