Last week I was wrapping up my talk and said something like, “Right now, here we are. Let’s maximize this.”
I was about to say, “Let’s make the most of it,” but then stopped myself because I thought that might sound as if I was delivering a booby prize. Offering a pale consolation for a disappointing outcome. Like — it may not be what any of us had hoped for, but let’s do our best with the measly hand we’ve been dealt, shall we?
Truly, that wasn’t my point at all! I was trying to be inspiring, for heaven’s sake. So I stopped myself before saying, “let’s make the most of it.” But still the phrase got stuck in my craw.
To make the most of something certainly doesn’t have to mean that the thing is lacking or lackluster. We can make the most of golden opportunities, warm summer nights, and our natural gifts. We can take full advantage of all sorts of good things. Which is what I was talking about; making the most of our time together. Often, however, “making the most of it” does sound a lot like — (weary sigh) — trudging onward against the slings and arrows of misfortune. Getting by, making do. Making lemonade out of plastic fruit with artificial flavoring and not-quite-enough sweetener.
I’ve been wondering about it, where this comes from. How come “making the most” tends to feel put-upon or maybe even a little victimized? I mean, basically it’s just an invitation or suggestion that we optimize and maximize whatever it is before us — a condition, an experience, a life. Nothing inherently bleak about that, nothing whatsoever.
So maybe it’s just me? Maybe the dreariness I hear in the phrase is completely in my own head? Simply my assumption that it’s always going to take extraordinary extra effort on my part to make things acceptable, tolerable… There it is. Bingo.
It’s something about my self-punishing attitudes around productivity and time and work and earning my place on the planet. My right to my life.
I think a lot of us have complicated relationships with work and time, how we spend our time, what we deserve, what we’ve earned. And by complicated, I mean “twisted.” I know that I’m constantly struggling and striving and suffering to reach the elusive perfect balance between productivity and enjoyment, accomplishment and peace. I really beat myself up if I feel like I’ve squandered my precious time or wasted someone else’s time. And, at the very same time, I recognize that if this time we have isn’t for joy & love & fun & music & laughter, then I have no idea what the hell it’s for.
Anybody else find it difficult to relax? To just do nothing for an afternoon and feel good about that afterwards? Yeah, me too.
We’re coming up on Easter Sunday. I think I already covered last week what I’ve got to offer around that story, so I probably won’t get into it much again right now. But there is definitely something about TIME that’s nudging me. Easter is kind of a story about Time, yes? The idea of Eternal Life is about how much time we’ve got.
Which I think is worth thinking about, stuck as many of us are between never-enough-time and Eternity. Between ASAP and Forever. Between being pressed for it and Infinity.
I listened to a podcast episode this week, from “The Happiness Lab,” in which host Dr. Laurie Santos was talking to different thinkers and experts about ideas of time affluence and time famine. I like those concepts! It turns out that much of our perception of time and whether or not we’ve got enough of it is pretty subjective. And that the way we hold our ourselves in relationship to our subjective amount of time has a tremendous impact on our happiness. Also, it affects not just our own lives but also the lives of everyone around us. Feeling like, acting like, we’re “time impoverished” actually makes us yuckier people.
I’ve also been thinking about New Orleans. Travis and I visited last month for the first time in six years, and we’ve both kind of fallen head over heels in love with that city again. We’ve been re-reading books about Nola that we purchased on previous visits. We’ve been re-watching the first season of HBO’s Treme, which is about communities reclaiming themselves and rebuilding in the months following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I’m struck over and over by the special way that New Orleans and New Orleanians appear to approach Time.
Absolutely, there’s a sense of urgency, of not enough. All we’ve got is right now and it’s never going to be enough. Ever-present is an awareness of the fleeting nature of everything. Let’s live for the moment because we could all be gone tomorrow. Also, though — and I really don’t know if this is a counterpoint to that idea, or something that logically follows it — there’s a wonderful respect for age, for maturity, for traditions, for people and things weathered by time, burnished and improved by time. The vitality and youthful joie de vivre of New Orleans culture is not only for the young. That feels kind of like it might go along with what I’m trying to put my finger on, here, too…
Youth is not only for the young.
I’m not sure where these thoughts are taking me, precisely: Youth, Eternity, Time, Life. But I’m going with my original title, “Making the Most of It.” I’m going to let the themes simmer for the next few days like a slow-cooked gumbo, and see what we can serve up. I can’t wait to celebrate Easter with you this Sunday, April 17, 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew
©2022 Drew Groves