How much time do we spend with our life's work, our art, or our families (and children, if we have them)? Crazy busy is a badge of success, right? That’s how our society sees it. The media reinforces the message of busyness = value. It tells us to do more, be younger, thinner, smarter, sexier, happier, and reinforces our sense of failure. If we aren’t doing more we feel guilt and shame. What about time to write or paint or dance or sit? No wonder depression is epidemic.
When my children were young, the week following Labor Day left me despairing. I had no idea how I would deal with backlogged work from the summer, organize car pools and activities, and deal with school supplies and forms. (If you are trying to do that now, in my experience, you'll get it figured out by Halloween.)
And no matter what you are managing right now, if you feel overwhelmed, ineffective, spread too thin, or just plain confused, I highly recommend Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
The book reminded me that I often find myself at an event because I feel obligated, not because I want to be there. Shiny new projects, something that flatters my ego, even "procrastination-by-busyness" keeps me from focusing on what deeply inspires me. Worse, my commitments prevent me from pursuing my talent or showing up where the world needs me. A few take- aways from the book are:
- If everything in life is a priority, nothing really is, so we have to make choices
- Trade-offs are necessary so we can focus on what truly matters to us
- We have to learn to resist the message to do more, be more
- We need to believe in our decisions so that others can't guilt-trip or shame us
This discipline requires cutting out the non-essential: the disciplined pursuit of less. We need to be intentional about it, too. McKeown uses the analogy of cleaning out a closet. How many outfits do we keep, not because we love wearing them, but because we "might want it some day" or "it was expensive?" If you don't wear it, the actual cost of keeping it is higher than it's value to you.
One thing I'm considering this fall is sorting through the seeds of my life to determine what matters. It's time to clean out my cupboards and take stock of where my treasure is because that's where I want my heart, and my time, to be in the coming weeks.
What is essential in your life? Is it getting enough of you?
From The Bonnet House Website about the artist: Bartlett joined his life with three artistically talented women. His first wife, artist Dora Tripp, helped design some of Frederic’s early Chicago murals. Helen Louise Birch wrote and published piano music and romantic poetry and assisted Frederic in assembling a preeminent collection of post-impressionist art. Bartlett's third wife Evelyn Fortune Lilly painted and exhibited vibrant portraits and still lifes." It looks to me that Bonnet House residents made time for their art.