Labor Day Weekend

Friday morning my intention was to “get stuff done.” Paint those baseboards that were kind of chipped, update some work documents, research for a client, organize our recent Boston and Adirondack vacation photos. A mix of mental and physical work, but all under the category of “projects.” Desk folders lined up, documents in sequential order. I had downed one big mug of bulletproof coffee and was totally energized, courtesy of a really nutritional breakfast of two eggs, and two slices of bacon.

Before I headed down the hall to my office to start work, my husband Hank and I each chose a Universal Angel Card to set our intentions for the day. Did we get a card that said “responsibility” or “work” or (our least favorite) “obedience”?  I mean, I was totally geared up for that. No, I got “play” and H. got “delight.”

“How do I take a sense of play to my office to WORK today?” This led us to talk about work and the careers we had had in our lives. I loved each of my jobs. When it wasn’t the love I had for children I taught, it was also the sense of breakthrough that happened with clients as a counselor. Sure, it was hard and work, but what a sense of purpose and caring knowing I had earned the trust of a client. Later years, planning a presentation for seniors, or kids, or college students called for hours of research, writing, rewriting and practicing. But sharing practical ideas and experiences that worked in relationships made it so worthwhile. It really wasn’t like “work.”

Singing, dancing, laughing, improvising – all had their beginnings in my childhood. Just because that was over half a century ago, doesn’t mean I have to let any of it go when I work today.

In 1997 my writing life began. Writing a memoir is personal, exhausting, fun, scary and ultimately, for me, a cornerstone in the building of my life story. I spent hours looking over photos, researching places that no longer existed but had been a part of my summers in Miller Place, Long Island. It wasn’t work like toiling, or struggling. I’ve loved this work of writing for more than two decades. I love the sound of words, arranging words to create pictures, and show the story and emotions that drove the stories. Observing people, hearing their stories, making up new stories and then sharing them. Toil? I don’t think so. Even the business of writing – marketing, filing, promotion – yes, that’s work, but enables me to enjoy the fun parts of a writing life.

I realize there has always been a sense of play in my work, laughing with colleagues – even over oddly worded rejection letters, or listening to Deva Premal or Nora Jones while I reconcile my checkbook.

Sitting at our kitchen table, coffee cups in hand, and morning sun coming in the east-facing windows, Hank and I smiled. We can play wherever we are. An attitude of play is all we need. We often remind each other to look for what’s funny in a situation. Where do improvisation and laughing and curiosity come into play in play? What better job for someone who loves to play with words than being a writer?

How do you combine work and play?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 


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