I try to have my weekday evenings free and be home early to help my baby sharks with their homework and other activities that they are involved in. Sometimes I find my kids have a busier day than me. Especially at this point in my life when I’m trying to invest my time and energies on things that will be beneficial for the future I seek. I have more pockets of free time. Before I turned 40, I would start the day with a checklist and my motivation was to tick as many boxes as possible by the end of the day.
There are times when I pick my brood from school and as I’m giving them stories in the car, I discover that I’m talking to myself. When getting into the car, they have this battery critically low look. They black out a short while into the ride home.
That reminds me of how I used to operate pre-40. I loved my life because I was doing what I love but there was no time for a break. My employed pals would often go on holiday and I was the constant absentee on those trips. For a while it was cash manenos because unlike my mates, my employer couldn’t afford to give me a Christmas bonus. As my business grew, I still couldn’t make it. I’d often use the busy season as my reason for missing the plots, which was partly true. I remember my pal Davy once asking me sarcastically if I am the one holding the tent up during an event and if it would fall if I left it and went on vacation with them. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, but I remain proud of having taken the less beaten path.
I was often tired during those twenty or so years of my life. I was happy to do what I was doing but fatigue was my constant shadow. I hardly took time off and my lower back had constant pain. Leave days and off days were strange concepts. I would take leave in my sleep. That was my view of time off. It would have been torture if I worked that hard at a job I didn’t like.
That way of doing life in my first half had a head-on collision with what my second half requires. It’s no longer business as usual. It’s business unusual. The reason I get uncomfortable with not being busy is that I have not learned how to rest and do nothing. About three years ago my anxiety levels would rise like tea that’s about to boil over the pot when I started encountering moments of being idle. With time I’m getting more comfortable with the slow moments.
I’m convinced that one reason why folks at 40 fear this transition period is because we do not know how to rest. Being calm and still is harder than learning how to fly a jet for the first time. Yet our second half requires that we rest and play a lot. When we get home from school, my totos usually wake up automatically when they hear their pals shouting outside as they play. Doing homework instantly becomes a drag but they get through it because they know that’s their ticket to playing outside.
I worry sometimes that we drive our kids too hard. Schoolwork, homework, sports activities, music lessons – the list is endless. I agree that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We have to keep the devil and his relatives as far away as possible from our families. However, we need to strike a balance. I sometimes notice that when my baby sharks have played enough, they go through their homework faster, easier and more creatively.
Folks, we need to put off these heavy overalls we wear as badges of honor. The ones where we must be (or appear to be) swamped with work and responsibilities that we can hardly pause to buy that juicy roadside sugarcane (I prefer that than smelling the roses. Plus, I’m yet to see roses by the roadside in Nairobi). We are often quick to declare how crazy busy we are to people. I think subconsciously we hope to gain their acceptance and make them view us as important members of society. That’s why it’s much easier to say how busy we are compared to having free time on our hands. When business is low, we quickly say how we are looking forward to a busy season instead of enjoying the break as we charge our batteries for the busy period ahead.
Dr. Stuart Brown writes, “The opposite of play is not work; the opposite of play is depression.” Imagine that. So basically, work does not work without play. This explains why we are partly seeing more cases of depression. Because when work disappears, we realize that we forgot how to play and maybe that’s what is required to help us get through uncertain times.
Tuesday was International Men’s Day and I’ve just seen some sad statistics in a Facebook group that I’m part of. 76% of suicides are men, 85% of homeless are men, men serve 64% longer in prison on average and the list goes on. As much as there could be other factors that lead to these statistics, I now believe lack of play should be added to the list as one of the contributors to those grim facts.
I am getting intentional on play being the overall I wear in my second half of life. The busy work overall, I wore in my first half is out of commission. Traveling more frequently and intentionally, activating my photography and even this writing are some of my versions of play. I even want to view my public service as a kind of play because the focus is on improving lives by helping folks get happier and more fulfilled.
I hope we can let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth (by Brene Brown) and replace that with maximum enjoyment of God and life as our mantra (by Lucas Maranga) he-he.