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Greek-American Stories: Let’s Play

Let’s face it! It is very difficult being a human being right now. I think we all need a relief from the seriousness that stress, COVID, trauma, illness, and world events bring into our lives. I tried to think of ways that might help us safeguard our physical and mental health. When we were kids, it was easy. We’d go outside and find our friends and play. It could be hide n’ seek, jump rope, tag, hop scotch, kick the can, roller skating, or just sitting on the stoop discussing the weird characters that meandered by on the street and sidewalk, randomly, on 49th Street. It wasn’t all play, however. We had our times of stress, too. We worried about getting promoted to the next grade, which teachers we’d be stuck with, needing to get shots for whooping cough, three-in-one inoculations or measles, or us girls staying out of sight when the drunken rodeo cowboys or the circus clowns made trouble during recess from performing across the street in the old Madison Square Garden. When a fight broke out outside the corner bar named Jack Dempsey’s, and the police came, we’d talk about it excitedly, wide eyed, like an episode on the TV that didn’t exist then.

Our parents suffered stress at that time, worrying, mainly, about putting food on the table, heating the apartment, paying the rent. Dispossesses were common.

But, now it’s harder to quiet the mind when the news on TV is ever more horrific with daily knifings, shootings, car accidents, and misfits caring nothing for someone else’s life. The hardships and problems seem more plentiful and more widespread.

Still thinking of ways on how to relieve our major stress factors, what about of going outdoors in the fresh air, even though it’s winter; activities like golf, horseback riding, bowling, hiking in the Catskills, tennis, yachting…What? I heard that! OK, I’ll get real. How about bird watching, hiking in a park near you, swimming at a gym, getting a massage or taking a neighbor’s dog out for a run. No? Gee, you’re a tough crowd! Well, then, there’s mental play like crossword puzzles, reading, watching a play, taking a new route home, learning to play an instrument (like a Kazoo.) How about tossing a ball with a neighbor? Learning a new language, maybe? The point is that playing can help your brain and protect your health. Stress hormones decrease during those times and give the body time to repair and recover, even dissipate a bad mood.

While there are so many stressors around that we can’t control, it’s a good idea to bring some welcome relief by playing like we did as kids and finding someone with similar ideas. I jump rope in the basement and dance to music on the radio or play some of my old records and sing to the top of my lungs. Hey! I’d bet there’s someone you know that’ll be happy to join in a game of Monopoly, Pictionary, Sorry, or Scrabble. But, remember! Playing those games should be fun. Not competitive!

Of course, outdoor activities are not practical in the winter season unless you enjoy ice skating, hiking, or sledding somewhere. Of course, if you insist on staying seated at your computer, or cell phone, then, count me out!

I read that physical play – activities that get your weight off the couch and reduce sedentary time, has been shown to decrease the risk of osteoporosis and mental decline and makes your life more meaningful. So, it is very important that when you feel stress, make time for a little play, read a book of jokes, read your horoscope with a friend, sing songs real loud (not in public), or dance like nobody is watching because when we start playing we start living. Remember you have options!

So, if any of you are in for jumping rope, playing tag or hide n’ seek, hey! I’m available! (I gave my skates away long ago. Sorry!) My phone isn’t ringing. Oh, well! As for the state of the world I think it’s time for another flood! Hey! What about building an ark? Noah! Where are you?

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