I can remember so vividly the experience of Daylight Savings Time my junior year of college. It was a bundle-up kind of night with leaves churning in the brisk breeze down the Wilmington city streets, my friends and I squeezed into the four-seater tables that ran along the wall of the underground tavern. The dim lights and stone walls adding to the chilling effect of early November. A bell rang at midnight as the bartender announced we had gained an hour. Cheers went out through the room. Fellow students, friends, and strangers clinking glasses in hurrah.
Daylight Savings used to mean an extra hour to work on the inevitable hangover I had coming later that morning. An extra hour to listen to Beck, Pavement, and Johnny Cash on the jukebox. One more hour to spread apart the enormous questions of the universe, like children with playdough. Life was a sandbox. And we had one more magical hour of playtime, for seemingly no reason at all.
These days, life feels like anything but play. As my husband and I drove down Route 70 yesterday morning, I told him I felt like I was living in a sci-fi novel. That I couldn’t believe the world we lived in. I asked him, “Did you ever think to yourself, This is the world we waited for when we were young? This is the world we dreamt of living in?” The world we picked apart at 2 a.m. while drinking Guinness inside a glorified cellar.
It’s a crazy time, reader. Isn’t it? Even talking about the craziness seems too weighty; my fingers feel tired moving across the keyboard to write this. As I wrote in my last post about being “stuck,” we are caught on tree limbs unable to drift downstream toward that beautiful waterfall we know awaits us.
Sometimes, it’s that waterfall we have to focus on, though. It’s true. We have to hold it in our mind’s eye and carry on as best we can. I’ve been telling my students who show up to an 8:00 a.m. class four mornings a week, students who sit five feet in front of me and bury their noses in their iPhones and notebooks, hoping not to be called on, that sometimes you have to pretend to be interested in something before you can become interested. They hate reading, you see, and they hate taking notes on what they read even more, so I keep asking them to pretend to like it. I am not sure where this crazy, half-baked idea came from, but it seems to be helping lift the mood in any case. I can even say it brings them more into the moment, which is all I can ask for.
But I think there is some real truth to this idea of “pretending” to feel enjoyment until you do.
Let’s face it. There are all kinds of tasks we don’t enjoy, all sorts of uncomfortable scenarios and excruciating circumstances we must live through because there is no fast-forward button. We have no choice. We are stuck where we are. In that classroom. With that president. Living with a challenging relationship or a sick relative. Whatever the case may be, we are in it. So we may as well embrace where we are.
For me, this might mean repeating daily mantras; it might mean popping in Johnny Cash or Prince or Ani Difranco (whatever gets you in the groove). It might mean going to bed early and completing my lesson plan the next morning, even if I have to be up at 5:30 a.m.
It means acting like I enjoy what I am doing every day, even when I am uncomfortable in certain classrooms. In fact, when I start pretending I am having fun, I often do have fun. And if nothing else, I remember to relax, that the waterfall downstream awaits. And in fact, there are even beautiful things about discomfort (which we can get into another time.)
The fact is, we don’t have to make the tough spots even tougher by resenting them. They aren’t there to harm us or because we are worthy of punishment (probably). They are there, and that is all. Life goes on. Eventually. I can hear the waterfall, can you?