The Search for Truth, Beauty and Love

I’m a writer and photographer. It’s kind of what I do.

It’s kind of what we all do…

“A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus? If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.” –Arthur C. Clarke

rainy play

I’ll admit, I’ve been trying to discern and pin down the meaning of life (really the meaning of my life) ever since I was old enough to put those words to it. Probably before.

Yes, I realize this is one of the least practical, most day-dreamy, answer-less things one can do with one’s time. But, like I said: it’s what I do. I observe and I write and I take pictures, and I try to figure it all out.

galaxies?

I haven’t figured it all out. It’s possible I never will.

I know I especially never will if all I ever do is sit back and observe and write and take pictures…

I have to–we all have to–jump in the game and live, experience, do, play.

No matter what.

we are small

Life has a way of leaving us all breathless with both heartache and wonder.

If you needed a reason, that’s why you’re here: to feel that. All of that.

True, that’s maybe a little heavier than I bargained for when I said I wanted to play. But I’m up for the challenge!

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012


Jack White on the Work of Creativity

In honor of the fact that I’m at Lollapalooza right now (wooooo!!!!), here’s a great video of Sunday night headliner, Jack White, talking about the work behind creativity:

“Inspiration and work ethic — they ride right next to each other…. Not every day you’re gonna wake up and the clouds are gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you’re gonna write a song from it. Sometimes, you just get in there and just force yourself to work, and maybe something good will come out.”

I think it’s really enlightening to hear about the obstacles he throws in his own path in order to push himself into a creative state of mind: “constriction to force ourselves to create.”

 

Thanks to Maria Popova, from the super-cool blog Brain Pickings, for sharing this video, as well as a letter on this same subject of “inspiration and work ethic,” by the legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration | Brain Pickings.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012


A mommy vacation

Originally published on Sunflower Creative Arts’ blog, Aug. 2012

I was taking a shower the other night, my five-year-old giggling next to me, drawing “naked bummies” on the fogged up glass door. It was adorable. But still, the thought occurred to me: wouldn’t it be great if I could be taking this shower alone?

Some days, I find myself having this thought a lot… in the grocery store, in the bathroom, sitting in my kitchen in the morning with a cold cup of coffee while the girls argue over who gets to wear the black headband with the flower and feathers (they think I should referee), the kitten screams to be fed and the puppy tries to jump in my lap.

Some days I just want them to leave me alone.

This is not how I’d imagined it would be…

Usually life's a party...

Usually life’s a party…

Before she was born, when Suzie, my oldest, was just the size of an apple seed tumbling around inside my body, I was overwhelmed with the idea of our beautiful connectedness. No matter where I went, I was never lonely; I was never alone. I always had a friend, a partner in crime. She and I were connected to each other in the most intimate way two people can be, closer than lovers. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was magical.

In the hours after Suzie was born I felt strangely empty. Physically, yes, but emotionally too. It seemed unnatural to have her so far away, outside my body. At the same time, though, I was happy to finally have my body back to myself. In the naive early moments of first-time motherhood, I planned how my life would soon go back to normal routine. This feeling lasted only until I snuggled my baby to my breast; she latched on and I realized: birth is only a beginning.

Fast forward nearly eight years later: I have my husband, two daughters, a puppy, a kitten, my friends, my work… I am surrounded by love on all sides and sometimes under the delicious weight of all that… I just want to get away. Alone.

Time for myself.

Time for myself.

It’s not really the privacy I crave. (Although expecting privacy in the bathroom is demanding precious little, if you ask me.) What I desperately want is time to just be me–whoever that happens to be these days, underneath all those layers and years of mommy-hood and taking-care-of-other-people-hood. The only way I can do that is to take time for myself, a mini vacation, if you will–even if “vacation only means a quick run around the block or an hour alone to write down my thoughts.

