I made a fried-egg sandwich this morning. I used the bread I got on double discount from the thrift store, cooked it on a stove where the burner is all akimbo so you can’t get even heat, with a burned out light bulb and used a Dollar Tree flipper. I ate it over the sink so as not to dirty a plate my father would have to clean, and felt bad as drops of yolk fell, leaving me forever.
There are two ways you can be controlled by your stuff. The first is if you have too much, and you are always looking for more. The second way is if you don’t have enough and you are always working to compensate for the limitations.
The virtue in my family has always been make-do. We shopped at Marshalls in 1967 when there were only two of them. We keep twine and the picture in the town history of where my father grew up is my Uncle Eli with the tractor he built out of a 1927 Ford. I hear stories about building rope laying machines, which spun binder twine, and spinning wheels made in the blacksmith shop. My mother gasps at people who pay retail.
There is certainly virtue in making do, in using up what you have and not wanting for more, in being smart and frugal rather than consumed by desire.
But, I suspect — and this certainly isn’t echoed in my own life — make-do not a virtue in itself, rather fugality is only a virtue when it is in service to a bigger goal, to getting what you desire. In other words, it’s not enough just to cut and scrimp and save and minimize, you have to do that at the same time you build and invest and dream.
You have to believe that the reason you play small in some areas is to have the resource to play big in others, to not lose in expenses what you can parlay in investments.
The virtue around me, the virtue I bought into, is making do. I’m proud of my ingenuity and fugality, doing it small and smart enough to keep things going.
But I missed the lesson, the support in doing big and good, because my big was rather too queer.
Cutting your losses only gives small losses. It’s only wins that help you win.
And make-do? Not the best virtue to build a life around.