Sunday, August 22, 2010

Learning to Have Fun

A few months ago the Lord told me I needed a vacation. I’m not a vacation person. The thought of leaving behind all my responsibilities and floating with the breeze on an island beach fills me with absolute horror. But His suggestion (and the comments that have followed me since birth) helped me realize that I was taking life too seriously. Amid the tumult of buying a house, helping siblings prepare for school, serving in a new calling, and working on way too many projects, I think I’m starting to better understand what He meant. This week I had fun.

I could tell you about the house we bought in Orem on Friday – my brother and I will be moving there in a month or two and then we’ll have a housewarming party. I’d probably rave about the 19 peach, apple, plum, pear, apricot, walnut, chestnut, and cherry trees, along with blackberry bushes, grape vines, and the massive hedge of lilacs. Or I could address the massive workload of being an Assistant Executive Secretary in a student ward during turnover time. I definitely have my work cut out for me. But I think I’ll write about something totally different and completely atypical instead. Brace yourselves.

Monday, after getting back from San Diego, I went with my family to Bridal Veil Falls up Provo Canyon. We ate dinner down at the bottom of the falls, and then the rest of the family hiked up while I watched my little brother jump in and out of the freezing water at the bottom. As I watched him and other kids there, I was amazed to see how one little thing affected their attitude. My brother was wearing crocks – shoes made of plastic – and so wasn’t concerned about stepping on rocks. He would have been happy to spend hours jumping in and out of the water. Every other kid took painstaking steps while in the water, focusing more on the rocks and the potential pain than on enjoying themselves. Looking at my own life, I realized that maybe I needed to learn to put work and everything else on hold once in a while, put on my crocks, and jump into the ice cold water… for the sheer fun of it. I had just gotten a call from my boss letting me know that my start day had been moved back, so I had the chance to put it to work.

My own having fun came in a somewhat roundabout manner. When my family researched purchasing passes for our annual trip to the waterpark, we learned of a new 13-month season pass that was good there, for basketball games, baseball games, and two Trafalga mini-theme parks nearby. Since it lasts until Labor Day of next year and was really inexpensive with a coupon code, we bought the passes for everyone. Our trip to the waterpark went in the usual manner – we arrived on a sunny day, storm clouds gathered, lightning struck, and they closed the pools and the rides for almost 2 hours. While we waited and everyone else left the park, I convinced my family to play a game. It’s normally played with bean bags – you toss them around the circle, crossing through the center, always receiving the bag from person A and tossing it to person B. You slowly increase the number of bean bags and try to time your throws correctly while catching the ones you receive. We didn’t have bean bags; my idea was to use single tubes (the massive inflatable ones) instead. Everyone thought I was crazy, but we tried it and, within minutes, were rolling with laughter. It worked really well. We played for 30 minutes before the wind picked up. Then a lifeguard came over and told us we couldn’t throw tubes because the wind was too strong. She mentioned that we actually weren’t supposed to be throwing them anyway, but our game had looked like so much fun that they just wanted to watch. When the park finally opened again, there were no lines for anything. The sunny – lightning – empty park motif has happened every time we’ve gone for the last 10 years. Nice.

Then we went to Trafalga. I wasn’t really too keen on going to a place to play mini-golf and bumper boats, but my siblings and cousins were enthralled. And that’s what mattered. And then I got hooked. On laser tag. They have a laser tag arena (not huge, but not cramped either) where 20 people can play a 15-minute game. The arena is set up well… and so I began playing with family, friends, and complete strangers. And I have a confession to make. I love laser tag. I love ducking beneath a window to shield my shoulder pads or crouching in a corner, head up, watching for flashing red or blue lights. Laser tag meshes the adrenaline rush of team and individual survival with the reality that (unlike paintballs or BB’s or video games) they don’t do anything to you, virtually or physically. There is no violence, blood, pain, death... just a buzzing sound – you’ve been tagged – and a countdown from 3 until you’re ready to go again. A fifteen minute game is long enough to work up a sweat, and as we leave the arena each time, my brother and I were usually the top two scorers. He and I must have inherited some of the stuff that earned our grandfather sharpshooting medals in the military years ago. After playing three games in a row, we stopped to reflect on what had just happened. We bought a 13-month season pass that allows us unlimited entry to a bunch of attractions. The arenas I’ve played at before cost up to $15 a person, per game… and I’ve never even heard of a season pass before. I can imagine meeting friends, having family parties, all revolving around laser tag. I told you I loved laser tag. Now, if they only had a season pass for dates…

Most of you know that I don’t let myself just go and have fun as much as most people. I focus on doing things that will bring me closer to my goals, instead of just doing things for the sheer pleasure of doing them. And I don’t think that I’m going to change that. But I’m learning that I can find ways to use activities I enjoy to accomplish my goals. Laser tag is pretty good exercise. It’s a good way to relax. And I think it sounds like a good date activity, too (as long as you’re on the same team and stay together). Those are all things that are important to me – and that means I have a pretty good excuse to play laser tag.

Each of us needs to enjoy life. Some of us need more fun than others, but we all need to find things to look forward to – things that can be a part of our lives and motivate us to be better people, while helping us to fulfill our goals and dreams. As far as asking for help this week, I’m trying to do missionary work and I’d love your prayers. For my invitation, look at your life and think of something that you love doing… and find ways to incorporate the things you love into your everyday. I’m learning that it’s worth it. Yes, it may take time, or it may mean that you spend a little less time working at your desk. But it will energize you and allow you the opportunity to refresh your soul. I know that God wants us to be happy. Sometimes that means learning to work hard and enjoying the work we do. And sometimes it means finding new ways to enjoy life. Smile. Have a great week. Go out and be missionaries.

I love you all!


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