That’s easier said than done. I have this idea in my head that a ‘good’ mom never wants (needs) a vacation from her children. A ‘good’ mom should have unlimited energy to devote to her kids, and failure to muster that energy is nothing short of selfish. But that’s just crazy.

I can’t do this mom job as well as I want to if I don’t ever get any down time. And both my kids are old enough now that they don’t need my constant attention. In fact it’s healthy for them to see me set boundaries. I’m raising two strong women, future mothers perhaps, and for their sakes and mine I need to live that example.

So I make it a priority to spend time alone–just me. Time with my husband and friends is important too, but my alone time is different, and it’s sacred to me. It isn’t always easy. In fact, it usually requires major effort and schedule coordination, including the help of my husband and friends. But it’s more than worth it. My personal sanity is more than worth it.

As I’m finishing up my shower, Suzie shows up on the other side of the glass to have a casual conversation with her sister and to laugh at the bummies. Right now, in this moment, I’m happy to include them in my personal time. Why not? We are all still beautifully connected, even as we each try to find our own way.

© Jaime Greenberg, 2012


Wanna Learn Counter Terrorism Techniques? Eat S’mores? Adult Summer Camps Have You Covered!

If you attend an adult summer camp, you might find yourself doing something like this…

True confession: I’ve never been to summer camp.

Never. Not even once. Not even a day camp.

What on earth did I do with my unscheduled summers as a child? I remember lots of running around barefoot on our farm, staying up late and sleeping in, riding my bike, lying in fields daydreaming, summer reading… I believe some baseball games were attended and watermelon seeds were spit. There were trips to Six Flags (Log Ride!).

Point being, I (unlike my husband, who spent pretty much every summer of his childhood as a camper, and two as a counselor) have zero nostalgia for the whole summer camp experience. But… I could change my mind. It’s never too late.

Turns out, there’s a whole slew of summer camp opportunities out there–for adults only–and they sound pretty fun (and persuasive). Here are some of my favorites:

Club Getaway (Kent, Connecticut) Set on 300-acres in the Berkshire Mountains, overlooking a lake, this camp offers guests the opportunity to indulge in all their favorite camp pastimes from childhood–water sports, team sports, zip lines, trapeze artistry, zumba and pole dancing, wine tasting–okay, there might be a couple new ones thrown in there. Cuisine is prepared by chefs from the Connecticut Culinary Institute, and cabins feature air conditioning, private bathrooms and daily housekeeping. Also, there’s s’mores! (And drinking!)

Covert Ops Adventure (Miami, Florida) Guests of this camp spend four days learning what it’s like to be a member of an elite Israeli counter terrorism unit. This entry falls into the category of Camps I Am Least Likely to Attend… But Most Likely To Pretend I’ve Attended. Why? Because it sounds really badass. Learn Israeli martial art Krav Maga! Shoot a gun from a moving vehicle! Practice “a proven method of kidnapping, used on terrorists in the Middle East”! Yeah, I spent last weekend at special ops camp, but I can’t talk about it because then I’d have to kill you…

Surf Camp (Maui, Hawaii) Surfing and yoga. Yoga and surfing. In Maui. Seriously, what else could you ask for in a summer camp experience? And if, like me, you’ve never even set foot on a surf board (other than inside your brain)–no problem. This camp’s for all skill levels.

Idyllwild Arts Camp (California) The offerings for adults include painting and drawing, jewelry and metals, hot clay and ceramics, Native American arts, sculpture, printmaking, writing–all in a gorgeous setting on the western slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California. There’s hiking, swimming and dancing too. Want to bring the whole family? It gets even better: Idyllwild Arts Family Camp promises a camp experience everyone can enjoy together, including (appealingly) “no cooking, no cleaning, no driving, no hassles”

Coney Island’s Sideshow School (New York) For anyone looking to brush up on their sideshow skillz– you know, like fire eating and breathing, sword swallowing, bed of nails stunts, glass walking, straight jacket escape, snake charming… all in a safe and controlled atmosphere. Summer schedule at the Sideshow School also includes a serious-sounding burlesque master class, taught by Professor Jo Boobs. Sweet! Okay, maybe this is the camp I’m gonna pretend I’ve attended…

