Serious Play

I have taken the week away from city life to deepen my understanding of play, specifically Lego play.  If you are a play therapist this sounds totally normal.  If you are a non-play therapist you are probably wondering why play needs to be ‘understood’ at all.  It’s pretty strange, it’s true.   We are practically born playing; we play before we speak, before we have an understanding of ourselves as separate beings in the world.  As children, we play indiscriminately with adults, animals, children, inanimate objects.  Yet somewhere along the way, most adults forget how to play.  We become slaves to goal-directed activity, to outcome.  We forget how to lose ourselves.  And what could be more adult than to try to rectify this amnesia by studying and learning and reading books about play?  But I’m not here to remember how to play-the only way to remember how to play is to play-I’m here to learn about facilitating others in finding themselves through play.

The hotel is beautiful, if a bit run down.  It looks like a giant cottage and is perched on the edge of a dull steely-colored lake. There is gravel mixed into hard mounds of snow in some places and wet patches of grass in others.  My husband and my pug Violet are with me.  They both come almost everywhere with me, which results in so many of the places I travel blending into one locale in my mind.

After opening the door to our room, I immediately strip down to the nude and swaddle myself in the hotel robe and the complementary slippers.  There is something incredibly freeing about not having to worry about clothes.  This was something I always felt as a child when I contemplated kids from private school with their crisp white polos and navy coloured kilts.  Clothes have always chafed me-both the sensory qualities of cloth, as well as the selection of outfits.  Getting into the robe feels like a huge relief.

Staying in nice hotels makes me feel at once free as well as mildly depressed.  I am grateful for the break from scraping dried cat food off plates, from wiping geriatric dog and cat anuses, from having to watch my step as I tip toe through a minefield of cat vomit, hairballs, vomited-up cat diarrhoea (cat poos, dog eats poo, dog vomits up poo), from waiting at the bus stop, from taking the bus in the rain.  It feels amazing to know that my bedding will be clean and tight, that the shampoo bottle and the toilet paper won’t run empty, that there won’t be any scum in the bathtub, but staying in nice hotels also makes me wonder when I will be able to exert this kind of control over my own life. It makes me weary of living month to month and weary of the two old mattresses I am storing in my room until I can afford to have them picked up by 1800GOTJUNK.

I think nice hotels make my husband feel the same way.  We both feel distinctly deflated after spending a couple hours in the hotel.  We take Violet down through the hotel lobby-she tries to pee on all the fake Christmas trees and artificial snow-and out into the night air.  We run into an enormous man with a thick pony-tail full of golden curls.  He looks like a nineties WWF wrestler.  I nickname him Thor.  Thor loves Violet and he bends down to stroke her papilloma-ed forehead.  He complements her on her cowichan sweater, which is grey and white with a black reindeer.  If me and my husband are the cosmos, Violet is the sun.  Our lives, so full of all the mundane objectives it takes to keep shit together, revolve and scintillate and glow around the orbit of this tiny voluptuous lump of Tibetan Mastiff.  Not only that, but with Violet, we play, with Violet we lose ourselves.