One Sunday morning a few weeks back, I needed to hit the 7-Eleven, not in a heisty way but rather for quarters for laundry. The weekend prior I had flown out to a wedding in New York where much fun was had, and on return I was dropped back into the day-to-day drudgery and glamour that is my life. That being said, the following weekend there were lots of catch-up chores, like laundry. If I didn’t do it, I was going to be teaching class wearing a bathing suit and plaid overalls. That might work on a 13-year-old model on the cover of Vogue, but on a 54-year-old burlesque queen it might trigger an AMBER Alert that I wandered away from my caregiver.
On the walk over to the store, I peeked inside my wallet to assess my options as to the level of choices my wardrobe will expand to given my fiscal resources at hand. I see four one-dollar bills, and I know I have at least enough for one load at home, which gets me to a full house of laundry done with two more loads. I think about this and it does not quite make me happy. I like the idea of everything being clean, clothes, bedding towels, but it feels off. I realize I also wanted to buy lottery tickets too, two in fact, the ones that cost a buck. You know you have to be in it to win it, just like life, love and pretty much anything that requires audience participation. I am torn: I want both the tickets and everything clean, but I am not willing to ATM-it-up for this type of event.
By the time I reach the counter, I have compromised on two tickets and two dollars in quarters. What is significant about this seemly insignificant event is that laundry and the lottery represent yin/yang here, the want to’s and the have to’s of life. I am not willing even on a very small scale to just give my all to what I need to do and the running of my life without building in risk, a trailer-park dream or two, whimsy and play. My reaction to just getting quarters was visceral; it was small but real and tangible. I paid attention to what felt better. What option was true to who I am—odd, yes, but that is my DNA here, folks: a mix of getting things done and playing. The dance between those things is what music is, the combination of the notes and the spaces. One is no good without the other, they don’t function otherwise.
When I connect the dots in jobs, relationships, and in my misadventures, it is always the aspects of play that make me better at everything I do. Play connects me to people in a real and meaningful way through shared stories, birthday cakes, inside jokes, and nicknames, and that fuels hard work by all. A focus, a drive, a community of two or twenty: The numbers never mattered because the recipe self-adjusts. To date I have had about six careers; my LinkedIn page looks schizophrenic. I like a learning curve; I collect competencies like others collect wine or exes. In collecting competencies and skills in various fields, I hone my ability to bring play almost anywhere, from hospital rooms to boardrooms. It is my single most powerful tool barring love. Though I would say that play invites love in and without it we are just naked and alone, thinking we should have gotten laundry detergent along with those quarters and lottery tickets.
I can vouch that you are an expert at play. Now I know why: it’s in your DNA!