Space Camp (Huntsville, Alabama) A classic for “ages 7 to 107.” I visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for a field trip when I was in elementary school, and it struck me as a super-cool place, although I didn’t actually attend the space camp. Adult trainees at space camp alternate roles in a hands-on, interactive space mission, train on astronaut simulators like the 1/6th Gravity Chair and Multi-Axis Trainer, and build and launch a model rocket. How great to know you’re never too old to feel what it’s like to be an astronaut!

So which camp sounds the most fun to you?

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012


U.S. Play Coalition Conference: Play’s the thing!

Just a tiny fraction of all the amazing ideas I heard about at the US Play Coalition conference back in February. Thanks, Sunflower Creative Arts, for sending me!

Some of the topics covered at the conference: overwhelming evidence for the necessity of play for children’s development… the future of outdoor play… our role as parents in saving play for our children… and what sort of person makes a great play advocate (hint: they’re a lot like YOU!)

Originally posted on Sunflower Creative Arts’ blog, March 2012

Sunflower Managing Director, Jennifer Ligeti, and I recently attended the US Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play at Clemsen University. We came back with heads full of practical information from the leading thinkers and advocates in the world of play.

Here are some highlights from the conference.

Good News: We’re all on the same page
The best part of attending the play conference? Being with a group of over 265 other like-minded people (parents, play practitioners, educators, medical professionals, landscape architects and others with an interest in play) who all ‘get it’ when it comes to the benefits of play for people of all ages.

The message we heard over and over from researchers, educators and child development experts should be a familiar one to Sunflower families: young children require experiential hands-on learning through play–including self-created/self-directed experiences and opportunities to play with open-ended “loose parts,” as well as significant time (at least an hour) outside each day, for healthy physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. In fact, play is not just a ‘nice extra’ supplement to children’s academic work; it’s a basic biological drive, on the same level as eating or sleeping. Of course, older children and adults are no different: play is crucial throughout the lifespan.

The future of outdoor play
Speaking of outdoor play: it’s getting harder and harder for children to get enough of it. There are probably several reasons for this, from fears about children’s safety and cuts in school recess to our ever-growing daily absorption with technology.

As a parent, I know I’ve often lamented the fact that the outdoor play experiences of my childhood are not available for my own children. In his keynote speach, Dr. Geoffrey Godbey of Penn State University, put this thought into stark perspective. In his opinion, “the old forms of play we grew up with are unlikely to come back.” I heard this echoed a few times throughout the conference: the world is different today than it was when we were children. We’re at a new starting point, so let’s acknowledge that and move on from here. Instead of getting lost in nostalgia, we need to adapt today’s world to fit our human need for nature and play.

That means playground and community design that integrates nature back into our everyday lives. Nature playscapes (where nature is the focus, not human-made elements) are a huge new trend in playspace design. These playscapes allow children to experience nature, and natural loose parts, firsthand, with all their senses. Not all natural play spaces are built environments. In one session at the conference, I learned about a program at North Carolina State University that is training interns to be play workers* in wildlife refuges, giving children the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in these wild environments.

*Play worker, just as a concept, is on my personal short list for Best Job Ever.

Parents and Play
Of course, as parents, the job of turning off the technology and getting our children outside and interested in the natural world is uniquely ours. For better or worse, we are the gatekeepers to our children’s play.

In a fascinating session presented by husband and wife team, Dr. Kathleen Burriss and Dr. Larry Burriss of Middle Tennessee State University, I learned of a study that described parents’ understandings and concerns regarding children’s outdoor security and activity. The conclusion: parents’ anticipated danger for children’s safety (from injury or abduction) does not appear to balance realistically with potential risk factors. According to Kathleen, whose background is in early childhood education, children who are denied the opportunity for free play tend to lack initiative, are less willing to accept responsibility, less able to relate to others, and may experience extended emotional and psychological dependency. The challenge for today’s parents is to have the courage to do our own risk-benefit analysis (based on facts, not fear) and allow our children the freedom to take their own risks. “Kids need to go outside and explore for themselves,” said Kathleen. “Emotionally, you can’t give that to them. They have to get that for themselves.”

