I am the type of person who loves getting things done. I feel really great when I can make a list at the beginning of the day. I then diligently work on the list as the hours tick by, marking off each successful item written there. When the day is nearly finished and I mark off the final job, I take a deep breath and enjoy the wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I even feel a sense of pride if I can move through the list quickly and accomplish more in a shorter amount of time than I had originally expected. This is a good day. Oh if only every day could be like this!
Today was one of those days when I was zooming through my list effortlessly, but because of an interruption, my progress came to a sudden halt. A person (you know, one of those real live breathing individuals with feelings and needs) stepped right into my day and interrupted my momentum. This kind of interruption could have been from any number of people. It could’ve been someone coming into the office, someone knocking at my house door, or a simple phone call. It could have been my husband needing help or attention or one of my children needing me to do something. It didn’t really matter who had made the interruption, the point was that I was interrupted. Someone interrupted the flow of accomplishment I had going.
I hesitated long enough to speak to them and listen to what they had to say without truly engaging my full attention. My mind was busy consoling itself with thoughts like: "This won’t take too long. I’ll be back to my list in no time." Then another thought dances across the forefront of my mind and startles me. You know what I’m talking about, that proverbial slap in the face. I’m suddenly made aware of the fact that I’m putting my list of things ahead of real people. I’m putting my need to feel like I have been a productive person ahead of the things that are happening in the present moment in which I am living. My “list” is overshadowing real life events, real life needs, and real life people. In other words, I’m missing today's treasure!
An immediate tug-of-war commences in my mind. I need to finish my list so that future events and responsibilities will flow more smoothly. I need to finish my list because there will be a new list of expectations for me tomorrow. Then the little character called guilt jumps into the tug-of-war game. Will I be irresponsible if I don’t finish my list? Will someone else suffer if I leave a few things undone today?
Have you ever stopped to wonder how in the world we came up with the system of priorities we actually live by? Why are we so busy that we have to convince ourselves it’s okay to spend time with people? How ridiculous is that? When did we decide that great accomplishment equals success and happiness? When did I start living like I value my time more than I value the people in my life? What do I gain if I do finish my list in its entirety? Am I unrealistic enough to think there won’t be more items waiting to be placed on the list after I’m finished? Is it an honorable goal to finish everything before I take time for others? Where is the sense in that?
After I have this little time of reprimanding myself, I decide my previous way of thinking is grounded in quicksand and I need to turn my attitude around. I hate to admit it but it’s not an easy thing to change; however, I am determined. I redirect my mind to focus on the person standing in front of me, sitting beside me, or on the other end of the phone line. I let myself sit back, relax, and truly enjoy this time that I have with whomever it is that has interrupted me. I really listen to what they have to share without feeling hurried or anxious. I share things with them, laugh with them, and remember what it’s like to truly fellowship with someone. I pour us a cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade and let time tick on because I’m engaged in something that truly matters. I’m learning to enjoy today's treasure. The only thought that flits across my mind regarding that “list” is a simple mental note to reevaluate my list and my priorities that created that silly “list” in the first place.
I’m certainly not suggesting that we throw out all responsibilities, nor am I saying that there aren’t important things that need to be accomplished. Yes, someone has to take care of the kids, fix the meals, do the shopping, make a living, and meet deadlines. I’m simply suggesting our measuring stick used to measure ‘value’ is off a bit. What would happen if we measured our accomplishments for the day with a question like this? Did I accomplish anything today that could fall into the category of ‘Things That Will Last’ or the category of ‘Things That Cannot Be Undone’? For example: The dishes will get dirty again but time listening to my daughter will never be reversed and taken away. More bills will come in the mail but going for a drive with my husband will be a memory I’ll always have. Groceries will be eaten and more will be needed but praying with my friend will have eternal value.
After I’m finished talking, listening, and interacting with the person I first considered an interruption, I return to my desk and look at that “list” which seemed so important earlier in my day. I realize that now, after I’ve done something of unchangeable importance, I feel more refreshed and less hurried. My “list” doesn’t carry as much weight as it did before; in fact, it seems shorter and less important. Then I realize that I had been very wrong earlier. THIS was truly a good day. If only every day could be like THIS!