Playfulness at Women of the Wild
For those who don't know, I spent this weekend traipsing through the wilderness of West Virginia. No cell service, no wi-fi, and no men. This weekend was WithLoveDC's First Annual Women of the Wild Retreat. You might know WithLoveDC from their silent discos or pop-up yoga throughout the city. Their mission is to spread love and build community in our diverse and busy city. Last year, I taught a few body positive fitness classes with them which proved to be both formative for my growth as well as an important addition to the mission of WithLoveDC. If we're doing everything with love, we definitely need to be well with love. This led me to West Virginia, leading a group of magical and inspiring women through a body positivity and intuitive eating workshop. As much as I want to talk about the workshop and get back on my usual soapbox, the things I took away from this weekend go much further.
I'm not the camping type. I will hike all day, spend hours climbing rocks and stomping through creeks, but as soon as dusk hits, I want my big comfy bed. Indoors. I went out on a limb for this weekend opting for a cabin with electricity. Mock me all you want, but this was as far as close to roughing it that I could get. I wanted a challenge, and that challenge ended up being a test of how to stay warm when the temperature dropped to 40 degrees in the middle of my slumber.
Regardless of my possibly unwarranted complaining, this weekend was incredible in so many ways. Women supporting women, self-trust, creativity, nature, and play. Spread out around the campgrounds were 85 women of all ages sharing the same weekend to gather and grow together. It was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had, and that's coming from a summer camper who also lived in an all-girls dorm throughout high school.
The fact that all of these women paused their diverse life journeys to gather in the same place for a weekend was magical. Not only that, but the theme that underpinned the entire experience was women supporting women. It was women supporting those leading workshops, women opening up to other women for support, women sharing their experiences with other women, and women gaining inspiration from other women.
Beyond my amazement with the weekend as a whole, I have one big takeaway. Play. As we danced and sang having let go of all shame and embarrassment, I started to wonder why I don't incorporate more of this into my life. Why don't I blast some music and dance like a toddler more often? Why don't I write words down on a paper and make some horrible poetry? I enjoy this stuff, so I know it's not a waste of time. It's not a matter of time as much as it's a matter of allowing myself to be playful.
For those of us who love our work (most of the time) and love spending time with the people we care about, there's often little patience or energy to devote to other things even things we really enjoy that cultivate deeper parts of our inner beings. Play allows for creativity, joy, relaxation, stress-relief, and prevents burnout in the long-run. Now let me be clear: play is something that you do for the sake of play. It's sitting down to intentionally draw a picture just to draw a picture, or singing a song with lyrics you make up as you go.
I will also add that play isn't particularly "cool." As I brought my takeaway home with me and proceeded to dance like a toddler in front of my roommates, I realized the idea of intentional play doesn't hit home for some people. Maybe they do it naturally, and I'm the one who is catching on but if I've learned anything this weekend, it's that play matters and I need to do more of it.
Some of my ideas for implementing play in my life include spontaneous dancing (although I'm starting in private), singing in the shower louder, writing poetry by stringing words on my mind together, and doing more coloring outside of the lines (literally). Call it idealistic or out-there, but play matters and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Shonda Rhimes knows too. It improves our health, relationships, and helps generate new ideas through creativity. *Commence dancing*