Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Strong Finish and Promising New Beginnings

In the olden days back when I still served the Presbyterian Church, (USA) as a religious educator, more than once I got very bogged down in tasks of varying levels of urgency.  The paradox often was that something could be urgent without being particularly important.  Sometimes, too, tasks could be clearly of high importance without seeming urgent in any way.

Every job has those urgency vs. importance issues.  Every job, likewise, has its significance issues, which sound like they might be the same as importance, but they're really not.  Something can be grandly important in the overall scheme of things without having much personal significance to the one who is charged with its execution.

Then there are those things we do because we simply must do them.  Into this category of neutral necessaries fall things like paying the insurance premium, changing the furnace filters, and checking the oil in the car.  They're not important in terms of achieving our long-term goals, and unless they're overdue they don't get to be urgent, and unless checking your oil really floats your boat, they're hardly significant.  Yet a life is made up of necessaries.  (Try not doing them for a year and see what happens)

I once discovered that my entire existence was made up of the urgent, the important, the significant, and the necessary.  What was it that was missing?

It turns out that what was missing was the joyful.  Those tasks or activities which one does which go beyond being simply significant in a life...the things that make you soar, the things that stir passion!

For several months I tried and refined an exercise to balance out those area of my schedule that were devoted to the urgent, the important, the significant, the necessary, and the joyful.  I used a very large (11"x14") calendar for a whole year.  In each day's box, I wrote appointments, tasks, office hours, visits with students and their families, my own personal time, and time for my art and personal spiritual development.  I also included uncommitted time each day to allow for the urgent, which don't often tell us ahead of time when they're going to confront us.

Then, I took highlighters and color-coded my tasks according to the areas they fell into.  Work or office hours were orange.  Personal time for family, recreation, and friends was green.  Art was hot pink, my favorite!  You get the idea.

After a couple of months I got used to seeing at a glance where I was over-committed, where I might need to pull back, or where I could add in some fun.  It was also quite apparent that I was liable to the same threats as so many of my families, both parents and youngsters...too much scheduled time, not enough play!  Sometimes I had a whole week devoid of pink or green.  Often I had more orange on my pages than Cal-Trans has on our highways!

This year, my prayer for this quiet winter solstice and holiday season is that we each can find the space and quiet for the joyful, for the significant.  I hope we can ratchet down the urgency penning us in on seemingly every side, and start the new year with enough space built into our lives that we will be strong together as we face its challenges and opportunities together.

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