The Summer of Getting it Done
Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Ah, summer, the season of getting it all done. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I have done everything this past summer. Literally. I have done everything: Welcomed a roommate from China; helped acclimatize Chinese roommate; went to my share of summer barbeques; started training for a marathon; started fundraising for said marathon; undertook major life-changing habit adjustment in terms of eating and exercising; went speed-dating; started dating as a regular habit; ran some more. Oh, and I suppose there was some working, eating, sleeping and cleaning in there somewhere.
When I think back on this summer, I have a mini heart attack. How on Earth did I ever think it was a good idea to tackle all of that, in one summer? But then I remember that somehow, I survived. I remember that there were days when I wondered what would happen, but most days were really quite manageable. In fact, some days I was downright bored.
Sadly, I know that I am nowhere near the busiest person I know. You moms out there, I don’t know how you do it. But I’m beginning to get a sense of it. The trick, I’ve learned, is not to look at the whole picture all at once. It’s very much the opposite of the advice we normally get.
Usually, we’re told to take a big picture approach. Don’t get too caught up in all of the fine details. If we can just stand back and get perspective, we can overcome any challenge, right? Well, perhaps not the challenge of having too much on your plate.
When I take a big-picture approach to my busy schedule, the heart palpitations start immediately. I begin to wheeze and my breathing becomes shallow. I wonder how it’s all going to get done. Then I remember my friends with kids, and I wonder how they do anything! It gives me a little bit of hope and energy. If they can feed and clean and care for another living being, I’m sure I can get through a day with a 32km run, a lunch fundraiser and then a first date that night, even though the thought gives me hives.
The problem, when I look at the big picture, is that I have absolutely no sense of time. It’s incredible: all of a sudden, I lose track of the laws of physics, and I somehow think time is a simultaneous occurrence and that all things have to happen at once. I completely forget that time is linear and that all of these things will happen in their own time, in succession, not simultaneously.
We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day. It’s true that we can only fit a certain amount of activity into that time. For those of us with a problem fitting it all in, might I suggest one of two solutions: either get a lot better at estimating how much time things take, or get a lot better at deciding which priorities are the ones to say ‘yes’ to (and by default, which ones to say ‘no’ to.)
We are only given a certain amount of time. It’s a gift. Ask anyone who has ever battled a life-threatening illness. Ask anyone who’s had their life flash before their eyes. We can always earn more money. We can get back even some of the most precious items. We can even mend relationships. But we can never get back the time we’ve wasted. And I know too many people (me included) who have wasted time worrying about, well, time.
What if we stopped worrying about it and just accepted each event, one thing at a time? How silly is it that we sometimes live life doing one thing, all the while completely distracted by the next thing on the list? How can we enjoy any of the events this way, and by extension, how can we enjoy any of our life this way?
When I look at it this way, it really brings it home. I owe it to myself to enjoy my life. For me, that means not worrying about getting it all done. It means letting it all be. It means trusting that I’ve learned a few things about my limitations. It means trusting myself to know how long things take. It also means trusting in God for all of the resources (time, money, energy) needed to accomplish each task.
No matter how fast and seemingly out-of-control things get, and they inevitably do, I’ve also learned that they inevitable come to an end as well. Nothing is ever permanent. Our beautiful Alberta season changes are a great reminder of that.
Eventually, a lazy Sunday afternoon comes along, and I have no plans for the afternoon. Then, I find myself asking, “Why don’t I have anything to do today? I should go out and make something of the day.”
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