Reclaiming Play

It was my high school German teacher, Herr Wooden, who, upon my graduating, brought to my attention that I take life too seriously.  His parting words to me were, “Mary Jane, I hope you ease-up on life or your roommates at Western are in for a rough ride with you.”  Whoa…I thought I was lighthearted and quite frankly that Herr Wooden had a slight crush on me.  After all he signed my yearbook, “Love, Michael.”  These two incidents are pretty much what I remember about him, and yet, his comment that insinuated that I needed to ease-up caught me more off guard.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized his prophetic words rang true in my heart.

I made it through those college days with various roommates; ones I disliked and their feelings were mutual.  It wasn’t until alcohol came onto the scene that my roommates stuck around.  Somehow the alcohol tamped me down to become more palatable for those living with me.  My eating disorder was out of control but alcohol proved to enhance my addiction.  My heart had already numbed itself to the goodness my 18 year-old self had become.

Eventually I married John who would periodically say to me, “Lighten-up.”  He was frustrated with my taking his comments and every day life so seriously.  I didn’t know what it meant to be playful and joke with him. For me his words to “lighten up” simply crawled all over me.  My resolve was to become tighter.  And I did! This played out in power struggles about pretty much everything.  Food, money, discipline for the children, my dad, the dog…you name it.  What happened to me?  Wasn’t I lighthearted at some point in my life before I graduated high school?

Sadly, I probably was, but not for too long.  Because of the unpredictable environment of my home my carefree and smart self became cautious and evolved into a fearful young girl who became afraid of my sexuality, my body and my security at home.

My carefree heart lost its desire to play under the weight of my fear and I turned to addictions that numbed my fear.

My sense of self began to merge with the needs of others hoping my needs would be reciprocated in return.   It did not happen.  My carefree heart of desire simply became buried under the burdens of others.

It has taken years of discovery to recover the tenderness of my heart and to reclaim the intuitive gut that I was born with.  It has required me to feel the anger that simmered under the burdens of others and to get curious about my heart and to stand up for myself.  In standing up my heart is continuing to release the tightness that laid claim to the tenderness within.  This tenderness coupled with kindness has allowed redemption to come and I am recovering the carefree side of myself where anger no longer fuels the tightness but releases the energy to inspire change. I am becoming and tasting my best self and I like her. I’m discovering my true self doesn’t take life quite so seriously any longer.

John notices it as well as we are more playful with one another. I love the expression that he says to me now when he sees me taking on life too seriously.  It is,  “Don’t let this slip too deep into your soul.”  It is in those words that I know I can rest and reclaim the goodness of my gut and in most cases have a playful laugh with him.

Ahhh…the joys of discovery even after 47 years of marriage.  It is never over. It is not too late to discover play again.  What are you discovering for yourself?    Be assured that something amazing will be found there.  Try it and see!


Mary Jane Hamilton loves her life living on Lake Michigan with her husband of 47+ years. It is her family that brings her the greatest joy especially her 6 grandchildren. MJ readily admits that she adores her dachshunds and rests in the comfort they provide. She smiles at life and “rolls with the punches” that are thrown her way. MJ loves Jesus and beauty, MJ loves wind, waves and thunder, MJ loves fashion and good wine, MJ loves…