Not everything went wrong this week, but enough did to make me feel like a hole had formed in the universe somewhere and all my stuff was falling through it. I lost my keys and had to call security every time I entered or exited my office. One of those days, it made me late for my own class, a terrible role model to my students. Then I uploaded a bunch of material to my online class wrong, so none of my students could see it. I missed not one but two meetings, and I got so overwhelmed with work that I fell two days behind in my blogging. It wasn’t my shining hour.
If someone had been eavesdropping as I walked around my house or drove to work or sat in my office this week, they would have heard me repeating a phrase—something that sounded pointless or a bit loony, even—but something that has helped me through the many, many times when things haven't gone the way I planned.
My habit of repeating this phrase started years ago. At that time, I knew a woman whose husband had died. She was a youthful and energetic fifty-something and had a lot of life ahead of her. About a year after her husband’s death, I spoke with her about her plans. She said, “This isn’t what I expected my world to be like at 55. But since this is the way things are, I’ve decided to have the time of my life.”
There was something about the phrase she used that stuck. She didn’t say she was “going to make the best of it.” She didn’t say she was going to “put one foot in front of the other.” She said she was going to have the time of her life. It’s a cliché, sure. But it resonated with me.
Every since I had that conversation, I’ve gone to that phrase when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
I’m not just going to work hard at my new classes—I’m going to have the time of my life teaching them.
My literary journal might get a readership or not, but either way, I’m going to have the time of my life.
I have no idea if my novel will be successful or even find a publisher, but I’m going to have the time of my life writing it.
Anyone else might find the phrase hackneyed and meaningless, but I can still hear that woman’s voice every time I think of it—expressing not merely the hope for joy, but the expectation of joy—the determination to live a joyful life.
I don’t believe in the so-called “law of spiritual attraction.” I am not someone who thinks visualizing things will make them happen. But I do believe that the language we choose can change the way we think and feel—and ultimately, the way we behave. Carefully chosen and mindfully repeated language affects our brains, alters the way we experience the world. It’s part of the reason some people repeat mantras and others pray. It’s why all over India, you see written on buildings and fences and even trees, the single word: shanti. Peace.
I’d advise anyone to find a phrase. Something that encapsulates in just a few words what you want to feel about your life. When you can say it in a single sentence, it becomes crystalized, pure, and simple. It becomes something you can say as you breathe in and breathe out. While you’re walking. As you sit at your desk or make your way through a crowd. No, it won’t bring you riches. It won’t cast a magical net of protection around you. And it won’t make that memoir become the next hot item to light up the literary world. But it can make you feel stronger, clearer, lighter.
What is it that I want? To be a world-famous writer? To make a ton of money off my next book? To win awards and get dazzling reviews? Sure! But when it gets right down to it, what I want more than any of that is to have the time of my life.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...