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I was talking to a friend about making art. At different times in our lives, both of us have thought about careers in the arts. And we’ve both settled comfortably into something else — still doing a lot of creative stuff, but definitely not trying to make our livings from it.

We’d been talking about doing this project together, and we met recently to start sketching it out. Quickly, it became clear how easily the whole thing could turn into one gigantic stressor and time-suck that we’d likely regret getting ourselves into. This thing that we love, theater, could fly off the rails of delight and imagination into the typical drudging morass of pressures and deadlines and anxiety about all that it takes to make anything.

So we declared that if we were going to do this, we needed to do it for the sheer love of it.

Sure, there would be budgetary concerns and maybe there would be a little money to be made, but that wasn’t going to be our reason to do it, because that didn’t light either of us up. Yes, I always have my eye on participation and community-building, and that does indeed inspire me, but I know that when I get too hung up on hitting arbitrary target numbers I can totally miss out on the importance of one individual’s experience, my own or anyone else’s. Absolutely, we hoped to make a positive difference in the world, but if grandiosity was our goal at the outset, we were probably setting ourselves up to worry constantly that we couldn’t ever do enough or be enough…

These all are fairly familiar pitfalls for me. I’ve learned to keep an eye out — if not to avoid them completely at least to recognize it when I’m stuck in them — comparison, constant self-assessment/self-doubt/self-criticism, fear of failure. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to suffer through all these same troubles this time around?

So my friend and I decided that if we were going to do this thing, we would prioritize our own enjoyment of the process. Any other beneficial outcome, including whether or not the thing was any good, would be a bonus, gravy. Our guiding reason would be the love of it, and hopefully this would help us to meet and mitigate the inevitable challenges and surprises and setbacks that are part of any creative work.

This was a couple of weeks ago and that project is still in the early planning stages. But as I meet the new year, I think “for the love of it” is going to be my motto for 2024. Not just for my artsy enterprises but for everything. Life for the Love of It.

Because I do lots of things, too many things, for other reasons. Dreary reasons. I do a lot of my life for the reason that I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. Or I do it because I feel begrudgingly obliged. Or because I want to look good or avoid looking bad. Because I have to prove something, earn something, fix something. Even things I like to do and that I do well often turn into a high-pressure need to excel — OR ELSE. There’s not a lot of sparkle in that. It’s hard to stay excited when we feel mostly trapped.

Now, obviously, we often have to do stuff we’d rather not. Nobody enjoys scooping out a litter box. I’m not saying that I’ll be skipping all my onerous chores this year to pursue pure, full-time pleasure. I’m not going to throw duty out the window, either, because I do think there’s a great deal to be said for buckling down and doing what needs to be done. Sticking it out through the rough spots, rising to the occasion, remaining committed even when it’s scary and difficult.

I am saying, however, that it’s worth looking for the love in everything that we do. Whether we’re doing it just for fun or for any other reason.

The litter box is an easy example. It’s unpleasant no matter what. AND when I remember that I clean it for the love of my cats, that that’s my motivation, then the task can be infused with love, stink and all. Washing dishes can be a loving meditation on food, or family, or home. Picking up the annoying trash that’s blown into my yard can be for love of my city, my love of the earth. Difficult conversations can be acts of love. Frustration can be an expression of love. Grief, I think, is always love.

At the risk of oversimplifying, I do think that often it’s simply a matter of re-framing, freshening up the context of what we’re up to.

A lot of our dis-empowered reasons for doing things are true enough, valid enough — I have to… this needs fixing… people are counting on me… omg I don’t want to waste my one precious life…! The world and our own inner critics provide all the negative motivation we’ll ever need to keep justifying negativity.

But maybe, whether these concerns are accurate or not, we don’t need to lead with them. Maybe concern doesn’t need to be our raison d’être. Maybe our purpose can be expressed more like: Because this is what I choose… This is what brings out the best in me… Because this is how I can share my gifts, talents, and passions… Because this is what I love…

Author, theologian, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman famously said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Bring on the loving aliveness, 2024! I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, January 7, 10:00 am at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew

©2024 Drew Groves

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