It’s been a strange few weeks. I’ve been in a personal fog that related to organizational things, visitors, sickness, and the fallout of a post contagious house. Life has been leading me around by the nose. I’ve just been reacting.
That’s exactly the problem.
This has always been my problem.
In quiet moments, I have bursts of inspiration. Grandiose ideas of what I can do to serve my neighbor and teach my children well.
Then someone spews something that I have to clean up. Or the school calls with a volunteer request. Or the Today Show comes on. And stays on. For 3 hours.
There’s not a lot that I can do about the spewing part. But most of it, I do have SOME control over. But I’m not controlling it. It’s controlling me.
So at the end of the day, nothing looks any different than it did the day before. At the end of the month, those ideas that were chiseled and colorful and swelling in my mind are now watered down by time and doubt and chores that I won’t remember doing tomorrow. I begin to wonder if the notion ever had any merit in the first place.
And then I forget I ever even thought it.
Until someone dies.
In that moment, it all comes flooding back. In one instant and in the instants to follow, I remember every wish, every thought, every unchecked item on past to-do lists, every regret with total clarity. Total clarity.
I see it clearly. I resolve again to do life differently. I plan. I try. Someone spews. Someone calls. I get tired. I forget.
On Sunday, an older lady who was special to my church family, and to me, died peacefully at home. Then, on Monday, another woman, also getting up there in years, took food to the grieving family. This second woman was named Rose.
I don’t know what time Rose got out of bed on Monday morning and I don’t know what she did first thing. What I do know is that at some point that morning, she took food over to the grieving family without being asked to do so. No meal list was posted. No requests had been made. She just went, because that’s who she was and what she did. After that, she took food to two other families and dropped off desserts for our college students. And after all of that, I am imagining that she went home. I don’t actually know where she was when it happened, but that afternoon, Rose had a sudden heart attack and died. On her last day on earth, she was providing for others. That’s a pretty good way to go out.
I’m not sad for Rose or for Mrs. Pickup, because they have finished their race and earned their reward. I’m mostly sad for me. I’m sad because I’m afraid I’m not learning the lessons quickly enough or permanently enough. I can’t just keep rethinking the same thoughts or relearning the same lessons. I’ve got to build on this. I wish I could tell Rose how much it meant to me that she bought my oldest boy a remote control car on his first birthday. Never mind that he broke it in less than a week. She paid attention to him. She paid attention to everyone. I know I said thank you for that gift. But did I really tell her the impact?
I regret that. It doesn’t matter to her now and she doesn’t need anything from me now. But there are others who do. Other words unspoken, other letters unsent, other intentions sitting under a heavy pile of have-tos.
This sequence of events really caused me to think. Why can’t I seem to stay in the driver’s seat? Why do I have intentions that I don’t fulfill? Well, the why part isn’t that difficult. Life moves at a ludicrous pace and most of us move with it with our faces bent toward our smart phones. I know WHY I haven’t mastered it yet. What I need to know is HOW to break the pattern and become a Rose. Or half a Rose. Even a petal would work most days.
(1) I need to stand and observe my day before it even begins. What’s coming today? What HAS to be done? What did I already commit to? I need to try to look at the whole thing from the start and have a firm grasp of the “knowns.”
(2) Once I’ve got a grip on that, I need to ask myself what I can do to provide service or joy today. Who will I see on my day’s path? Who needs to hear from me? What kind of free time do I have and what needs to fill that? If I’m asked to do something, what will I say? If I say yes, will important things be neglected? If I say no, what better thing will I do with my time?
(3) What obstacles are preventing my progress? I need to REALLY KNOW the answer to this one. If committing to unimportant things is causing important ones to stay undone, I need to change this. If a bad habit is standing in my way, I need to avoid that. I need to defuse the bombs before they have a chance to go off. I did this rather successfully last year when the hub was out of town for a month. I realized during the first two week stint that I had accomplished NOTHING. And after looking hard at why that was, I realized I was lonely, was turning on the TV for “friends” and noise and then getting sucked in to whatever came on. So, the second 2-week-stint, I made a rule that I could not watch any TV between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. Instead, I turned on Pandora for music and hammered away on my task list.
This is really how I need to live my life. I can’t just wait for the empty snippets of time to appear and hope to fill them with big important service projects that have been on my mind. I have to carve out the time and make sure first things really do come first. Maybe today I just need to do something small. Something small is still something. A lot of something smalls makes a pretty big life.
It’s so totally NOT brain surgery. But for some reason–for me– it is hard.
So for today, I’m going to try to be a petal. And if I keep my focus and string together enough moments of trying, then maybe someday I’ll be a Rose.