Which is where blogger (and fellow KaBOOM! guest blog finalist) Mike Lanza comes in. “I’m a father,” he explained in the session he presented, Neighborhood Play Everyday. “so I want solutions.” Mike’s book Playborhood, coming out in April, promises to be an inspiring look at exactly how parents can bring play to their own neighborhoods.

“[The decline in children’s outdoor free play] is a social problem,” said Mike. “So it needs a social, not an individual, solution.” Thinking big picture sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone (Mike and his kids went knocking door to door in their neighborhood, making new friends and inviting them to come out and play. At least one family didn’t answer the door, he says, because they never imagined that somebody they wanted to talk to would be knocking!), other times it’s more about being in the right place at the right time (“play in your front yard where your neighbors can see you!” Mike advises).

Play advocacy (we’re all play advocates)
Yes, that means you. If you’re reading this blog, if you’re a parent or an educator, then you care about children and the future of play. If you know there’s a problem, then you have a responsibility to be a part of the solution. As a parent, that has been an extremely empowering message for me, a message that was only reinforced at the play conference. There is so much I can do to make the world a better place, just by making sure I’m educated and speaking up. You can too. Go play!

© Jaime Greenberg, 2012


Where are all the kids?

Originally appeared on KaBOOM!’s Play Today blog (1st place winner, Parents & Play contest)
Published February 2012

When my husband and I found our new neighborhood, it was love at first sight. It was exactly what we’d been looking for: family-friendly and filled with more at-your-fingertips nature and open play spaces than we typically see here in South Florida, where zero lot line heavily-landscaped communities are the norm.

Our neighborhood has a total of five—count them five!—parks. Four are open spaces, intersected by sidewalk trails. The fifth holds a sand-filled playground—with monkey bars, slides, tunnels and the most incredible swings.

My daughters and I spend a lot of time at the playground park. One evening just at sunset, as we were swinging together, my 7-year-old turned to me and said, “mommy, where are all the other kids?”

That’s a good question. Despite ubiquitous “Caution children at play“ signs sprinkled throughout our neighborhood, we very rarely see any children playing outside.

One day, though, it was different.

A couple of months ago, an unexpected flash flood filled our low-lying parks with water, turning them into ponds in a matter of minutes. The transformation was magical.

I rushed my daughters out the door with me to check it out. At our favorite park (now pond) spiders swam for their lives and wood ducks glided across the sidewalk that used to be our scooter trail.

It took a few minutes, but soon I heard it all around me: the unmistakable, joyful sound of children playing. Slowly, kids of all ages were streaming from their houses to check out this new world.

We saw a group of teenagers floating across a submerged valley on a paddle board. On the other side, boys were riding their bicycles into the water, daring each other to go farther. One boy glided in pedal-deep before giving up and turning around.

My daughters and I crossed the street and waded into calf-high water. The seams of the sidewalk bubbled and percolated like a fish tank, “Something’s breathing in there!” my 4-year-old said, her eyes wide with wonder.

It seemed like everyone was full of wonder that day. But soon enough the floodwaters receded. The ponds turned back into parks again and all the kids went home. The spell was broken. Sadly, I haven’t seen that many kids just playing outside in my neighborhood since.

We have amazing play spaces in my community, but it literally took an act of nature to get kids outside. It’s enough to make a parent ask: what kind of magic would it take to keep that playfulness alive on a daily basis?

But, really, it has nothing to do with magic. It has to do with us: the whole community of adults in our children’s lives.

