Pass the popcorn ― how to have more fun

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It’s crazy, waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.  ― Shannyn Steel

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that nobody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day . . . the here, the now.”    ― Simone Elkeles

I’ve been marking time. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting to find the thing that would propel me into the joyful, purposeful life I’d hoped for. Toward the end of last year the penny dropped and I suddenly understood what I already knew but wasn’t able to acknowledge. It’s crazy waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.

After all that waiting I’ve finally twigged that the trick to this whole fulfilment thing is to get out there and do stuff that I want more of in life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A startling discovery, made as a result of this brain wave, is that the one thing I want more of in my life right now is not time, not spiritual connection, not more authentic relationships, though that would be nice too. What I want more of in my life right now is fun. Yes, fun. Now don’t get me wrong. My life is not devoid of enjoyment. There are plenty of things that bring me joy; spotting a flower dewy with raindrops; the smell, texture and colour of soggy leaves on the forest floor after a thunderstorm; the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of kookaburras laughing from the great pine tree in my neighbour’s yard. Those things and more fill me with joy. I also have many pleasant ways to pass the time that would constitute enjoyment too. Long strolls on the beach, reclining with a good book, baking a batch of cookies for my beloved’s lunch. Those things are enjoyable to me. What I’m after is in a whole different category.

Fun to me is more outrageous than enjoyment. It’s buzzy and exciting and perhaps more “in the moment” rather than a slow burn. Do you see the difference?

I have begun gathering a list of big fun and little fun activities in earnest.  Big fun activities are those that may cost a bit of money and require a little planning like indoor skydiving, parasailing, swinging on a trapeze. Little fun is something that could be undertaken on the spur of the moment, is relatively inexpensive and something that could raise the fun factor on any given day. Such as jumping on a swing in the local park and throwing your head back to drink in the sky.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. As ideas come to mind they could be written on a piece of paper, thrown into a big bowl with the intention of pulling an idea from the ‘popcorn’ bowl to infuse life with fun.  I’m going to experience ‘popcorn’ fun weekly and plan big fun, depending on the scale of it, monthly or quarterly. Oh, and I am going to scheduled those big fun activities to give me something to look forward to and to ensure having more  fun becomes a reality rather than a hope, wish or a dream.

Here are some popcorn fun ideas my friend Margaret, a kid at heart who  hasn’t lost sight of how much fun life can be, shared with me to start filling the bowl. I hope you get some ideas to add to your list.

Build a sandcastle or mermaid on the beach.
Water pistol shooting
Play SNAP (the card game)
Bubble blowing
Slide on a flying fox
Chew bubble gum and pop it.
Watch a funny cartoon
Singing in the shower
Dancing nude under the moon
Walk barefooted to the park
Feed the birds
Read Dr Seuss aloud
Pull weird faces and take pictures to replay
Walk on stilts
Dress up as a chicken
Three legged race
Sand dune sliding on cardboard

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Inside a mystery box

Image sourced from Lacy Lane

Image sourced from Lacy Lane

Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.  – Nina Dobrev

You can be childlike without being childish. A child always wants to have fun. Ask yourself, ‘Am I having fun?’ – Christopher Meloni

Life is more fun if you play games.  – Roald Dahl

As a child I was fascinated by mystery boxes.  Being presented with a number of unobtrusive boxes and being tasked with choosing one to reveal either a welcome bounty or a dud souvenir was excruciatingly enticing . I delighted in the weighing up of possibilities and the anticipation –  would there be ultimate enjoyment or a momentary disappointment from having made the wrong decision?  Recently the tables were turned slightly. I was not choosing a box for a reward but rather I was put inside a mystery box and the ultimate reward came from escape.

My analogy is weak, I agree, so let me tell you a little about one of the most exhilarating  fun experience I have had in a very long time.

It all began with a shake down.  Phones and other electronic devices were confiscated and locked away.  A hood was placed over my head. I don’t go in much for blindfolds and I certainly don’t like hessian bags over my head but in the spirit of adventure and fun I played along.  We were led to our chamber and once our captor departed and locked us within we removed our bags to find we were in the dark bowels of the Butcher’s Burrow.  We had 50 minutes to escape our fate and I had no idea how to begin. There were limited tools at our disposal and those that seemed to exist were sealed away with combination locks. Time was of the essence and the two of us had to work together to escape.  Our first objective was to find light.

I would love to describe in detail the steps we took to escape and the challenges we faced but that would spoil the fun should you attempt this yourself. The Exitus escape rooms are an exciting addition to the adult fun arena.  The room we visited is part of the entertainment at Strike Bowling in the city of Brisbane but they are popping up almost everywhere.  Each room has a theme where minimal clues are given and teams must use their wits and combined brain power to solve the puzzles confronting them. The goal is to escape before the nominated time is up.  You can ask for clues – using the iPad that is supplied or the mobile phone that links directly to the administrator.  Beware – there are time penalties for clues.

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Before entering, I was a little apprehensive.  The thought of being locked in an unfamiliar room for close to an hour, sent my heart a flutter.  What if I felt claustrophobic and too confined, what if I  needed to get out?  Those thoughts soon passed and then a sheen of sweat broke out as I wondered if I would know what to do. Would I be able to solve the puzzles?  What if I needed maths? I need not have worried.  Precautions are in place in case of panic – the mobile phone allows for an instant exit should you need it and the puzzles, well, while they initially  seemed unsolvable, once an instinctual need to ‘escape’ kicked in the fuzziness of my mind was miraculously unlocked and I forged ahead.  Good news too – no maths needed.

