Bless the Adventure: Love, Play, and Success
by Jennifer Paros
Security is mostly a superstition . . . Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
~ Helen Keller
My husband and I were in an ongoing argument-like debate. After years of using a cell phone with questionable intelligence, he wanted something smarter – an iPhone. I agreed that his phone needed updating; compared to what the other kids were playing with, the phone seemed homemade. My problem wasn’t that I didn’t want him to have a shiny, new, fun thing. My problem was my relationship to my IFC.
IFC stands for Internal Financial Controller. I discovered and named my IFC in the course of the Phone Negotiations. I’d always been aware of my financial proclivities – my desire to save, my love of the coupon, and my concerns about spending too much. But until the recent conflict, I had never felt the necessity to clearly delineate me from my financial strategies.
My IFC stamped the potential purchase and additional monthly bill “UNNECESSARY LOSS,” so when I searched for options that might satisfy everyone, I found none. Eventually, I realized that though my husband and I make money decisions together regularly, this was a playful desire that was uniquely his. And though none of his logic seemed logical to me, there was something more important on the table – the joy of his adventure – something with which my IFC was unconcerned. After weeks of internal conflict, I realized that what I really wanted was to bless his adventure, not try to talk him out of it.
When I argue for fearful thoughts like loss of security, I feel awful, even though my intention is to feel better. When I think about desire for new experience and expansion, I feel love and greater safety. Though I have expressed money concerns before and considered myself responsible for doing so, this time I felt painfully divided. Two perspectives were active: one that embraced life with ease, and the other looking to control life. One was loving, the other trying to manage conditions in order to relax enough to love.
Recently, I watched the Olympic 100-meter race. I had never heard of Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, nor his previous Olympic gold medals, and was unaware of his sense of humor and fun. After winning the gold medal (again), he was asked how he balances his playfulness with the concentration needed for competition. Bolt said, “ . . . Just playing with the fans, dancing, joking around, having fun . . . competition, it all goes together for me.”
It’s a happy talent to know how to play.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Joyful expression is an act of blessing one’s experience. Usually, though, it’s not associated with high-level achievement. Happiness is often considered an outcome of being successful – that with success comes happiness. Before success, play is often seen as the opposite of the work ethic needed to “win” in life. But Bolt says playfulness goes with achievement. He doesn’t fear that being lighthearted will distract from his focus; he sees having fun as supporting accomplishment.
Usain Bolt is diligent; his behavior is steady, enthusiastic, and energetic in its effort. He is conscientious and works hard, yet he also puts full attention on joy and love. The derivation of diligent goes back to diligere – to “value highly”, “prize”, and “love”. Diligence evolves from the idea that loving and valuing are fuel for the steady, directed energy needed to realize our objectives.
I have mental strategies based on the concern that play does not go together with success (the IFC is sometimes one). My reticence to bless my husband’s adventure was more about vigilance than diligence. Vigilance is about alertly watching for problems or indications of danger. Sometimes I can confuse the concepts behind vigilance and diligence. But vigilance is a state of trying to guard (based on fear), whereas diligence is a state of striving towards (based on love, ideally).
Striving to stay safe and secure is not the same as growing, learning, or creating. It’s a common perspective to believe that first we need to lock down our security, and then we can do all the creative, expansive, happy things. To an extent, that plan is reasonable. But free, happy expressions of creativity feel like security; and a vigilant stance can easily separate us from a sense of freedom and joy. Without commitment to love and play, we hinder the energy needed for creating the outcomes we most want. As it turns out, blessing the adventure blesses our desired destination as well, and, in turn, all of us.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.