Maybe this is the best way to tackle the play deficit: at its root. When we adults remember play–the wonder and magic in everyday experiences–maybe we’ll realize what’s being denied to our children, and we’ll be outraged enough to shake things up and finally, for real, do something about it.

© Jaime Greenberg, 2012


Just part of life

A recent post I wrote for Sunflower Creative Arts’ blog. Not about play, really. But definitely about discovery. It’s certainly the truest thing I’ve written in a long time.

Originally posted on Sunflower Creative Arts’ blog, January 2012

Last month Sierra told me she wanted to visit a “graveyard.”

My first thought was ‘she’s been watching too much Scooby-Doo.’ I said, “sure we can do that,” but visiting a cemetery is never going to be at the top of my to-do list. So I put it off.

But then she asked me again. And again.

Then she told me she really needed to go see it, so she could compare it to a dream she’d had. Her dream had involved skeletons and zombies, but I sensed there was something bigger going on.

“Okay,” I said. “We’ll go.”

“Yay!” She looked at me pointedly, “Don’t forget, mommy. Pinkie promise.”

remembering: putting stones on a grave

We linked our pinkie fingers together. Then she added, sort of as an afterthought. “Can we go to a graveyard where we can read Grandaddy’s name on a stone?”

Right…

Two years ago, at Christmastime, Sierra’s great-grandfather (my Grandaddy) died. He was 89. Sierra was two.

Suzie and Sierra adored Grandaddy. The three of them made each other laugh. They watched Tom & Jerry cartoons together, propped up in his bed. The girls put on elaborate singing and dancing shows for him. He was their friend.

When I told Sierra Grandaddy was dead, she cried. But she was only two years old. She knew something sad had happened to him, but she didn’t have any real concept of what that was. For a long time, despite my explaining otherwise, she thought he might still be in the hospital, where he’d spent the last month of his life. Sometimes when we’d call my mom on the phone, Sierra would ask, “Is Grandaddy there with you?”

When she was a little older, she started thinking more about the idea of death itself.

“Mommy, I don’t want to be dead because I would miss you. And I would be so hungry.” (Sierra, age 3, Oct. 2010)
Until they have an experience with it, young children aren’t sure what death is. They really have no concept of ‘forever’ and how something alive can simply stop being… anything. I always remember this children’s definition of death that Susan teaches in her parenting classes, “when a body is dead it stops moving, doesn’t eat, doesn’t poop, doesn’t sleep anymore.”

on a bench in the cemetery

I suppose it really is as simple as that. Death is a biological process. My girls and I talk about death in this context a lot. “Things die,” I tell them as we pile brown leaves and apple cores into the composter. “But look, all these dead plants (and dead animals and dead people too) decay and mix together and then they become soil. So new life can grow.” This little daily miracle is one of the most profound lessons I know.

And so are the dead millipedes and dead lizards we sometimes find in our house and on our patio. Or the dead mouse that Suzie’s Seedlings teacher once brought in for the children to see and touch. A small chance to see what death looks like. It’s not so scary when you can talk about it, easier to understand when you can hold it in your hands.

And yet… it’s not quite that simple. There is death and then there is mourning. There is grief, letting go. Trying to make sense of the fact that someone you once loved, laughed with, watched cartoons with, no longer exists. But Sierra’s not quite at that point yet. Right now she’s a scientist, trying to understand the mechanics of bodies and what happens when they die.

So last week, my mom and I took her to two different cemeteries. The first one was mostly mausoleums, some of them grand marble and stained glass “estates.” Sierra was fascinated by these houses for dead people. But she wanted to see gravestones, so we took her to another cemetery. This one, an expansive green field dotted with monuments and flowers. A labyrinthine banyan shaded graves at one corner. Sierra explored the whole area for a while, looking at markers and asking questions, until she was satisfied.

Back in the car, she was still thinking. “Could I see what a person’s body looks like before it becomes a skeleton?” she asked.

I was surprised. “You want to see a dead body?”