My adult son and I worked exceptionally well as a team.  He had been in an escape room before and had some sense of what was required so with a little guidance we set about our task with the pressure and weight of a ticking clock as a constant motivator. We each had our moments of clarity and success and often times it was our combined collaboration that saw the different clues uncovered and puzzles solved.  Teams of up to six can enter the rooms.  I would have found that a little difficult; coping with too many personalities and noise may have rendered me incapable of clear throughout but it may also add to the fun for many.

We escaped, triumphant.  In our last three minutes, holding our final clue we were stumped.  We tossed around ideas, tried various options but relented and asked for a clue.  We weighed the alternative – time penalty or eviction without resolution.  We chose to finish the puzzle.  Surprisingly we were on the right path and probably would have gotten to the end point unaided but that ticking clock forced our hand.

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If you want to experience the difference between fun and enjoyment but don’t want to jump out of planes, travel too far from home or spend a fortune; try escape rooms – they are loads of fun and worth every cent. The warm after glow will provide you with plenty of lasting enjoyment once the thrill of the moment has passed.

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Five fab reasons to take a mini getaway

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In matter of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius. Mehmet Murat Ildan

I recently I went away for the weekend. Initially, I didn’t want to go as I had ‘so much to do’ and was ‘way too busy’ to ‘waste’ a weekend having fun and relaxing (fun and relaxation? What’s that, right?). The end result of packing up the car and driving just two short hours away to the beach for two days was tremendous.

I’ve come to the realisation that mini getaways are good for the body, mind and soul.  I haven’t interviewed hundreds of people to ascertain my data is true for everyone, the following is simply my anecdotal evidence of the benefits of time away.

Going away for a mini break has had five significant outcomes for me

1. More focused attention
Since arriving home I have found I remain focused on tasks longer without drifting off. I’ve procrastinated less and just got in and ticked off multiple tasks each day with a renewed sense of interest and clarity.

2.  Heightened senses
Something I noticed when I was away was that my senses were heightened. After several hours in the fresh air and walking on the beach. My senses of smell and taste had intensified.  Food tasted better and I could smell the subtleties of the place; the dank earth under the fig trees, the salt spray and the clean air in the pastures.  The early morning sounds of crickets and small unseen insects played melodically in my ears.

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3. A new view of the world
I spent some time talking with different people. People with diverse backgrounds, people with fabulous perspectives on life and learning. An added bonus of my time away is I now have new ideas to ponder, new ways of being to consider and new points of interest to investigate.

4.  More energy
Returning home I feel more energised. I feel like I’ve had a holiday. In some ways I feel more relaxed than I do when returning from several weeks overseas. I guess the lack of jet lag has something to do with it. My mini break was simple. I stayed in a cabin in a caravan park, I walked in the open air, I ate simple food and I slept soundly. It was truly refreshing.

5.  Balance
This mini break has provided the momentum and the energy to see me through the next few weeks, until the Easter break. I was struggling with a monumental workload and the daily grind. I was lethargic, grumpy and fed up. With a lightness in my thoughts I can now continue. It’s like I’ve granted myself a small reward for progress made before I reach the final stage. Balance is restored.

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Without a doubt I’ll be adding some more mini getaways to my routine from now on. These breaks away don’t have to cost a lot of money. Instead of a whole weekend away a few day trips to country markets, a picnic and a hike or breakfast and a swim at the beach.  Lunch at a rural tea shop, a ferry ride to a local island or a day visiting galleries and antique stores will, I am certain, bear the same benefits for body, mind and soul as an extended break.

Where are you heading for your next mini getaway?

Room for art

Wandering around Venice and drinking in the art on display as part of the Art and Architecture Biennale I recalled my year 10 Art teacher telling us about concern, criticism and doubts that arose when the Guggenheim Museum was built. People did not understand how square and rectangular paintings could be hung and enjoyed on curved walls. I guess in the end the ingenuity and uniqueness of the space quelled any concerns.

During this biennale I have come to realise anew that the space in which an artwork is displayed can contribute as much to the enjoyment of the work as the actual piece itself. The Louvre and the Uffizi Gallery are beautiful spaces and magnificent works of art in themselves but I’ve marvelled at the unique selection of space by artists to display their work here in Venice. Part of the fun is also wandering the narrow laneways to find the various pavilions and exhibits.

Fun in the streets of Venice

Fun in the streets of Venice

One work in particular by Bill Culbert held me captive. Ordinarily this type of work would not interest me for long but the construction in the space were fascinating partners. Empty laundry bottles and bright fluorescent lights scattered on the floor were bought to life by the space in which they were displayed. The room, complete with brick arches, ancient stairwells and old wooden doors opening onto the canal married with the sound of water lapping on the outside of the building and the passing boats added tremendously to this work.

Space contributes to Art

Space contributes to Art

In another room, pieces of furniture with florescent lights attached were arranged in an oval formation. Viewed from one angle, looking into the room and the white space behind, the work was interesting if not a little peculiar but viewed from the other end of the room with the canal in the background seen through rotting doors and wood panelled windows, it was something else all together. The wooden furniture and the wooden door and window frames drew the eye and competed the work.

Similarly, there were equally magnificent pieces to view in the two main galleries the Guardini and Accademia. The Gallerie dell Accadamia held the most magnificent body of work by Pawel Althamer in what I can only imagine was a very purposefully selected room. The sculptures, of which there were close to a hundred, were themselves truly something to behold but the space selected also contributed to the eerieness of their form.

Creative work fulfilling space

Creative work fulfilling space

The mind of an artist is a place I’d like to go. Not only do they have the talent to create but the foresight to compose in and utilise the very space itself is a potent form of creation.

I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I am so fortunate to have witnessed this great event.