Let’s Play

Barbara A. Bernard

Barbara A. Bernard

 In a life of discovery, possibilities abound. The aspect of self I call the Explorer helps me to identify possibilities and gives me permission to pursue activities that are pleasing and provide meaning. When it’s inspired, the Explorer helps me see the joy in everyday life and allows me to show it and share it.

Although I am an adult, my inspired Explorer supports me in keeping my inner child alive—the part of me that loves wandering in the woods and enjoying nature, marveling at a butterfly, blowing bubbles, and playing. It lets me express delight when I’m experiencing something new or being curious about the world around me. In these moments, I can be completely present.

If I need motivation, I can look to some of my heroes and sheroes for happiness and joy, people who have an active inner child and aren’t afraid to show it. One such hero was my father, a man who got up every day with a joy for life. I remember him searching among the international items at the grocery store to find foods he had never tasted before. He would read the labels carefully so that he could tell us more about what we were about to eat. Most often it was just enough for each person at the table to have a small taste. I recall thinking the bite of exotic chocolate was too small, but it would be okay if I didn’t eat pickled pigs feet again. And I’ll never forget savoring my first taste of toasted coconut flakes and wishing that no one else liked them!

Back CameraCooking a celebratory breakfast, arranging a picnic instead of eating at the dinner table, an evening ski or tobogganing could all be fit into a busy work week for my dad. He recognized the power of play to connect us, and he constantly chose to surround himself with people of all ages. Unafraid of being with someone highly skilled in a sport, he frequently skied or played tennis, volleyball, badminton, or Ping-Pong with people much younger than himself as a way to get to know them better.

Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut, is a wonderful example of someone who has an inspired Explorer. Unlike any astronaut before him, when he went into space for the third time in 2013, he chose to share with the world his delight and wonder in the experience. He made video demonstrations that answered students’ questions, showing how to prepare a space burrito, how he brushed his teeth, and how to make a peanut butter sandwich. He performed music with the Barenaked Ladies and students all across Canada simultaneously. His clear explanations also expressed the marvel of being weightless and of the sights outside his window.

Wondering and wandering, and sharing joy and amazement all are key components of the inspired Explorer, leading us deep into our true selves. Thanks to Hadfield, the magic of outer space has become available to more of us. When you listen to him talk, he frequently uses the word possibility. His serious pursuit of space since he was in elementary school involved years of intense study and commitment, but he never forgot the wonder that ignited his journey.

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres has been described as someone who “radiates positivity.” After coming out as a lesbian, she wasn’t hired as a performer for several years. She struggled in her isolation but emerged with a resolve to be humorous while also being positive and kind. Many people watch her show regularly when they are experiencing their own challenges, because they can count on Ellen to make them laugh and be inspired. She loves to invent games and to laugh, but never at anyone’s expense. She knows what it’s like to need to giggle when life is challenging.