Monday, June 18, 2012

"To Do" versus "Did"

It’s another one of those days when I have to remind myself to shift my attention to the “Did” list rather than the “To Do” list, and acknowledge that what I did do deserves recognition just as much as what I didn’t do.

That can be hard to put into practice, though. The “To Do” list is such an attention grabber, with its bold headings and flashy colors – at least the ones my imagination superimposes over the items on it. The To Do list jumps up and down and waves its arms in the air. It does cartwheels and performs cheers. It elbows its way to the front of my consciousness.

Meanwhile, the “Did” list sits quietly in a lounge chair with its feet up, laconically watching the To Do list fuss and clamor.

And so the Did list gets ignored while the squeaky wheel of the To Do list gets all of my mental grease. I run through the litany over and over again of what I need to do, what I did not get to this weekend, what’s due in the upcoming week. I vacuumed yesterday, but only half the house (and the easy half, at that). I need to finish working on my Fourth of July article. There are three baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded. The car needs an oil change this week too, and I should write an email to the mom in charge of the kids’ beach trip for Wednesday.

But, as I remind myself, one is always making choices about how to spend time. As I was ignoring all of the things on my To Do list, I wasn’t doing absolutely nothing. I was spending a Sunday morning with my sister and her 7-year-old, who were visiting from Washington, D.C. I watched my young nephew row around my parents’ backyard pond in a rowboat, and then I watched the same busy child make up obstacle courses at the playground while my sister and I ruminated on the derivations and deviations of friendship.

True, these weren’t on any To Do list. But the vacuuming will still be there tomorrow and so will the work deadlines. My sister and my nephew, on the other hand, flew back to Washington yesterday. By the time they next visit, my nephew may have outgrown his interest in both rowboats and playgrounds. It truly might have been my last opportunity to see him do these things.

So the To Do list outweighs the Did list in flashiness and magnitude as always, but the Did list basks in a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. What I did mattered to me, even if not to my career development or my domestic upkeep. The To Do list will stick around another day; the Did list will fade into memory. Nonetheless, I’m so glad for what I did.

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