Today I trimmed our hedges. That may not sound like a big deal, and it’s not. But that’s what makes it such a big thing. After probably a year and a half of more work and less sleep than a person should do — ever — in their lives, I’m down to the mundane things that normal people do. More than that, I notice the mundane things that I should have been doing for years — like trimming the hedges.
This is not to say that I missed my priorities during that time. I didn’t. If my daughter had a recital, I was there 90% of the time, but I was always there and out of breath, having zoomed in from work. If one of my daughters was in a parade, I was always there. It’s also true that I wasn’t there, mentally, because I had papers to grade, or treatment plans to write that were soooo far overdue that they took up space in my head.
My day was something like this: Get up, do all the morning things, be reminded by my wife of what else was on the schedule that day — what unique thing was crammed into the schedule that day beyond its limits, get in my car and go to work, run around from job to job, get home so exhausted I’d avoid the little, behind-the-scenes work that had to be done for a few hours, and go to bed. The next day, I’d get up and do it all over again.
Sure, my head hurt a lot, but that was acceptable. I was getting ahead in life. I was being somebody. Ok, I was buying a lot of coffee on the road and the “lattes” had their own lines in the budget, but I was more industrious than I had ever been in my life, and we were making ends meet and I was teaching and loving it and … and … and …. To say that I liked that lifestyle would be to understate it big time. I liked my lifestyle as productive and known in all kinds of places and making lots of money (well, a lot for me…. I recently met a man who makes four times what my wife and I make in a year — by himself.). I felt like a big shot, almost — or as close to it as I would ever come.
The problem with scheduling all 24 hours in a day is that a human body isn’t meant to do that. Life keeps getting in the way. My mother died — that wasn’t in the schedule. Neck surgery? That was in the schedule, but recuperating wasn’t. The flu? Definitely not on the schedule. Paperwork? A detail I’ll get to. Yard work? Are you kidding me? Grieving? Too painful. Exhaustion? I didn’t have time for that. Anything that took a short bit of time didn’t rise to the level of “important enough to do right now”. Anything that was too big wasn’t possible to squeeze into the day, so it didn’t get done.
Do you know what happens if you don’t do all those “little things”? They become a big thing, which is now “impossible” to squeeze into the schedule. And if you don’t do enough of the big things which were impossible to squeeze into the schedule? They crash and burn. Either they crash and burn for a week like my body with the flu, or they crash and burn in some way that hurts people’s feelings including your own — missed appointments, lost keys, frustrated moments, snaps at people, and other things to dig out of. But that was May, and this is October already.
I have been blessed — enough social services people have understood about my paperwork, enough ministerial people have excused my missed meetings, that I felt like I could get caught up. Then, between illnesses, holidays, and forgetful clients, I vaguely remember developing a functioning brain. Next, I remember that thing called “time” which magically appeared in my schedule — and the boredom and clarity that led to work on all those big things-that-used-to-be little-things. Fewer big things, in time, led to more little things being done — and more little things being seen. Today, it was the hedges and they got done.
Did anyone notice that I wasn’t there when I appeared to be? My kids — great kids with good hearts — don’t seem to. My wife, with her own busy-ness, didn’t seem to — she’s used to being overworked by societal training. Maybe, with a little time and energy, I can lighten her load. Paperwork is the best its been in years but I have to keep up with that.
My life for the last few years has seemed like my room when I was 15 — a mess, with things strewn about, ready to be cleaned out sometime. Life has been like my father at 15. He would take all the drawers out of my dressed and dump them all out and and say “Now you can start cleaning!”. In time, and with work, my life looks ready for other people to come in again. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t, but I hope to be ready for it this time.