Everyone looks unhappy.
Every little person I drew with a job attached to them is not smiling.
This is not a conscious artistic choice.
Well, okay, the cashier is smiling – but she looks evil. Nobody looks truly happy here. They are all working. Working is hard work. These people – not unlike the rest of us – want to do real things like garden and hold babies and write poems and bake pies, but they have to work because doing small loveable things rarely buys meat or potatoes or even bread.
My grandfather – who, in my living memory was always retired – said, “Working gets in the way of living.” I agree. Now, before I go any further, I must clarify: I have a great job. It is interesting and flexible; I have great benefits, and I work with talented, dedicated people. I still agree.
Last week I was talking with a friend about a couple new creative and personal practices I am striving to develop into habits. As she listened, I realized that if I want to keep up these activities after the holiday vacation, I will need to quit work. Sigh – not an option for me. So, a balancing act must be found.
Some writers/life coaches/talking heads postulate about passions and purposes – visions and talent. The thing is: most of us are required and willing to work in order to engage in our avocations, but it’s all about time. I don’t know about you, but I have to work a good deal. I struggle to balance what I have to do against what I want to do.
How do we do that without becoming embittered? Cynical? Hateful? It’s hard. Perhaps it’s in the pockets of our days when we find half an hour to read a few pages before making dinner. Maybe it’s taking one of those small loveable things and marketing it just so as to make it a lifestyle. Sometimes it’s getting up an hour earlier and staying up two hours later.
That’s all well and good, but life doesn’t come with training sequences scored by John Williams that lead to ultimate happiness and riches – it should be so, but it isn’t. So, what are we to do? Read some memes on Facebook, be inspired occasionally, and muddle through?
Well, how about we choose an intention for a day – a week – a month – or more. Ask yourself: what do I intend for this upcoming time period? Write that word on your calendar – make it your phone background, and conduct yourself accordingly. Health? Creativity? Pet training? New home? Biking? Focus your spare moments – your lunch break – your toilet-phone time (don’t pretend: we all do it) on that intention. Make lists. Pursue. Find an app. Address your intention in mini ways. Then, create blocks of time to engage with your intention.
My father, who now lives with a debilitating disease, had numerous hobbies throughout his life. From hiking to motorcycling to music listening to model aircraft to ham radio to skydiving, my dad did a bit of a lot of things that interested him. He was – in many respects – living his intentions. While I would not presume to speak for my dad, I do hope that the avocations he enjoyed still live within him.
The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the path of a happy life is dotted with pleasant pursuits.
Let’s smile more this year.