I’m just asking.
In terms of signs that catch hell, it’s basically just “No Parking,” and “Live, Laugh, Love.” The physical manifestation of an eye roll, Live, Laugh, Love has evolved from decorative moment to that thing you make fun of your mom for. It’s hard to picture it being read out loud by someone who’s not annoying, and I’ll be the first to tell you, it’s the only kind of cheese I can’t stand. But given the steepness of LLL’s fall from the mantle, I recently asked myself why it ever sounded nice to someone in the first place. I started to wonder if maybe Live, Laugh, Love has a point.
A bit of context: I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m socially distanced alone in Brooklyn with nothing more than an eight-pound sack feline fur and the occasional Zoom for company. I’ve made friends with a very ugly sweet potato in my kitchen but Jeremy’s not much of a conversationalist and frankly I find him a little judgmental. I’m 38-days distanced, and often find myself in states of fear and confusion where I’m not sure if I should take nap or a Xanax, with a full reorganization of my summer camp photo archives or just…standing still for awhile also ranking high on my list of potential activities. My head feels chaotic and uncertain, and I’m wondering how long one person can rattle around in a Brooklyn one-bedroom and stay something resembling sane.
Everybody’s got advice. We live in a world where doing something once makes you an expert and a front-facing iPhone camera makes you an influencer. Everyone’s freaked out and apparently creating content is a coping skill. I’m seeing how-tos on everything from workday productivity from a dining room table to canning beets you have no intention of ever finding appetizing. There’s a lot of information bubbling to the surface as driven by the anxiety of everyone with reliable internet and the more I realize we’re all freaking out, the more I freak out in return.
At a glance, I’m not sure we can rely on any one person or strategy for helping us survive a crisis that’s more drawn out and unpredictable than interacting with a glass ketchup bottle at a diner. We don’t know what’s coming, or when, and this much uncertainty, stress, and fear — in addition to…I don’t know, a virus that kills—is probably something we each have to process and strategize for in our own way.
A few strategies I’ve employed this far: learning to do less, maintaining strong connections to friends via screens, meditating, doing squats all the time, and just a full-on descent into alcoholism. Thus far, nothing’s really making me feel A-OK. And if my trial-and-error method is open to suggestions, why not give Live, Laugh, Love a chance to make its case?
I’ve decided to explore Live, Laugh, Love as a valid approach to a pandemic. Yeah…I know, but you’ve heard worse ideas. I’d even go so far as to say the first time you saw Live, Laugh, Love with your mom at a country craft fair, it didn’t sound half bad. It’s only now after the phrase has gone from jam-jar DIY project to a purchasable item at Target that we’re all so over it and bothered. Let’s give it a chance. We’ve got the time.
On its face, Live, Laugh, Love are three alliterative words in the English language posed as a directive. Do we do them all at once? One at a time? Best two out of three? The instructions are pretty brief. But all three words sound like things I support. Just maybe not carved into reclaimed wood and hung from a wall via a piece of gingham fabric. Or painted atop some kind of garish chevron pattern, Jesus.
First, Live. I mean I’m not a fan of the alternative, so you’ve got my attention. Obviously deeper exploration means live fully, don’t become a disconnected piece of pond algae with nothing more than an affinity for washing your car in the driveway and a healthy “watch next” list on Netflix. Have a little curiosity, a little motivation, get out there.
Laugh. Expanding further, I think we arrive somewhere in the realm of seek out joy and fun, acquire some buoyancy and an overall upbeat approach that learns to find the funny in situations that are anything but. Obviously this one can feel pretty lofty at times, but I like a challenge. I also actually really do love to laugh, as does anyone who’s not an evil Disney stepmother, so I have a feeling we’re all on board.
Love. Again, not a fan of the inverse, so well done. Hate is so exhausting, don’t you think? Love feels more effortless and honestly we all have enough on our to-dos. I think this one’s asking us all to approach each other with kindness, even when people are walking four-abreast down an NYC sidewalk. It’s tough, but I’m willing to at least give it a go.
After a firm grasp of the basics, how do I incorporate Live, Laugh, Love as a pandemic strategy? How do I harness the power but not the grating lameness of the phrase into an approach that helps me feel better about the binfire that is 2020? I’ve decided to use it as a flow chart.
The plan is this: whenever something happens, or doesn’t happen, or I get an idea, or someone calls, or the cat graces me with interaction, whatever — my job is to assess the situation using a Live, Laugh, Love pathway. If all roads point to “no,” the answer is then…fuck it.
I think this is best explained utilizing a real-life example. I’ll use a recent frustration that’s pretty prevalent and relatable in the ether at the moment: I tried making some bread last week, and it wouldn’t rise. Upon seeing the bowl of limp flour after an hour of distracting myself by dusting my house, I became frustrated at the waste of kitchen resources and quite frankly a little upset with the yeast which had one job. Because it’s a pandemic, the frustration which would have resulted in nothing more than a shoulder shrug and trash-dump during The Before, now resulted in a full mental meltdown that ended somewhere around me remembering something stupid I said in 2003.
If I’d used the Live, Laugh, Love approach, I would have simply asked myself:
In this moment, am I living? Well, all pulses point to yes, but I do not feel that I am living anything resembling my best or even my junior varsity life. This moment sucks, and I don’t feel alive, I feel annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed. I am not fully living right now, I am fully sucking at urban homesteading and I fear for my future.
In this moment, am I laughing? Fuck no. I just wasted flour, found out the remaining two packets of yeast in this set are probably bad too and I can only find it at the store every fifth trip, and now I have to wash a dish. That is so many upsetting notions in one sentence. This isn’t funny, this is bullshit.
In this moment, am I loving? Who, exactly? The blogger who wrote this bread recipe? The manufacturers of garbage yeast? Myself? Safe to say that’s a no all around the table. There is no love in unleavened dough. Matzah is disgusting, constipates you, and only becomes edible when topped with toffee or chocolate or both, I am not wrong.
After a thorough review of the flow chart, all roads point to “no,” and thus…fuck it. This moment is over, and I’m not going to allow myself to have any feelings about it further, or put in additional effort where this culinary failure is concerned. Put it in the past, chalk it up to shit happens, never speak of it again. Onward. I feel better just typing that.
Of course, unrisen bread is just one example and quite frankly a tame one. I wish I’d deployed this strategy when I applied for unemployment and bet your ass I’ll need it when I try to cancel the flight I was supposed to take to London on Thursday. For those of us lucky enough to be healthy and have time to actually ponder how insane it is for an entire country to not be able to leave the house, every day is essentially an onslaught of things large and small that can suddenly tear through the thin membrane that is what’s left of our patience. We could do a lot worse than Live, Laugh, Love, is my point.
I’m not saying that the next time a 50 & up relative of yours sends you a care package that includes a mug, wine glass, or plaque of some kind with this phrase on it that you have to keep it. Lie to them in your thank-you note, I don’t care. You don’t even have to give it to Good Will, I’m giving you my full permission to throw it straight into the recycling. I’m just asking us all to consider a simplified approach to the end of the world.
Live, Laugh, Love is a shame. We know this. But only in its physical form. The idea of Live, Laugh, Love was a good idea to begin with, it’s just that it was such a good idea that unoriginal people nationwide wanted to remind themselves of it every time they walk into the mudroom. Don’t let what’s happened to Live, Laugh, Love erase its practicality. Take the message, not the tea towels, and let’s all find out if the simplicity of this approach is one worth living with, laughing at, or even loving.