Saturday, March 21, 2015

Do the Thing You Love

            We are all challenged to use our time well. We have so many options offline and on, that deciding what is the best use of time can be overwhelming.
I find this is particularly true of people who have something creative on the agenda, something close to their hearts that no one else is clamoring for them to finish: the book, the quilt, the sculpture. When it’s just you wanting to create something, it can be very challenging to make time for that project. This goes both for people who try to squeeze their art projects in around the edges of work and family, without calling themselves artists, and for those trying to grow artistic careers. It’s hard making time for our passion.
            Maybe it’s exacerbated living in New England. I sometimes think we’re especially haunted by the self-denial of uptight forebears.  My mother always counseled doing the scut-work first to get it out of the way before rewarding oneself with some pleasurable activity. But that work had a way of never being finished. There was always something more she could do to: if she’d cleaned the kitchen, she could get dinner started, or suddenly it seemed imperative to clean out the fridge.
            It’s not so unusual to come to the end of your life without having attended to that one elusive thing your soul called out for you to do.
            My mother’s daughter, I’ve also tried to use my creative pursuits as a reward. Do your taxes, then you can work on the novel or on designing that blouse, or on writing that short story. But somehow that reward always stayed slightly out of reach. I’d slog through my chores--which seemed to take forever-- and then it would be time to pick up kids, or make dinner or collapse into bed, exhausted.
            On the way into town to do errands today, I opened the topic up with my husband.
His answer was immediate and emphatic: pay yourself first. Do the thing you want to do. The resulting joy will give you energy to power through the chores in 1/3 the time you’d otherwise take. You’ll have made progress on something important, which will give you confidence.
What’s more, he said, following the Pay Yourself First plan simplifies all the other decision making you have to do. Things become clearer to you because you have not lied to yourself about what really needs attention. You also save yourself and those around you a lot of frustration. You are, in short, a happy camper.
This feels so weird and new, it’s going to take a leap of faith, then some practice, to achieve. But I think it’s worth a shot.
A Buddhist saying pops into mind: There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.
Could this be what they meant?