Maturity doesn’t omit playfulness
Youthful habits of mind still useful
Every morning in that time before I fully return to awareness with my first sip of coffee, these little wake-up mantras play through my head. They're nonsense sentences or those that make sense but seemingly relate to nothing. They are about the only happening in my empty brain, and are so close to the surface that I often say them out loud and then have to explain I was just talking to myself. I've never been able to answer the question that follows concerning what I'm talking about.
They really are associated to things I just like to think about. I suppose they give me a happy buzz as I wake to the day.
I suppose I could use those moments more usefully. I could take stock about how to attack the day, perhaps. But no, it's the same nonsense every morning. The nonsensical mantras came from somewhere years ago and they're staying.
Besides, those serious things can be left to the near 20-mile drive to work.
There are other nonsensical or silly things I do habitually that I thought as a youngster I would stop when I matured.
I may not be able to hop up to pick tree leaves hanging above my head as I did as a teenager and continuing until I couldn't jump, but I still doodle and my mind wanders into rhyming or counting games like when I was young.
I remember once watching four quarter-inch, black ants march across a sidewalk. There was nothing whimsical in their movements as they bobbed and weaved along a straight course. They were on a mission of purpose and became a model of the maturity I thought I would one day attain.
I'm thankful I haven't.
I suppose I could have looked up and watched birds doing nothing more than enjoying the freedom of flight, which they sometimes seem to do. That would have been just as instructive.
Sometime about 20 to 25 years ago -- after I had crossed my generation's distrustful threshold of 30 -- it came to me I wasn't going to become some model of mind-altering all-consuming seriousness. Maybe some of the narcissistic habits of mind would be left behind but not the nagging playful moments.
I suspect it may be that way with all of us. We have this idea when we're younger that when we mature we won't think a certain way anymore or enjoy the same guilty pleasures.
That metamorphous never comes, even as we shake our head at some of the things we did, thought or desired.
There are some deadly serious grumps, but most of our minds want to remain playful, like 100-year-old Edith Oster, who celebrated her birthday with an open-cockpit plane ride and recites funny poems she learned at her mother's knee, or De Soto's soon-to-be 90-year-old Leon Coker, who seems never to be more than one sentence away from a joke.
Our habits of mind, like my morning mantras, are there to remind us to stay attuned to the playful. That may be true maturity.