“Yes.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. My mom said, “People see dead bodies at funerals. That’s a special ceremony families and friends have when people die.”

“Oh,” said Sierra. “Could we go to a funeral?”

“…um, yeah…” I said. My mom didn’t say anything.

After a few moments, Sierra broke the silence. “Why are you being so quiet when I said that?”

“Well, I’m just thinking…” I told her. “People usually don’t go to funerals unless they know the person who died. And I love all the people I know. I don’t want anybody I know to die…”

“But all people die, mommy. That’s just part of life.”

Which is, of course, true. I’m glad she knows that. As an adult, I’m still trying to process my own feelings about death. But maybe, with Sierra, I’m doing something right.

© Jaime Greenberg, 2012


In the Dark

Sometimes it’s easy to forget, in sunny South Florida where it’s still t-shirt weather in November, that the days are getting shorter. But even here in paradise we’re not exempt from the greater laws of nature, whether we notice them or not.

I was out running the other night at about 6:00, when I suddenly realized: it was dark. The street lights weren’t on yet, and the only illumination on my tree-lined street was the faint white glow of the sun already over the horizon and the occasional flashing of headlights as cars sped past. I slowed down, turned off my iPod and listened.

Beneath the whooshing of cars was another layer of sound: crickets and wind gently shaking oak leaves, something tiny moving in the hedges. And beneath those little sounds, silence. I realized I could barely see anything with my eyes anymore, so I closed them and took a deep breath– smelled the down-low scent of ferns and wet earth, and higher up, just a suggestion of someone’s dinner floating past me on the breeze. I smiled.

I love the dark. It’s one of my favorite places to be. A secret, safe, exciting place. A creative place, full of possibility. A place to really feel alive.

There’s disagreement as to exactly how many senses we humans have (some say as many as 30), but it should be clear to anyone who’s ever made the effort to use them all–it’s definitely more than five. At no time is this fact more apparent to me than when I’m in a dark place.

Darkness reminds me of my first photography class in college: loading black and white film rolls into processing tanks in a pitch-black bathroom next to the darkroom. I did it all by feel, closing my eyes (even less necessary here than during the night run in my neighborhood), then unspooling the film from the safety of its canister–stretching it all the way to the floor before winding it back up into the tank. In this dark room I was acutely aware of my body in space; I could feel the very contours and limits of it. But at the same time I felt more than my body–it was as if my extra senses stretched out before me, and I could see the room and its contents even more vividly than if the light had been on.

me, in the dark

There’s a reason most meditation takes place with eyes closed. Not being able to see with your eyes sends you deep inside yourself–and outside the limits of your ‘self’ at the same time.

Darkness is where we go to dream, to imagine and to create. In fact, many of my favorite in-the-dark memories are tinged with a magical quality (did that really happen or did I dream it?):

On a beach in Trinidad, under a sky filled with the light of what seemed like every single star in the universe, I didn’t really see, but felt, a leatherback sea turtle climb out of the crashing waves, dig a hole and lay her eggs. Her soft, sturdy head felt, absurdly, like the leather recliner in the house my grandparents lived in when I was a child…

Late one night, jet-lagged and sleepless in Rome, Italy, I stepped onto my balcony to listen to a lone guitar player sitting under a light on the deserted street, playing for nobody (or maybe for me)…     

It’s easy to underestimate the sheer volume of visual stimulation we encounter every day–phone and computer and TV screens, billboards, the general rush and blur of life. When you cut this out, even just a little bit, the world comes into a different kind of focus.

Like the intimate vulnerability, the easy camaraderie, people share when they’re together in the dark: around a campfire, at a coffee shop at 5:00 am, on a train at midnight headed back home. At times like this it feels like we’re all in it together, this collective dream.

Sometimes at night, after my children are asleep, I go out to the backyard and lie in my hammock. Each night is dark, of course, but always different. One night clouds move restlessly across the sky. The half-moon looks like a melon with the top chopped off, and the sound of the wind moves through the trees like the ocean, just out of sight. The next night the sky is clear and quiet: no wind, only crickets. Connect-the-dot stars cast an invisible net across the moon.

