"Next time will be different." I make that vow whenever I find myself in a huddle of strangers in front of a painting, sculpture, or piece of history at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Crowds give me the shudders, and I hate the feeling I'm holding up the line when I peer at a brush stroke or stare at portrait that speaks to me. Why oh why do I hit exhibits on their dead-last day or uncomfortably close to it? And why do others do the same?
In late May, on the last evening showing of the Picasso Black and White exhibit at MFAH, I edged around the clumps of headset-wearers who'd stopped dead to listen to the exhibit's audio tour, skirted the couple who couldn't keep their hands off one another, but got stuck in a pack of strangers. When that happens, do I rejoice in Picasso's relevance? Do I give the MFAH props for mounting a popular show? No. I decide I don't like people very much.
Picasso Black and White ran from February 24 until May 27. That three-month window means I could have circled a date in the middle of March, ordered tickets, shown up and had Picasso, Olga, Jacqueline, and Woman Ironing to myself. Was the window too wide? Nope. My focus is too narrow, and I suspect yours is, too.
Every person in that last-Thursday-evening-of-the-exhibit crowd put off their visit until it was almost too late. We delay gratification and turn desired outings into rewards for work completed, tasks finished, chores done. But when is work ever completed? As soon as we finish one chore, another pops up.
If we can schedule work meetings weeks ahead of time and hold them sacrosanct, surely we can do the same for leisure activities that lift our spirits and help us see differently. A Picasso exhibit may not float your boat, but a concert might. Maybe it's time for you to dance, take a ferry ride, go kayaking, or pick up the guitar that's missed you.
Next time you type an important work assignment or appointment into your phone's calendar, set a play date for yourself. The play date's not a reward or carrot, mind you; it's a scheduled break you get to enjoy whether or not the assignment's going well. (When the assignment's cratering, you really, really need that play date.)
Did you mark a fun activity on your calendar? Good. Now I've got a question: Do crowds energize you or make you cranky?