“23/7? I really have to lay face down on a massage table 55 minutes out of every hour, all day and night?” These are the questions I was asking my surgeon the day before he performed emergency surgery on my right eye. It was the end of summer 2020 and besides having been sheltering in place for the past six months, my retina had just detached out of nowhere.

“But wait, I just took over the awareness campaign National Day of Unplugging from Reboot and want to keep it thriving for another decade.” I said, in a panic, ironically, “No technology? No reading at all? How am I going to work? How will I communicate with my team?”

While I was shooting off questions, what I didn’t realize was that something very nuanced about balancing my life was about to be revealed.

Martin Buber said, “Play is the exultation of the possible.”

In those first weeks after surgery, I needed to remain virtually still and move into a place of hopefulness that I would recover my vision. It was in that moment of intense fear about the unknown that I made a decision.

I decided to move through this physical and mental challenge with gratitude, wonder and playfulness. Keeping a sense of humor and adopting these three attitudes helped me get through the 10-week recovery. Being face down without the ability to read or view anything gave my mind plenty of time to wander. I drew on other times in my life when I had upped my gratitude game. I realized that I could spend hours worrying about the long list of things I couldn’t get done, or I could relax and have some fun. Though my body had to remain in a precarious position, I allowed my mind to listen to comedy, finding podcasts and music that made me feel like dancing.

One of my favorite world musicians, Idan Raichel, has always been a great inspiration to me because of his playful nature. Listening to his music while I recovered was not only healing, but brought me a kind of joy that left little room for worry. While Raichel is a well-known Israeli pop-icon, his music is expansive and transcends the differences between genres, cultures, voices, languages and instruments. Although it has been almost a year since any of us have attended a live concert, I felt my heart fill with joy when I remembered the times that I saw Raichel and his group perform live in Israel and Los Angeles.

Feeling free, vulnerable and open to possibilities is what play is all about. Watch any child playing make-believe and this becomes clear.

Play is so important to human psychology, and so optimal to child development, that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.

As adults, we take our right to the pursuit of happiness very seriously. We spend time and money purchasing things we think will fill us up. Now that we have spent a year in a universal “time-out,” we can, hopefully, exult in the possibility that happiness is here for the taking and ready to play. 

WHP Alum Kim Anenberg Cavallo, (Los Angeles 03), is the executive director of Unplug Collaborative–home of National Day of Unplugging (March 5-6, 2021) and the founder of lilspace Unplug for a Cause® Timer App being used in community challenges across the United States. She can be reached here.