What's your definition of fun?
-- by Susan Dunn
“What you need to do is to have some fun,” a therapist friend of mine told me last month. I wasn’t there as his client, but I could be, if that sort of conversation continues. You see, I’d just had what I call “fun”, in visiting with him. He’s funny, he listens to me, he has interesting things to say, the phone calls weren’t for me, no terrorists attacked, no child was sticking a bean up its nose, and there were no sirened-vehicles involved.
What elicited the comment was my complaining (well we all have feet of clay), about the fact that my house hasn’t sold. I take exception to this sort of response – “go have some fun” – for three reasons: #1, my “having fun” is not going to help my house get sold, #2, who’s in charge of defining the word “fun”? #3, it implies I am not at that moment “having fun,” which, sadly, leaves me to suspect that my companion-of-the-moment is not.
YOU SAY ‘TOMATO’ I SAY ‘TOMATO’
It happened again last week. I had a nice long talk with a good friend on the phone, which I enjoyed tremendously, and then as we got ready to hang up, she changed her tone of voice completely and said, “And let’s get together and have some FUN.”
I chuckled to myself, with my warm tummy and feel-good feelings. I had just HAD fun.
Am I the only one so easily pleased?
SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEA OF FUN
“The dreaded ‘Let’s go have some fun’ statement,” I call it.
Please, please don’t drag me to a smoke-filled bar where everyone’s drunk, or force me to stand in line an hour to ride some 5-minute ride at the amusement park, or drive around a half hour looking for a parking place in 100 degree heat, to then walk 1 mile to get to the Festival du Jour. These are not “fun” for me.
Having fun is an important part of any wellness regime and good life, but it’s been defined, I fear, by people other than myself. I hear this from clients as well, who’ve been told by their therapists and coaches to take a vacation, get a massage, go dancing, or go white-water rafting.
I think of the person who told me, when I was a working single-parent with two boys expressing fatigue and the blahs, to go on a vacation, go have some fun. “All of you.”
Now, if you’ve been a single parent with two kids, you will know that while a family vacation is enjoyable, it is not the prescription for a tired, overwhelmed single working mother. Or are your kids and your family vacations different than mine?
One of the last ones we took, I survived preparing for the trip and the usual travel hassles, made it to the resort, dealt with the lost reservations while the kids fought because they were tired and hungry, grubbed up some food when we found the restaurant closed, then finally got the boys settled, plopped down in a lounge chair by the pool and declared, “Let the vacation begin!”
Five minutes later, the boys arrived, and one of them had a fish hook through his thumb. 5 hours of blood, sweat and tears later, more tired than I’d been before, I declared, a bit less sure this time, “Let the vacation begin?”
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?
The other day my young friend Alberta invited me over. I work at home, and I’m sure it’s projection, but often someone will call me and say, “You need to get OUT. You need to have some FUN.” “Come on over,” she said. “We’ll have some FUN.”
So I went over to Alberta’s, for two hours of trying to talk around a screaming, nose-running, tantrum-throwing, stranger-hating two-year-old in a house that looked like a war zone and smelled like dirty diapers. I left a little early, not that it hadn’t been “fun.”
Just for the heck of it, I looked up “fun” in the dictionary, and now I see the problem. Here it is:
1. What provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically: playful often boisterous action or speech
2.A mood for finding or making amusement
3. Violent or excited activity or argument (“let a snake loose in the classroom; then the fun began”)
This is what I suspect and fear when most people tell me, “Let’s have some fun.” The snake loose in the classroom sort of thing. That is not my idea of “fun”. And now I see why things in offices go the way they do – someone considers “violent argument” to be “fun.” YIKES!!
Of course it depends upon what you’re leaving at home. A snake-in-a-classroom kind of experience could be preferable to say, a sick husband, a broken toilet, telemarketers on the phone, Jehovah’s witnesses at the door, news that Uncle Roy is coming to visit, two kids fighting, and a dog with diarrhea. Everything’s relative.
But having gotten my life mostly in order, I don’t look for danger, more hassle, or things that leave me fatigued or drained. These things to me are not “amusements.” I look for things that give me pleasure as I do them and leave me refreshed and relaxed.
Is it just me who gets puzzled when asked on a date, “What do you like to do for fun?” Maybe that’s particular to south Texas, but my answer to that question could go on for an hour. I find many things fun. It would be quicker to ask me what I don’t like to do for fun: Get hurt, Hurt someone else, or anything involving the District Attorney’s office.
Furthermore, having Authenticity, as we call it in EQ, if I’m doing something, generally speaking I’m enjoying it and having fun. So at the point the gentleman asks me “What do you like to do for fun?” I could also answer in one word: “This.”
Sadly, that question immediately tells me HE isn’t having “fun.” I’m almost always “having fun” or I’d be doing something different.
Perhaps the question those gentleman mean is “What can you and I do NEXT that would be fun?” Now that’s a fair question and quite answerable because it allows for the constraints of the situation—who’s involved, what the nature of our relationship is, where we are, how much time we have, how much money we’ve got, and what the temperature is!
WHERE DO YOU FIND ‘FUN’?
My client, Tamara, sounded dismayed. “I never seem to have any fun,” she said. “What do you mean?” I asked her. “What have you tried?”
“Everything,” she said. “When we go out, it’s a hassle. Gotta get dressed up, it’s something else on the ‘to-do list, get a sitter, the kids cry, we argue about where to go, when we get there it’s crowded, there’s a parking hassle …”
“What’s YOUR idea of fun?” I asked. There was a pause, and then she said, “Actually, it’s most likely to occur when I’m not going looking for it.”
THE GALLUP-ish POLL
“What’s your idea of fun?” I asked my friend who’s got a busy family and a full-time people-oriented job. “Being alone,” she replied.
Another friend told me, “Not thinking OR feeling. Being in flow, and that can be humming and being lost in comfortable thought while I mop the kitchen floor, or playing a tennis match.”
Yet another said, “Anywhere without decisions or arguments.”
And last, but not least, “Something that doesn’t end me up with a policeman, lawyer, doctor or therapist.”
My client Rebecca was sad. Her boyfriend had told her she was too serious and needed to have more fun. We went through the discussion again. Bottom line – she’s happy and content most of the time. The only time she’s miserable is when she’s doing those things “other people consider fun.”
However, I decided to take my therapist friend’s advice and ‘go have some fun.” After all, the house would still be unsold when I returned whether I thought about it or not, and I had done all I could.
What did I do?
We each have to discover our own definition of fun, sometimes over and over again, it’s a vital part of emotional intelligence and wellness, and its yours, all yours!
About the Author
©Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Individual, executive and team coaching, distance learning courses, The EQ Learning Lab™, and the EQ eBook Library – http://www.webstrategies.cc/eboooklibrary.html . We help you get where you want to go and we think that’s FUN!