Short prologue: I bought a set of cards with inspirational questions on them to use as writer’s prompts down at Backstreet Arts, and in a fit of masochism decided that if I weren’t actively working on anything while I was down there, then I was required to draw one randomly and answer it.
So today’s question was:
Ugh. This is the kind of gross self-affirmation any of which I do not need. But an oath is an oath, and I think I’d like to share my response.
Ha. I am perpetually self-indulgent. Every day I enjoy what I do—and I do what I enjoy. This idea of not enjoying life is completely alien to me.
This includes the things I have to do, duties and burdens—far be it from this atheist to claim biblical inspiration, but the verse, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10] seems to have stuck with me from Sunday School. Why not commit to your tasks with joy and appreciation?
It’s certainly not the case that I am a Pollyanna about life—there is plenty in my life that frustrates me or makes me unhappy. But it has never made sense to me to regard all of life as roadblocks. For one thing, taking things “personally” is the quickest way to misery: if the universe is out to get you, how are you supposed to enjoy your existence in the face of that?
To revisit the Ecclesiastes, here’s 9:9–10 in the International Children’s Bible:
9 … Enjoy all the days of this short life God has given you here on earth. It is all you have. So enjoy the work you have to do here on earth.
10 Whatever work you do, do your best. This is because you are going to the grave. There is no working, no planning, no knowledge and no wisdom there.
Here is existentialism in a nutshell: this life is all you have, and it is not long. Choose to do well at it. Choose to live it with joy.
So yes, I make cocktails and sit in my labyrinth. I read. I make dinner and run errands. I write letters. I go to burns. I serve on the burn board of directors.
I try to do it with “all my might”—why do it grudgingly? Do it with joy, and then you don’t have to find a way to give yourself “permission” to enjoy life.