Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This girl just wants to have fun

January 17, 2007

My recent annual physical was the usual dreaded affair, complete with weight and blood pressure checks, as well as the usual range of uncomfortable questions from the doctor.

After reluctantly confessing that no, I didn't exercise regularly; yes, I still ate white bread; and no, I didn't have a living will, I was still faced with the hard question. I knew it was coming. He asks it every year, and for at least five years, I haven't been able to answer it.

Finally, he spit it out: "What do you do for fun?" he asked.

"Well, on Friday nights I wash a load of whites," I quipped. "And on Saturday, the darks." He raised an eyebrow and, without a word, made his disapproval known.

I left the doctor's office with my proverbial tail between my legs, pouting all the way to the local drive-through, where I would drown my woes in 44 ounces of diet soda. Why was this question so hard to answer? I dug a scrap of paper out of that black hole I call my purse and decided to scribble a list of my various forms of entertainment.

Five minutes passed.

The carhop brought my soda.

Five more minutes passed.

My scrap of paper remained empty, my mind blank.

It wasn't always that way. I used to be the fun, funny one -- the kooky chick, the concoctor of playful plans, the class clown. But somewhere among frantically racing between kids' activities, checking on my elderly mother, maintaining a successful career and trying to help my aging body defy gravity, I had moved personal enjoyment down on my list of priorities.

I went easy on myself and changed the list from "Favorite Pastimes" to "Favorite Possible Pastimes." Before long, though, I found myself writing two columns -- the left column listing an activity, the right column listing why it wasn't a viable possibility. Reading -- makes me sleepy. Working out -- makes me sweaty. Scrapbooking -- makes a mess. Cooking -- makes me fat. Keeping in touch with relatives -- makes me crazy.

On my way home, I drove past some kids playing on their lawn. They spun frantically in wild circles until they dropped to the ground in gales of laughter. That didn't look at all fun to me.

And then it dawned on me. Fun is defined by the beholder. For 5-year-olds, it's spinning out of control until they are fall-down dizzy. For 12-year-olds, it's jumping off the high dive. For 16-year-olds, it's winning the attention of the opposite sex. And so it goes.

A wave of nostalgia carried me back to my teens, when I would lie on my bed for hours, listening to LPs; to my 20s, when I sunbathed by day and hit the discos by night; and to my 30s, when most days were spent playing with my kids or enjoying the company of friends and co-workers.

Then I realized as fun as that all was, I wouldn't go back and relive those experiences for anything. Life is good. I still enjoy my children, my mother and my work. As for fun? I have plenty of it. Take the fact that I watch "Storm Stories" late at night.

Did you know that if you're ever in a landslide, you should climb up against the slide and not down? And I have gotten really good at one-man Scrabble. Did you know that pyx is a word defined as a container in which wafers for the Eucharist are kept, and that if played on a Triple Word Score, can get you 45 points? Those things are what I do for fun these days; no more raucous romping until the wee hours of the morning or prancing around the gym trying to "make it burn."

Fun, as defined by this 50-year-old, has taken a new form. The question really wasn't that hard. I was just looking for a more exciting answer. And I am so happy to have found it, I am nearly fall-down dizzy.

-- Marcia Hallenbeck McFarlane, who grew up in Leavenworth County, now lives in Johnson County. She can be reached via e-mail at

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