Thursday, February 4, 2010

Play spaces

As we buckled back into the car after visiting friends for a playdate, Eliza, – then a young two – cast us in our roles for the rest of the day: she would "be" the little boy we visited that day, and I should assume the role of his mother. This surprised me somewhat, as Eliza reacted to the friendly advances of her playmate with fear and bewilderment. But she carried this game throughout the day, and as regular playdates continued, Eliza's comfort level around this boy increased visibly. At first, she cringed or cried when he wanted to share her toy; now, she willingly hugs him goodbye. Perhaps simple familiarity produced this change, but I think the pretend play – "being" the little boy – helped her work through her emotions. She processed the past and practiced for the future by playing in the present.

We all need such metaphorical play spaces.

Safe spaces.

Spaces free of criticism and unbounded by standards of convention and perfection.

My notebook is my play space. Here, I can reel in the day's events and emotions; here, I can cast my line into tomorrow's water. Occasionally, I catch something really interesting – a fish with rainbow scales, perhaps – but I also dig up bottom-lurking sludge. Sometimes my line sinks deep; on other days, I only wade in the shallows. Regardless, writing loosely – unfettered by expectations – elucidates pattern in my tides of thought and helps me navigate currents of emotion. I, too, process the past and practice for the future by playing in the present.

What is your play space?