Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fun is Good!

Many families look forward to the summer. Family vacations. Trips to the beach. Sports. Picnics. Cooking out in the backyard. Enjoying time with the kids. I don’t remember it that way. Summers were a stressful time when my son was a boy. Without the structure of school, his autistic behavior deteriorated. He had frequent tantrums. He did not like to do what other kids enjoyed, so he did not have friends. He did not like to do what families like to do together, so family vacations were not something I looked forward to. I saw summers as opportunities to focus on the autism therapy de jour–auditory training, sensory integration, behavior modification, diet changes, homeopathic treatments, and on and on. With each summer, he grew older and my hope for a cure grew more desperate.

One spring I was talking to the child psychologist who worked with James. I was going over several options for the summer. One option I dismissed quickly by saying, “This one would just be fun.” The doctor leaned forward until he was sure I was paying attention and said slowly and deliberately, “”

I guess all those years of training paid off for him, because that was one of the smartest things I ever heard.

When I started thinking about finding your happy place, the first step I thought of was to give yourself permission to be happy. We all want to be happy, but many of us have some ambivalence about it. Why would anyone be reluctant to go for the gusto? Maybe some of us have the reluctance in our genes. My ancestors were Huguenots, driven out of France to escape slaughter for their religious beliefs. Have you seen any portraits of John Calvin? Did he look like a happy guy?

Maybe you think that happiness is not an appropriate goal when there is so much suffering in the world. Maybe you think that you shouldn't be happy when people around you are not happy. Maybe you don’t want to tempt fate. Maybe you are scared to be happy because you can’t make it last. Maybe it isn’t sophisticated in your circle to be happy. Maybe being happy means relaxing your guard, and then all those terrible things you keep at bay by the sheer force of your vigilance will come in the night to destroy you or someone you love. And if you are a high school student in my daughter’s high school, then for sure it is not cool to be happy.

So the first thing we need to do is examine our beliefs about being happy. What are your uncensored thoughts when you think about happiness? Do you feel some resistance? Some anxiety? Fear? Being happy requires releasing fear. To use the most famous split infinitive in history, it means to boldly go where at least some of us have not gone before.

Try this. When you are aware of resisting an opportunity for happiness, whisper to yourself the wise words of the doctor. Fun is good.


  1. Reading this reminds me that I do sometimes avoid doing things that are fun for the silliest reasons. Very often I "blame" it on my parents, thinking that they would not like me to do this or do that. When in fact I really don't know at all if they would like it or not. I am just finding excuses not to have fun. I don't know why I do that, but next time I feel it's happening I will remind myself that fun is good indeed.

  2. FUN IS GOOD! Wonderful advice! I would like to share this post at

    Thank you, Galen, for all that you are!


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