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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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On art, and fun, and saving your life 

This Saturday was my first watercolor class ever, at the Brooklyn Museum.  I thought I knew my way around watercolor, but the more I learn, the more I learn that I don't know what I'm doing.  And really, I just want an excuse to paint for a couple of hours a week. It's a ten-session course, and I get to take it with my dad. Not to mention a lively assortment of art nerds. I say that without judgment, as I am one of them. These are my people. You shall know us by the graphite smudges on our cheeks.

One of my class paintings. Oh, but I have a lot to learn.

I cannot begin to tell you how fun this class was. It was stupid fun. I can't explain it. We didn't do anything ground-breaking. But by the end of the class I was giddy. I get such joy from this, it's embarrassing. Why is it embarrassing, you ask? That is an excellent question, and one I should bring up with my imaginary therapist.

It's been too easy, over the past few weeks, to set this new habit of mine aside. Life gets tiring and complicated and by the end of the day I'd rather watch the Daily Show than haul out my paints or find something to sketch. (The other day I sketched Jon Stewart. Multitasking!) I have to push myself, but I'm so much happier when I do it than when I don't.

As I wrote in my latest blog post over at Babble, I started painting after my psychiatrist suggested I figure out what "fun" meant, for me.

During one of my sessions with my psychiatrist, most of which were spent with my head deep in the tissue box, he asked me what I did for fun.

“Faaaahn?” I said.

“Fun,” he said.

“What is this ‘faaahrn’?” I said.

It seemed like there was a trick to his question, like my source of fun would have to be esoteric and challenging, something that hadn't occurred to me before. Like samba lessons, or advanced magic. I considered art, and disregarded it at first because it was--well, not easy, but natural. I've been drawing and painting my whole life. It seemed like cheating. Like I was getting away with something. As if fun needed to be hard. I am a slow learner, folks.

I want everyone else to have something like this. Especially those of us dealing with depression--we who tend to focus more on feeling okay, on avoiding pain, than seeking out joy. If you could do anything that's pure fun, what would you do? Bonus points if it's embarrassing. I suspect you're all secret clog dancers.

Reader Comments (47)

Close - Morris dancing. Morris dancers get to wave sticks around and beat them against other people's sticks.

And I want to be that girl who jumps on her bike to do all her errands.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermosprott

Alice, mine is very similar to yours! I make flower hair accessories for fun, started last summer and am OBSESSED with it. Sadly, I am a slacker and spend more time on it than I do actually focusing on the work I am paid for... I mean, I make like $8-10 a clip but since they take me about 3 hours, it's not the best source of income... Do you have tips for ignoring what I find fun? :-P
I also really like reading blogs written by hilarious people such as yourself!
Other fun things are listening to podcasts like "Jordan, Jesse, Go" which you got me into! My fiance just signed us up last weekend to go to MaxFunCon East as a birthday/anniversary present to me. I am super excited but also really nervous that we will only end up talking to each other because I don't really know anyone else into the MaxFun podcasts or nerd comedy... Can you advise me on how to not be scared to make friends there? Or how to make friends with strangers in general? My fiance Adam doesn't even listen to podcasts so I think he's even more nervous...

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

I would take a trapeze class. Or learn to fly. Same diff, really.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Allison, everyone at Max Fun Con is ridiculously nice and friendly, and there's lots of taking classes together and eating together and all kinds of opportunities to mingle, even if you're not a natural mingler. You'll have so much fun!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralice

Oh god, I don't remember. I better figure it out ASAP. I will start by writing a list of things "I like to do" and then maybe I can actually mark the ones that are "fun."

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim W.

I still don't know the meaning of this f-word you keep bandying about. I've been trying to find my fun a long time. I'm still pretty young---young enough for my mother to constantly ask me why I always want to try to do so many things instead of finding one and settling with it (pretend Edith Bunker voiced that). I like making things, especially lists of things to make. I swear, the lists are the best part.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Swimming. Not in the lap kind, but the kind you do as a kid, when you dive for things and play marco polo and go down slides and do cannon balls. Thankfully, both my girls LOVE to swim, but they are still very young, and diving down for them is still more of a rescue then a fun breath-holding challenge. But soon we will play magical dolphin cove for hours. And when they whine about wanting to get out or play something else, I will remind them I spent months growing them in my belly - they owe me!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCoraD

I would take improv comedy classes. Really well-done humor (i.e., stuff that's funny to me) brings me oodles of joy. I love making people laugh by saying slightly inappropriate things, so I may as well hone my craft!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngstyJen

I will not regale you with what immediately came to mind: a Spongebob episode where he attempts to describe fun to Plankton. My life is this fantastic, yes.

Anything that's pure fun? Roller skating. As that's out in winter unless I find an indoor rink, I'll go with cooking (in someone else's really big, fully stocked kitchen as mine is neither).

