Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Old New England Witticism ...

Pioneer Days

“Use it up,
wear it out,
make it do,
or do without.”

I have no idea who wrote those words, but I feel safe in saying it must have been a long, long time ago. 

I’m sure it was someone very wise, and I would love to have a sit-down chat with them. I have a few questions about what we are supposed to use up, wear out, make do with, or do without.  We live in such a throw-away world these days.

Line one: Use It Up. I suppose when it was originally written, it had to do with homemade soap, food, the deer dad shot and brought home, maybe even maple syrup. Everything else I can think of at the moment is date-protected and perishable.

That line certainly doesn’t seem to have anything to do with relationships. On second thought, maybe Use It Up could apply to a bad one.  You would feel used up emotionally, especially when we look at it like oil and water. If you keep the oil and water mixed, like in salad dressing, it will stay mixed as long as you‘re continually shaking it up, but who wants to function in that kind of instability?

Line two: Wear it Out. This seems pretty clear.  I'm sure it applied to clothes, shoes, pack mules, maybe even the Sears Roebuck catalog that only came once a year.  But I don’t I even want to touch this one with relationships. It’s way too obvious. In a bad one, you would feel totally, completely worn out.

Line three: Make it do. This line makes perfect sense, if we’re talking about old curtains, children's clothing, or an old rag rug that was handed down from great grandma, and maybe even the old mare we’re riding and sometimes hitch to the wagon: “Hell, Mary, she's still a good mare and she gets us around. 'Course she's grown awful swayback, but hells afire, we can make her do.”

Now, if you apply that same line and logic to a relationship, it pisses me off. I don’t see a place in any relationship for “make it do“.  Ever.

To my way of thinking, a relationship is like a bank account. Maybe that’s an arcane analogy, but bear with me for a minute. In order for a bank account to work, you have to put more into it than you take out of it. That way, the interest mounts up and with compound interest, you always have a positive cash flow.

When you only withdraw money, over time, the account dwindles and eventually bottoms out until there’s nothing left. For a relationship to work, both parties have to be putting more into it than they take out.

I realize that there are times when only one party is able to contribute. I’ve allowed for that. In a loving relationship, the other party is still contributing their share and often even more, so in the long haul, the relationship works, because over time, there is always more going into it than is being taken out   ... but you never, ever make it do.

Of course, if you have an always-giver paired with an always-taker and the giver doesn’t mind, they could possibly feed each other’s needs perfectly. In a sad way, I suppose those relationships can and do work.

Sometime ago, I had a relationship like that.  As the giver, it didn’t work for me. The “make it do” “wore me out” and to stay sane and stop feeling “used up“, like the obvious fourth line of the witticism, I chose to “Do Without” ... it was the best decision I ever made.

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

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