Ladies and Gentlemen: I present Joan Rivers’ caustic words of wisdom.
Joan Rivers lived her life fully. She wrung every last drop out of it – the good, the bad, the ugly – and always found the humor – her passion, her purpose – in all of it.
Despite her filthy mouth, Joan Rivers was a real, Old School Lady. She was generous and compassionate; she wore real furs and adorned herself with baubles almost as big as she; she knew how and when to wear sequins.
She lived like a queen, allowing herself to enjoy the best of everything. And, let’s face it: who wasn’t amazed by her refurbished, 81-year-old face, even if it was a total fabrication. For more than 50 years, she coddled and nurtured her creative life and we were the lucky recipients of her dedicated efforts.
In the 2010 documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”, we are invited into her office, where we encounter wooden, library catalog-card file drawers, stacked high upon one another and running the length of the entire wall.
Each drawer is filled with index cards. On each card is written a joke penned by Rivers over the course her five-decade career. I recommend you watch this documentary, if only to witness this one element of her magnanimous creative genius.
Her career swath spanned four generations. My Grandma Reinig, deceased now for almost thirty years, watched her on “Johnny” (that’s the original TONIGHT SHOW, for you young’uns). Sometimes, I watched with her. And with my mother. My teenage nephews know who she is. That’s amazing.
But let’s get back to Old Joanie’s quote: “If you don’t do what you love in life, you’re stupid.”
I suppose it’s comfortable for people living miserably today to say, “I’ll get to what I love tomorrow.”
Here’s what I’ve learned about “tomorrow”. It never comes, unless you invite it to come. And if you don’t invite it to come, the day will arrive (you can count on it) when you’ll look in the mirror and see that you’re old and that now, being too old can become your new excuse. Or, perhaps you no longer have the energy to pursue what you love. Or, you’re distracted by your failing health. Or, saddest of all, you’ve simply resigned yourself to the meager existence to which you’ve allowed yourself to grow “accustomed”.
If you’re starting to feel a tinge of regret or a tingle of recognition running up your spine, good for you. I’m doing my job. Now, read on…
I recently had an experience which imparted deep awareness and compassion for the average working stiff. That’s people who work full-time jobs, day after week after month after year after decade, until “retirement” – or death – do they part.
I had taken a job teaching ESL – that’s English for foreigners; in this case, international students. I had done the very same job for the very same company in California and had (mostly) enjoyed it for the three years I did it. There, my experience was fun, fulfilling, stimulating.
But this recent experience was much different. I discovered that I still loved the work – the teaching – but that I hated THE JOB. Within three days, THE JOB had already consumed my entire life. I was stunned at how quickly it happened.
Every day, THE JOB demanded more and more from me. “Here, Sandra, here’s one more form.” My shoulders saluted my earlobes. “Here, Sandra, here’s one more assessment.” My jaw clamped together like a pit bull’s. “Here, Sandra, here’s one more hour of imposed unpaid time.” My fists clenched and my knuckles whitened.
“Oh, and Sandra…I’m just going to take one more drop of your blood…”
One night after work, I inquired of my boyfriend, “How do people find the time to feel their own lives when they live like this?”
“You should write a blog post about that,” he said.
“I will,” I thought. “As soon as I have the time.”
In a matter of days, THE JOB had hijacked my life, robbing me of the energy to exercise, which is central to my well-being. I am pursuing an acting career and I had to cancel an acting class I’d signed up for, due to the crushing fatigue. On top of that, I couldn’t even think about working on my book. I had even lost my desire to prepare healthy meals and, unbelievably, if my boyfriend prepared one, I didn’t even feel like eating it.
I had lost the thread of my life. Now, I felt as if I was living someone else’s life. Someone else’s crappy life. And, I felt desperate, which, to me, is the worst feeling of all.
I wanted my life back and intended to get it back, quickly. Still, because I had made a one-month committment (my supervisor had adjusted to working at the “triple-overwhelm” level and I liked her and didn’t want to add to her stress by quitting), I was determined to do so. And, I did.
And, now, I’m free again.
My whole life, I’ve never been able to function happily in the 9-5 world of work for very long. People told me, “You’ll adjust to it.” Guess what? I didn’t want to. I already had the knowledge of what is a nice life and what is a crappy one and I was way too savvy to think I would ever be willing to become “the lobster in the pot”, which is, frankly, what I think happens to most people.
Maybe, however, you do function well in the corporate world. That’s not for me to say. That’s for you to say.
Who came up with the idea of the five-day, 40-hour work week to begin with? And, was it really meant to last this long? Maybe it was only meant to be an experiment – you know, a “let’s try this and see how it works out” type of thing…
What I’m saying is, the 40 (plus) hour work week is not the only game in town.
I’ve got to get going now. My word counter says that I’ve reached 1207 words and I believe I’ve made my point.
I’ve loved writing this post. I worked on it for three hours and made 16 revisions along the way. Now, I’m going to go take a yoga class with my boyfriend. After that, I’m going to work on my book. Then, I’ll work on developing my new website for my own, Executive English Language Service.
I went to acting class last night and had lots of energy. And that other class I had to abandon because I was so wiped out from work? The instructor said that I could join in for the last three classes. I’ll do that on Thursday.
All things I love.
Do what Joan Rivers said and don’t be stupid.
Don’t let your life slip away without doing at least one thing that you love every day. Even if it’s the tiniest thing.
And raise a glass to Joan Rivers, national treasure and artistic icon. What a great example of a life well-lived she was.
P.S. Thanks, Joan, for inspiring me to write this post. Your words were the last thing I heard before my peepers popped open this morning and I knew what I had to write about today. Rest in peace, Amazing Lady.