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArnebya

I love to bake! I signed up for a cooking class in the Fall and I'm hoping that's fun and not stressful. I find baking and cooking to be 2 different animals entirely. I kinda like to cook, but the willy-nillyness of it stresses me out sometimes. I like having an exact recipe to follow - no free form interchange of ingredients required.

I also like to copy ideas from Pinterest. I'm not very good at coming up with stuff on my own, but give me an idea to copy and suddenly I'm the creative mom of the preschool class! Today I bought 12 red helium filled balloons, drew faces on them, told my kids to get out their nerf guns and shoot the balloon ninjas! A la Pinterest!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

mosprot! I used to morris dance in high school. In fact, the other day, I was thinking of all the things I used to do that made me happy (morris dance! play the tuba! draw!) and wondering why I didn't really do any of them anymore, and oh, maybe that has something to do with this heavy weight I always feel like I'm carrying around.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNora

I'm ashamed to admit this but reading this made me cry. I can't think of a single thing that I find fun. Much less, the last time I did anything fun. Where do you start if you can't even think of anything that is fun?

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

Square dancing. I know! So hokey, but we did it in elementary P.E. one day and I simply had a ball. My partner was twice my size and we both enjoyed his lifting me off the ground and swinging me with abandon during the do-si-dos. It was awesome. I haven't done it in years, but I suspect it would still be pretty great. Left allemande!

I also enjoy jumping on a trampoline, swimming, roller coasters, and art. And I pretty much do none of these things ever. Hm. Hmmmmm. :O :(

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Pure fun is anything that makes me feel like a giddy 5 year old: riding my bike, swinging at the park, swimming in a mountain lake. Laying on a blanket in the shade, reading and day-dreaming.

I vow to try sky-diving before (or for) my 50th birthday. And secretly, yes, I'd LOVE to learn clogging.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkate

I love playing board games and singing in my community choir and reading awesome blogs. I wish I had more time to do community theater again...oh, and I agree that clogging sounds fun!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Bellydance used to be fun, and as I recover from the depression I have faith that it will be fun again.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNia

Oh, Becky! I know how you feel, truly. It took me *forever* to find my thing. And then when I did it was right there all along. I like this article by Martha Beck. It's a much better guide than I provided. (Not that I provided a guide at all.)

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralice

Playing boardgames. Reading. (Does reading count as fun? I don't know. Fun is hard.)

This is the second time in about 10 minutes that I've read something about Martha Beck. Does that mean the universe wants me to know something about Martha Beck?

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNichole

Mine would be ice-skating, every week at least, at an outdoor rink during the winter months. With my kids, or without them. In the summer, kicking around a soccer ball. Ideally, with a competent adult soccer player. But I would settle for one of my kids.

And celtic fiddling. Not alone, but with my husband on guitar and a bunch of other adults. This activity, with the kids safely at home with a babysitter. And out for beer afterwards...

I realize none of these activities are outside the realm of the possible. Why don't I do any of them?!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I found mine when I was in a blue place last year - surfing! It had been sitting there on the bucket list - who knew it was what I needed to not want to kick the bucket!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Faye

Yay for having fun - so glad you have found yours. Mine is figure skating, which I do every weekday in the early morning before work. It's so much fun that sometimes I think it can't possibly be legal. And hang the expense & the craziness of it all... doing this for myself has added immeasurably to my life and has brought me so much joy.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Wow. So I clicked through to read the Martha Beck link you posted for Becky, and BLAM. What did I love when I was a kid? Reading, just as she described - reading, reading, reading, only stopping under duress. I read under the classroom tables in elementary school until made to go outside for recess. I read in cars and never got carsick. I read so hard that I didn't hear people around me. I read like this until I had a kid. Suddenly I wasn't having fun reading anymore. Reading was keeping me from getting the sleep I desperately needed. And now I realize I can't think of a single thing I'd like to read. Plus, I can't think of when I will ever be able to read like I used to - for hours on end, uninterrupted, with nary a thought for how late it was. Fuck.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

Yay for being treated for depression! I mean, because depressed people seem to be sensitive people, seem to be creatively-inclined people. There's lots to be thought out and worked on. And then there's fun. When you do something that closes off your stupid brain for a while and lets you off the brutal self- criticizing hook.

Today what was fun for me was microwaving bars of Ivory soap to do a "science experiment" with my kids. Awesome.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette Nyberg

My fun can be really, really dorky, like line-dancing or listening to Frank Sinatra or the Broadway Channel on Sirius or watching House Hunters International. I also like reading about food and reading memoirs. I love everything about driving to the beach (if there's not terrible traffic), getting to the beach and looking at the waves. I like looking at the sky when I walk my dog across the park near me and feeling very small but good. I find a lot of fun in staring at a nice fire in the fireplace. And I really like the fun of sleeping in while it's raining outside.But that last one is a tough hobby to replicate consistently. And a Prozac a day plus a decent night's sleep helps me find all those things fun.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpringsteen fan

"Soon we will play magical dolphin cove for hours" (from CoraD) I looooooove this!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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