Monday, March 19, 2012

To Do....or not To Do

I woke up yesterday morning already facing defeat with my To Do list.

I just knew I wouldn’t get through it. I never get through it. And if there was ever a weekend when my odds were good of navigating my entire To Do list, this weekend was it. We had almost nothing on the calendar other than bringing Tim to a school dance on Friday evening and picking him up afterwards, a children’s theater event on Saturday afternoon, and church on Sunday morning. So if you start the clock at 5 p.m. on Friday – the time that I consider the work week over and the time that both kids are home from their afternoon activities – and run it until 10 p.m. on Sunday – the time I try to get to bed – and then subtract eight hours each on Friday night and Saturday night for sleeping, that leaves about 37 hours to fill however we chose.

But by Sunday morning, I knew I wouldn’t get through my list, and as I lay in bed thinking about getting up, I found myself unwittingly cataloging those items most likely to get bumped. I knew I’d get through the basics: running, church, cooking meals, washing dishes, probably a load or two of laundry. But I knew I wouldn’t get to any of the lower-priority tasks, like putting away the props from the play that ended its run two weeks ago, cleaning up Holly’s room (which in terms of the frustration it causes me should be top-priority, but because of the amount of work it constitutes always gets bumped down a notch), and searching through the boxes that we still haven’t unpacked since moving here last spring for the nighttable lamps that I really wish we could start using again.

So I got out of bed and focused on the beginning-of-day items I wanted to get through: writing in my journal, eating breakfast, putting bacon in the oven for when the kids woke up (they sleep late on weekends, which is truly one of the many joys of reaching the tween years). But even as I drove to church, I was still thinking about all that I wanted to get done but probably wouldn’t find time for.

And then at some point I had a change of heart. What if I just catalogued those things that did get done, instead of those that didn’t? What if instead of rebuking myself for never getting those last few boxes unpacked, even eleven months after our move, I celebrated the fact that I was out for a four-mile run before church? What if making the bed mattered more than not getting the laundry done?

Just thinking this way put a more positive spin on the day. And when I got home from church, the sun was shining and the temperature had already reached the low sixties. Holly wanted to go for a bike ride, Tim wanted to play badminton, and my friends Jane and Donna were coming by for a walk at 2:00.

So I mentally threw away the To Do list and just enjoyed the sunshine. Truth be told, by the time dinnertime rolled around, I’d accomplished even less than I expected. I hadn’t even made it to the supermarket, having rationalized that if we had milk, orange juice, and lunch-makings for Monday, it could wait another 24 hours.

And yet I’d gone running, biking, walking and played badminton, as well as collaborated with Tim to set up a ladder and pluck three errant badminton shuttlecocks out of the roof gutter. It was a late-winter day that felt like summer, and I’d spent more than half of it outside. Yes, the laundry went unwashed, the groceries unpurchased, and the nighttable lamps left in their storage boxes for yet another week.

But I’d stopped thinking about it. For the rest of the day, I counted what I did do rather than what I didn’t. And that made me feel as if I’d accomplished plenty.

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