There’s a lot of ennui out there lately. Feelings of listlessness, dissatisfaction, the blahs… I’m encountering it everywhere. Which certainly suggests that it’s not only “out there,” but also in here, in me. It just seems harder to have fun these days.
I still want to have fun. And I do, usually. But now I really have to work at it.
I know I’m not alone. Every day, I read new studies about pandemic burnout, compassion fatigue, collective discouragement. My friends, my community, everybody is right here feeling it with me. Alas, that’s not great consolation.
Misery might love company, but miserable company still isn’t much fun.
Here are some of the ways it’s been showing up for me: Someone comes up with a fun idea, but the implementation or experience turns out to be disappointing; projects are fun to begin, but tedious and annoying to maintain; things sound fun, but then end up being much harder than I wanted them to be.
For me, there’s some added stress because I feel responsible not just for my own good time, but for yours, too. It’s part of my self-concept to be “the fun one” — the fun friend, the fun minister. I’m trying to learn to hold this a little differently because it’s — well… not much fun.
Fortunately, I recently learned the concept of Type 2 Fun, which I think might be quite applicable here. I guess the idea has been around a while, so it may be old hat to you, but it’s new to me.
Type 2 Fun refers to fun that doesn’t always feel super-fun while you’re in the middle of it but which, in the end, tends to be much more deeply gratifying. It’s fun with grit. The fun of accomplishment. Fun that leaves you empowered, that bolsters your self-esteem because you’ve done something that mattered to you.
Type 1 Fun is fairly straightforward, feel-good stuff. Easy pleasures, pure enjoyment. There’s nothing wrong with Type 1 Fun — a delicious meal that someone else prepared, playing with a puppy, a laughter-filled conversation about nothing challenging, uncomplicated sex… They’re not necessarily totally passive activities, but neither do they require tremendous mental, physical, or emotional effort.
Type 2 Fun, on the other hand, is hard. It’s difficult by design; the challenge of it is integral to the joy of it. The term, I believe, came out of the outdoor adventure scene — mountaineering and the like. Climbing can be incredibly strenuous, uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous, but the people who love it find it really, really fun.
I’m not especially outdoorsy, but I totally get the idea that something hard and scary can be perfectly delightful.
In fact, most of the endeavors that I consider to be the most fun are things that often feel like they’re going to tear me apart while I’m in the middle of them. Performance. Writing. A complicated new recipe. Anything with high stakes. Intense relationships. Collaborative creative projects. Spiritual community. These are all for me deeply engaging activities in which I feel especially alive and purposeful. And the vitality and passion arises at least in part because these pursuits make me want to rip my hair out, confront my very soul, and force me to stretch and grow beyond whatever limits I’d previously imagined for myself.
Playwright Noel Coward wisely noted, “Work is much more fun than fun.” That’s kind of what I’m talking about.
One of the key elements of having Type 2 Fun occur as enjoyment rather than pure suffering is that we choose to participate in it. Choice is essential. Someone being forced to climb K2 against her will is being tortured. Someone who chooses to do so is having the time of her life.
So all of this has me wondering a few things:
- Instead of focusing so much on all the ways that some of our Type 1 Fun has been hampered, inconvenienced, or cancelled lately, could we intentionally look for and cultivate opportunities for more Type 2 Fun? I mean, yes, of course it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be pleasurable. Indeed, it could prove even more so.
- Might this “Type 2” framing inform things other than just fun? How about Type 2 Relationships, Type 2 Ideologies, Type 2 Spirituality…? Not just easy stuff. Rather, the rich fulfillment of complexity, challenges, meaning, and growth.
- What if we could actually, actively choose our participation in some of the circumstances we’re facing? Instead of resenting, regretting, bemoaning, and resisting the setbacks and obstacles, could we learn to approach them as opportunities for greater engagement and aliveness?
I’ve often prayed for ease, for things to be easy. And for grace, for life to feel a little less demanding and effortful. Along these lines last week, I found myself paraphrasing Isaiah — longing for the crooked ways before me to be made straight and the rough places plain, the mountains laid low and the valleys exalted…
But the truth is: while a downhill coast can be pleasant from time to time, my deeper satisfaction, usually, is in climbing the metaphorical mountains. And I suppose the most joy, ultimately, is to be had in recognizing that the ride must always include both ups and downs.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, January 30, 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. With the divine Patty Stephens. As always, my talk will be posted online at BOSQUECSL.ORG by Sunday night. XO, Drew
©2022 Drew Groves