I wrote my "Returning to Childhood" entry (about exercising as often and as enjoyably as we did when we were kids) almost two weeks ago, and over the past week, I've finally begun taking my own advice. Normally I am pretty good about working out an hour a day—mostly walking and hiking but also playing tennis from time to time—but over the past seven days, in addition to my regular workouts, I have also tossed a frisbee, rode swings, lifted weights, done sit-ups and stretches, played basketball, mowed the lawn (formerly a teenage activity for me), and walked up and down the balance beam in the park. I'm hoping to go swimming Thursday night, and as soon as I can get some air in the tires, I'm taking my bike out for a long ride too.
Right now you're probably thinking that I must be crazy to climb up on the balance beam reserved for kids in my local park, but for the most part my husband and I have had the playground to ourselves like two kids let loose in a candy store. I would like to think I wouldn't care if anyone else was there or not, that I'd still jump up on that beam with zeal, but I'm not yet sure about that.
And this brings me to a question: why are all of our parks made for kids? Why do city planners assume that once we become adults we won't want to play anymore? I've been to many, many playgrounds with my nieces and nephews that have signs that say things like "Kids only" or "Age Five and Below," and I always feel cheated.
So why do they make these restrictions? Why can't adults play side by side with the children? Maybe there's a compelling reason why we're kept off slides and jungle gyms, and if so, I'd love to hear it. Unfortunately, I fear that it's because we're simply too kid-centered as a society—kids are the center of our universe and adults are just the planets that revolve around them.
Some part of me knew that I would probably enjoy going back to my days of playing frisbee and shooting hoops, but what I didn't foresee was HOW MUCH I would enjoy it.
For instance, when I was riding the swings in the park last night, I did more than enjoy it. I was moved by it. So moved that I felt a giant rush of adrenaline sweep through my body, a rush as brisk and electric as the thunderstorms that have been crossing our state every afternoon for the past week.
I was so distracted by my own euphoria that I didn't even notice my husband swinging next to me or process exactly what I was doing. And, without fully realizing it, I leaned back in my swing and found that when my feet were pointing in the air, I was able to gaze directly at the clouds overhead. I'm sure all of you will remember what it felt like—it felt like I was flying!
Immediately, I remembered doing the same thing as a kid, but until that moment, I had no conscious memory of doing anything of the sort. How could I possibly have forgotten something so amazing??? It was as if simply being on the swing took me back to all those moments I had forgotten, and the effect was overwhelming. I was suddenly young again.
If feeling young wasn't enough incentive to keep participating in these child-like activities, I got another reason to do so this afternoon.
I had to drive out to the country today to pick up our weekly share of produce from a local Amish farmer, and as soon as I got in the car, I rolled the windows down and cranked the stereo all the way up. (In case you're wondering, today's featured songs were America's "Sister Goldenhair" and Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok.") I always sing when I'm the car alone, but today something was different. I was singing even louder than normal—so loud that I could hear my own voice over the music even though the volume was turned to MAX—and I was feeling even more energetic. Simply put, I felt more alive, more invigorated than I had in years. And though I know this will sound like a cliche, I have to say it: I felt like I could do anything.
I am absolutely certain it is the changes I've been making in my life that caused me to feel this way, and I couldn't be more happy about that realization. It turns out that riding the swings is good for more than just burning calories. It's good for my psyche too.