We sometimes carry around this idea that you learn something one time and that’s it — then you know it. Maybe that’s true for certain types of factual information, but when it comes to life lessons, my experience has been that we sometimes have to learn things over and over again.
For me, one of the most glaring examples has to do with retaining the knowledge, knowingness, know-how, and to not stress out and feel overwhelmed when there’s much to be done and not a whole lot of time in which to do it.
Maybe it’s because everything I’m involved with is deadline driven: the weekly column, the radio and TV commercials, the concerts, the promotion, the biscotti, not to mention the … (see, I didn’t mention it). Those are the things I do to make money, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them, too.
Then there are all the activities that nourish my being and my household; the daily stretching and walking, the cooking, the food shopping, taking care of the dogs, being with friends and family, and in fall and winter watching football on Saturdays — and this season, on Sundays too, thanks to the resurgence of my hometown team.
So, when something else that needs to be done by me gets thrown into the mix, I go, 'how … and when … am I supposed to do it?' But even as I’m saying it, I know how and I know when.
I have a pretty good sense of how long each thing will take, and how much energy it will require; and with each of the deadlines in mind and staring at me, I lay it all out in sequential order, and from there am able to see that, yes, it can and will get done, but only if I’m prepared to be both sprinter and marathon runner.
I know, I sound like I’m whining here, and I guess I am, but I’ve come to realize that it’s part of my process. I start out by considering all of it, altogether — the total volume, mass, time and energy, and then I break it down from there.
Sometimes, I hear myself say, 'There’s too much on my plate,' but then I remember that never stopped me at the smorgasbord. I simply went back for seconds.
It’s the same with doing the work.
Unless you’ve got the heavy equipment at your disposal, you’re not going to move the whole pile all at once. You have to take it a little at a time despite the biblical assertion that through faith we can move mountains. The trick, in these matters, is turning the mountains into molehills.
My Buddhist friends would probably say, the real issue is that you’re wrapped up in the do-ing rather than the be-ing; buying into the illusion of time flowing, passing, and slipping away. They might also say it’s not a case of too much to do or too little time in which to do it, but rather a question of why you feel the need to have to prove your self-worth by doing it all in the first place.
Be that as it may, I am aware that we are here now, and that the purpose of life is to live and learn and experience it as we go. And while I’m often busy and occupied, and short on time, I am also present in the present, and grateful every single day. I am continually exhilarated by breathing, inspired by beauty, healed by silence, and unafraid of uncertainty.
And when I get through the initial anxiety that comes with a jam-packed schedule, a new assignment, and a huge things-to-do list, there is a sense of accomplishment I experience having used the tools and techniques I've picked up along the way, and a sense of satisfaction at having learned and remembered a valuable lesson … for the umpteenth time.
Turns out, they were talking about the personality of the United States of America. And according to researchers, the pandemic changed the trajectory of that personality.
I’m also hoping that this notion of complementarity may serve as a little reminder: that it is possible for us, as individuals and as a group or a society, to hold and allow for seemingly contradictory positions and viewpoints on various issues so as to help bridge social and political divisions.
The man at the bar leaned over and said, “Tell me something about yourself that you’re pretty sure no one else in this place can say.”