Why I’m wondering what the Wookiee word for “play” is
Like a lot of people this week, I’ve enjoyed seeing the rise of the Chewbacca Mom and the total joyride that Candace Payne has been on in the last few days after her video was viewed over 145 million times on Facebook.
In case you missed it, this is the story of a 37-year-old woman who went into her local department store, bought a Chewbacca mask that gave a Wookiee growl when the person wearing the mask moves his or her mouth, and filmed herself trying it out in her car. Her infectious laugh and unbridled joy at the silliness of the new toy has completely given the world a reason to smile. Any news coming out of the US that doesn’t have to do with that other guy whose hair isn’t the worst thing about him is surely a good thing.
Two of the most recent books I’ve read have been about “play” – Stuart Brown’s book which is a bit like the Bible on the subject, and another one by Barbara Brannen – The Gift of Play – Why Adult Women Stop Playing and How to Start Again.
Both were fascinating to me in terms of the lessons and science behind our need to play, not just as children but almost more importantly as adults. The Gift of Play describes “Heart Play” – those activities that really get you into that zone of feeling joy and total giving over to the process of having fun and being immersed in the activity. The times when you can’t help but feel contentment and ease in your heart.
Many of my heart play experiences relate to sports, teams, and competitions. Growing up, I loved being part of my basketball and softball teams, sharing the highs and lows of the games with a group of wonderful other girls who all over time would become not just teammates, but friends. I was lucky to get to continue to play sports in college, when I discovered rugby, which was little known at the time in the US, and certainly not one that was a mainstream sport for women. The hard work of our training, developing skills that were largely pretty much completely new (remembering new terminology by using phrases like “a maul is tall”), winning and losing, and constantly being with strong, funny, and supportive women were all part of what made it fun for me. Over time, team sports have just fallen away in my life, and I really miss that sense of coming together in pursuit of a goal that ultimately, no matter how painful or exhilarating the result on the field or the pitch, is actually of little consequence in the grand scheme of life. It’s in the process, not really in the outcome, where the good stuff is.
As for the Chewbacca Mom, what wonderful spirit and energy that is encapsulated in those 30 or so seconds of hilarity. The context is also heart-lifting: she just wanted to buy the mask for herself, and not for her kids. For herself. It made her laugh. A lot. It made her laugh even before she put the mask on, and before the video did the crazy thing of going utterly and completely viral. How cool. And then it made others laugh and created that amazing ripple effect of positivity, laughter, and heartfelt joy. I also really love seeing how other people are creating opportunities for Candace to help her connect more to something she really loves through the introduction to Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, and her meeting J.J. Abrams. It’s like a beautiful virtuous cycle of positivity.
In life, and in particular in leadership, it feels we’re often hiding behind a mask of some sorts. A mask to hide our emotions, or our lack of confidence, or our uncertainty, or our imperfections. What would it be like if we took those masks off, showed more of ourselves, connected to our heart play more often? My bet is that it wouldn’t always be funny and life wouldn’t be constant giggles and laughter, but we’d get better at expressing what is real and true for each of us.
How about for you, what’s your heart play? It could be music, or board games, or dancing, or art, or birdwatching, or being in the woods and making dens. Telling stories, sewing, surfing, dressing up, collecting things, being near water. Writing code, researching your family history, riding a horse or building a chest of drawers, enjoying new food or wine tasting. Or any myriad of things that make your heart feel at ease, where you have a sense of time not mattering, and being lost in the experience. Most importantly, how could you get more of it in your life starting now? The world needs more joy, more laughter, more play. We need more people like Candace Payne who are willing to be silly, to laugh, to take a mask off by, in her case, putting one on. To embrace joy. To spread it wide and far, and then enjoy the ride.