Jack Kerouac, poet
I’ve got the pre-vacation jitters. Angst deep within that I feel every time I prepare to go away. Almost time to leave, but before I go…have I stopped the newspaper and mail? Cleaned the house? Is the luggage packed? Emails answered? Garden tended? Church covered? What have I forgotten?
Can I get it all done?
Most of the time, no…though I hate to admit that. Inevitably I discover something I left behind or left undone. I forget to water the plants and come home to depressed and wilted greenery. Neglect to pack sneakers and hobble around in flip flops for the week. Space out about making one last phone call to a parishioner, and then I feel guilty about it for days.
I did not get it all done. I cannot get it all done. Yet still, I try my damnedest to do it all. Because I should get it all done, whatever “it” is. Right?
I fantasize about one fine day when I will finally answer or delete all 14,283 emails sitting in my AOL in-box. I’ll replace the burnt out bulbs on the holiday decorations which sit forlornly in the corner of my garage. And I’ll clean the oven. And sort through all my old clothes. And catch up on texts and Facebook. And keep a daily journal. And, and, AND!
But here’s the thing. I believe that when I finally get to heaven and am greeted by God at the pearly gates, God will not ask of me, “Did you get it all done? Did you fold the laundry and mow the lawn and work lots of extra hours?” Instead I imagine God will ask of me, “Did you use, well and wisely, the one life I gave to you? Did you live so well, that in your death, you have no regrets?”
I wonder how I’ll answer those questions. How about you? Do you believe you can live a truly good life and get “it” all done too?
That’s the conceit of modern life for far too many humans. We believe that if only we work hard enough, plan well enough, sweat just enough, push through enough, schedule it all efficiently enough, we can and we will get it all done. Everything. BOO-YAH! That’s the golden calf we worship in 2106. “Enough” is never quite enough. Always one more thing to do or obligation to meet or deadline to beat.
We see it in the lives of so many of our kids who barely have time to breathe in between a plethora of activities and commitments. We see it in the lives of movers and shakers who awake before dawn, go forth to slay the dragon, then drag themselves home at night, exhausted, the family long gone to bed. We hear it in the “go to” response of too many of us, to the simple question, “How are you?” I’M BUSY! FLAT OUT! SLAMMED! Just once I’d like to hear someone respond (or me, even): “Well…things are kind of quiet. I’ve got good balance in my life.”
I see the people who don’t get it all done. They sit on the back porch, sipping an ice tea and reading a book, while their lawn is one inch too high. What is their problem?! They play a board game with their kids after supper or go out for ice cream, while unfolded laundry lurks in a basket on the stairs. HEY! Get back to work! They take all their vacation time. What is that about? They turn off their cell phone at night and don’t work again until the next morning. What if you miss something really ‘important’? They laugh spontaneously and smile for no reason at all. They seem happy and content, even though they clearly are not getting it all done.
Maybe I could learn something from these odd people. Maybe “she who dies with the most toys” isn’t the best life philosophy. Maybe there is more to life than just feeling spent at day’s end from chasing some impossible standard of what it means to be a “success”, whatever that means. Maybe I can remember that even God rested on the seventh day. Maybe I can finally accept this one truth.
I can’t get it all done.
So if you drive by my house this summer, please try and overlook the weeds in the yard. I was going to pull every last one of them out of the ground, but then decided to take a long bike ride instead. Guess my “to do” list will just have to wait.
For now…I’m done. Thank you God.