Early this evening as I drove to a Cinco de Mayo +1 dinner party hosted by my friend Dave (in the funny way that he does...proxy party hosting at Kenneth & Peter's house with him doing all the cooking and bartending and all), I was filled with a calm sense of happiness.
I had a fresh Americano from Starbucks in hand and Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why" came on the radio as I drove westward into the setting sun. I know I've described this feeling before in a long ago blog, but it's been a very long time since I felt it. It's the feeling of near-sensory overload. Maybe I could better describe it as just a big dose of joy, highlighted and elevated by multiple sensory pleasures. It was a great frame of mind in which to head into an evening among friends, old and new.
I realized before I left the house that I hadn't yet done anything new for the day...good thing I was headed into helpful people territory. This one came from Ashley:
Today's New Activity: Playing Cheyahs, Govnuh!
Ashley introduced us to a game in which the goal is basically to remember a whole bunch of ever-changing rules. I'm not sure if it originated as a drinking game. It can definitely be played that way (as in, you have to drink every time you mess up (and by the way I never really understood drinking games...it's funny to play a game in which you have to drink when you lose something, especially given the fact that most people present in such scenarios are there to drink anyway)), but it is also just a fun game that you definitely wouldn't have to be impaired to find challenging.
Lemme see if I can possibly explain how it's played in a without confusing the hell out of you:
1) 8 or so people are sitting in a circle
2) Each person must count off a number, going in order from 1-15
3) The numbers 14 and 7 are switched from the beginning.
With me so far? So the first round of play would sound like 1-2-3-4-5-6-14-8-9-10-11-12-13-7-15
4) If/when you manage to get to 15 with nobody messing up (easy enough the first couple of rounds), everybody stands up and says "Cheers, Governor" in a British accent, and the person who completes the round gets to make up a new rule. A new rule involves changing one of the numbers into a phrase, a sound, or a physical action that takes the place of the number. For example, Nick changed the number 10 to a self high-five, and I changed the number 15 to Kirk Gibson's homerun victory fist pump.
A word: on paper, and the first time Ashley was describing this to us, the game sounded both confusing and not all that fun. And what was with the "Cheers Governor?" But when it gets going it becomes easy enough to understand what's going on, even as it gets harder to do it well. So when you manage to complete a round without messing up, celebration definitely seems in order. "Cheers Governor" becomes a super fun thing to say, with the air of accomplishment infused.
5) When somebody gets confused and says the wrong thing, they have to take a drink or just get made fun of if they're not drinking, and the round starts over at 1 with the person to the left of whoever screwed up.
6) Each number changes only once, and when somebody decides to change #7 or #14, they are changing the numbers in the transposed positions those numbers now occupy (if that's confusing enough for you).
7) Your new rule CAN be to change the number to a different number, but it's best if this method is emplyed sparingly.
So. If you followed that...when the first round of play was complete (and this took a good 45 minutes or so), the final result was (as in, 1-15 became):
"Sneaky Tiki"-"Guuuuurl"-"PANDA!"-4-5-"Cinco"-"Lettuce"-7-9-Self high-five-"What, What" with a dance-High-five, low-five the person to your left-"UUHHHHHHHHHH"-7-Kirk Gibson victory lap fist pump
Yes, 14, which was 7, changed to "lettuce" and 8 changed to 7. And it seems I've forgotten a good number of the number chnages, but no matter...you probably get the idea.
Nobody was drunk or even tipsy when we were playing this game (the first time anyway), but still it was very confusing and really funny. And as I sat there taking it all in, I had a thought connected to a memory. One of the recurring marital fights I used to have involved my ex becoming upset when he felt I was too interested in things he found frivolous. Though I swear we both worked ALL THE TIME (given that he owned a restaurant for most of our marriage (6 days/week, 10-12 hours/day obligation) and I worked and helped out at the restaurant when I could), always took care of our very adult responsibilities, and rarely even left town to go to L.A., let alone for an actual vacation, he would criticize me, saying that I thought life was all about "hee hee ha ha." I was confused by this because I wasn't doing much at all in those days in the way of "hee hee ha ha," but I still allowed myself to feel a lot of guilt about it.
Tonight, playing this 100% frivolous and pointless game, I had the thought that yes, absolutely, life is sometimes, even often, about "hee hee ha ha." If not about enjoyment, then what? What?! Now I don't believe at all that one should shirk responsibilities (and I never have, nor do any of the fun-loving people I like to spend time with), but I do believe that part of our JOB here on earth is to splendor in joy and to make each other laugh until we cry. There is plenty of seriousness, of work, of cleaning and cooking and laundry and visits to the DMV and grocery shopping and getting gas and paying bills and doctor visits and volunteer work and more paid work and homework and child rearing to go around. What else are we to do with the rest of our time but find what makes us smile and run with it?!
And another thing. I don't think anybody involved would deny, or would mind my saying that a lot of members of this particular group of friends work low- to medium-range pay jobs, live paycheck to paycheck, rent rather than own, drive late-model cars, and have to save in order to take vacations. Which they do! They even go to other countries! They even vacation for weeks at a time! And they are some of the happiest, most generous, and genuinely good-hearted people I know...surrounded by friends and always there to lend a hand when anyone among them is in need of help. They also love and spend time with their families, show up to where they're supposed to be, and stay out of legal trouble.
Saying all of this reminds me of the biggest compliment I ever received from my best friend Nicole's husband ((for all intents and purposes) and my friend now too) Raul. When Nicole and Raul met, he had a lot more in the way of responsibility than Nicole, Kelsi, I, or any of the other people we hung out with did. He'd already been married and divorced, had 2 kids, and had run his own start up company. One day about 4 years into their relationship and our friendship, he and I were talking about taxes. I don't remember where the conversation was going at the time, but I remember mentioning that I had earned a whopping $8,000 in the year previous (I was a student at the time). He told me that he used to always criticize my lifestyle in his mind (wage-worker, light on long-term plans, heavy on having fun with friends and getting into adventures), but that he'd come to respect and even admire my life choices...he said that sometimes he thought I had the right idea. At the time I was hugely flattered to learn that a person whose criticism I'd always felt to an extent was giving my choices some merit, a stamp of approval. But even then I think I understood that the ideal lay somewhere in between our two ideas about life.
Long-term goals ARE important. As are saving for a rainy day, and career planning. But equally important are to sometimes just spend the money you have, to take vacation time and go somewhere, to help out even when you don't think you can afford it, and to share all of yourself generously with the people you love and care about.
It's nice to be reminded of that...and the group I spent this evening with helped do that for me. So no, I don't mind deferring to them for a little tip, like what new thing to do for the day, or a big tip, like how to live a full and joyful, memory-filled life.