February 7 – “Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
I have to admit, I didn’t wake up in the best of moods yesterday. My wife and I booked a weekend trip to New Orleans, and yesterday was our travel day. Airplane travel has long made me nervous. It’s not a fear of flying, I really don’t have that (despite my fear of heights); it is more a nervousness born from my size. Before losing weight, it was uncomfortable to go on a plane. I had to ask for a seat belt extender, and that was never nice. I always felt like that guy who is spilling out of his seat and making the other passengers uncomfortable. Yesterday was the first time on a plance since losing weight, but still I was nervous.
Then there are the nerves that come from being in a strange place, strange surroundings. I’d heard mixed reviews about the French Quarter. Some saying it was a terrifically fun place, others saying that it was highly overrated, smelled bad, was dirty, and had nothing but wall to wall drunks and panhandlers. All that was on my mind as we traveled.
After we checked in we struck out and started exploring the Quarter. Sure enough, there were the panhandlers and -despite it being before noon local time – there were the drunks. The place did smell also, mostly of fish coming from the restaurants. If you like fish, that’s a good smell. Me, not so much. I was really starting to find myself in quite a funk.
We finally reached Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Several friends had recommended it. Inside it was dark, and there were some people enjoying a drink. We went to the bar, my wife ordered a water, and I ….. ordered a Hurricane.
I am not really a rum drinker, but I decided that while I was here I would let loose a little. It was great. I did, in fact, loosen up. But it wasn’t only the alcohol that loosened me up. One (or two) hurricanes isn’t enough to make me sloppy drunk by a long shot. No, it was a decision I made. I decided to relax and enjoy. I was with my loving wife, in a fun place. I had no work to worry about for 4 days, the sun was shining, and there wasn’t any snow around. I decided to PLAY.
For the rest of the day I was much more relaxed. I even survived a camera disaster that ended up costing me about $1,000 to deal with (I dropped and damaged my favorite lens and had to buy a replacement). But because I had decided to enjoy myself, I didn’t let that mishap get in the way.
And I felt young again.
Holmes is absolutely right. It isn’t that we stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. Making the decision yesterday to stop being the stodgy, responsible adult who worries about everything helped make the day into one that I won’t soon forget.
Today my wife and I are setting out for breakfast, then to watch some parades. There is a full schedule, and we’ll be hustling around to see as many as we can. The weather is perfect, and the food is terrific. And, since I’ve decided to play, I am feeling great.
There are some friends of mine who like to ask if “Young Bob is coming out.” This is usually asked when we are on our multi-family vacation, and campfire time comes along. Young Bob always does come out at campfire time, because the comraderie of the campfire always helps me make that decision. And that’s what it’s about. It’s about DECIDING to feel and act young.
Today my reflection is on letting Young Bob out more often. Sure, I have responsibilities and I have to do things like go to work to pay the bills and all. But, that is no excuse for allowing myself the luxury of thinking I have unlimited time, and that I can decide to stop playing and be an old guy. Today I am going to play and be young!