I find my eyes are closed but my imagination is open. My senses are alive.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011


Guerilla Swinging

Why the world needs more swings | KaBOOM!.

As a big fan of swings, myself, I found this public art project by Jeff Waldman pretty inspiring.

The project, which is currently raising money to hang swings in Bolivia, is “about processing the root of an emotion and finding the vehicle to draw it out. That emotion [is] happiness and that vehicle, swings.”

Waldman’s isn’t the only illicit swing project happening in the world. The Red Swing Project also is hanging swings in public places, from its origin in Austin, Texas, to India, Thailand, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, France, Spain, Portugal, Haiti and Poland.

That’s a true testament to the universal happiness to be found in swinging, and even just the surprising joy brought on by seeing swings hung–expectantly, full of promise and possibility–in random spots.

Under the “L” in Chicago, Ill. Photo by The Red Swing Project


Sometimes it’s easy to be myself…

…sometimes I find it’s better to be somebody else.*

When my older daughter was about three or so, she’d wake up and get dressed in either one of two outfits: a tutu or a princess dress. Whichever outfit she chose, she’d wear all day, wherever we went.

Grocery store trips took forever because every nice grandma-type lady would stop us to say, “Oh how beautiful! Did you have ballet class today, sweetie?”

Of course Suzie would look blankly at the nice ladies, “No,” she’d say, and then after they left, “Why did they ask me that mommy?”

Exactly. I understood Suzie’s confusion. After all, why did she need a reason to get dressed up in her favorite costume? She was just expressing who she was on that particular day. Wasn’t that reason enough?

Watching her get dressed in the morning, I confess I was always a tiny bit envious. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if I (as an adult) could express myself like that? How much fun would it be if I could wear a costume whenever I wanted!?

I think that’s one of the reasons Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I suspect it’s probably the only day of the whole entire year when I actually could wear a tutu to Whole Foods and not look like a complete nutcase (Well, maybe. At least people would understand why I was dressed up).

Speaking of tutus… my family and I went to a Halloween costume party Friday night as the vampire cast of The Nutcracker.

(clockwise from left) vampire Herr Drosselmeyer, vampire Sugar Plum Fairy, vampire Rat Queen, vampire Clara and (of course) vampire Nutcracker

We were pretty proud of our theme; if nothing else it cracked the four of us up every time we talked about it. My husband and I died laughing each time we looked at each other in our costumes.

Besides having fun with my family, I discovered that I also enjoyed the time off from being ‘Jaime’ for a little while. I’d been in a really rotten mood for about a week and I just couldn’t snap out of it. Truth be told, I was getting more than a little tired of being inside my own head.

Enter vampire Sugar Plum Fairy. For a few hours I got to be her—proper, sweet, beautiful ballerina on the outside/wild, sexy, scary vampire (complete with fangs!) on the inside. (For those of you who know me very well, I invite you not to analyze that costume description too closely!)

People reacted differently to vampire Sugar Plum Fairy than they would to Jaime. I scared more than a few small children with my ‘surprise’ fangs, and even one grown man. Yeah, it was a good night.

By the time the night was over and I took off the tutu and the fangs, I was feeling much happier than I had in days. Even better, I was ready to be Jaime again–and, finally, ready to take myself and my ‘problems’ much less seriously.

Reason number 8 million why I love my husband... he actually went along with this! :)

It’s a shame we adults don’t get more opportunities like this to just play at being someone else for a little while. Sometimes it’s good to take a break, to force yourself into a different perspective, a different outlook on life. You never know what (or who!) you might discover.

*(Note to self: I seriously need to stop my obsessive quoting of DMB songs…  ah, but sometimes it’s just so appropriate! Plus it all fits so nicely into my grand theory on the meanings of life, love and happiness…)

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011