Red Light, Green Light

July 28, 2021 | by Jen Higgins-Newman, BHFH Program Director

Dear Friends, 

One of the games I remember most from my childhood is called “Red light, green light.” 

To play, you can either be running or swimming with a finish line in the distance. When the leader of the game calls “green light,” you run as fast as you can toward the finish line. But, when the leader calls “red light” you have to abruptly stop. The game can get more complicated with additional light colors with new instructions such as yellow to slow down, purple to hop, and blue to skip. 

I never liked this game. 

There was something about the feeling I got when running as fast as possible toward a finish line, only to have to force myself to stop, that was both physically and mentally exhausting for me. My most vivid memory of this game is a feeling: breathless, panting, my body whipping back and forth as I come to a halt. Feeling jolted and uncomfortable, my focus was torn between the finish line and listening to the instructions to know when to start and stop. 

This phase of the pandemic has felt to me a lot like this game — physically and mentally exhausting. Trying to keep my focus on planning for a future we cannot know in full while listening to competing voices and new information. Trying to keep myself and everyone I love safe while eagerly trying to get to the finish line. 

As a child playing red light, green light, I learned that I needed a different set of skills from those I imagined I needed to play a racing game. In order to play, I needed to learn what kind of stops felt good to my body, and what level of engagement I could have so I didn’t harm myself and instead could feel like I was having fun. I learned that I couldn’t focus on trying to win a game I was forced to play in my physical education class, but I needed to focus on what I needed to do to get through it. 

Understanding our current period through this lens has me thinking: What are the ways we can support ourselves and each other in this time of start-stop? What are the ways we can reframe what we’re trying to do, perhaps away from focusing on the finish line and toward navigating the in-between?

In Light and community,