Head Coach: You've got to be kid'ing
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By Lane Johnson
I played with my shadow the other day. It's been a long time. Do you remember when we were kids, and playing was something we did all the time? We didn't play with things. We played. The things we played with were just what happened to be around at the time. We played with sticks, empty boxes and peas that rolled off our plate at the dinner table. We played games, like who can hold their breath the longest. Whoever passed out was a super star. In school, we made goal posts out of pencils and flicked wads of paper for field goals. I even slapped my wrist with my ruler at increasingly harder blows just to see how much I could take. I finally hit myself so hard, I instinctively cried out loud in pain while Mrs. Brody was trying to teach us long division. That one cost me some time in the hallway.
Playing was just something we did. My mother asked me once, "Do you always have to play?" With my outside voice I said, "No ma'am." But, I was really thinking, "Yes! I'm a kid! That's what I do." Whenever I found myself in the corner for not taking life seriously enough, I passed the time by blinking my eyes alternately back and forth just to see how fast I could do it before my mouth moved. The question was never, "Do we play?" It was only, "What do we play now?"
I miss those times. That's why I found myself playing with my shadow while driving 60 mph along a rural highway. But it wasn't my fault. I noticed a young calf romping and kicking up his heels in the pasture along the road. It was early morning, just after sunrise, when our shadows are the longest. The calf appeared to be playing with his shadow. So it was his fault when I noticed that, since I was traveling due west, the shadow of my entire vehicle was prominently cast directly in front of me.
I started by waving. I could see the shadow wave back. Then I pretended we were in a dogfight. The shadow tried to shake me, but I was too good for him. No matter how much he weaved, I stayed right on him. When I realized we weren't in a dogfight but a race, it got more difficult. I tried to pass him up, but he was just too fast for me. I figured out I could beat him if I turned around. But, then I'd be going the wrong way. What a dilemma. The kid in me kept hollering, "Turn around. You can beat him." But the adult reminded me I was supposed to be somewhere and turning around would be irresponsible. I resolved the argument by changing to a different game. A brilliant adult child compromise, don't you think?
The next game was to see if I could keep the shadow of my vehicle between the center and right lines of the highway. I was masterful, even artistic as I maintained symmetry by keeping the shadow dead center between the lines. It was my adult voice that pointed out, "You know, Lane, the shadow is the only thing that is driving legally right now." In order to keep my shadow properly positioned, I was now driving in the wrong lane of the highway ... at 60 mph. There was only one thing I could do. I ran my shadow into the ditch, turned left and left him in the dust.
Yelling out loud, "I win." I high-fived my wife who was in the passenger seat looking most uneasy. While assuring her not to worry I explained, "I'm just kid'ing."
Kid'ing is the art of being a kid, no matter how old you are. As kids, it was never hard. But as adults, kid'ing is something we have to practice. I encourage you to practice often. Preferably, though, not when performing dangerous adult tasks.
Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.