Instead of all the things I “should” have accomplished today—finishing more articles, posting on my 2 blogs and 3 Facebook pages, cleaning the house, doing another load of launtry, I went out into the rare Northwest February sunshine and enjoyed the Red Wine and Chocolate Festival and sitting and knitting with a group of friends. One of the many topics for conversation was, “How do you create the balance between preparing for the future…which in many of our cases may include living into our 90’s…and staying in the moment, living the most and best for today?
We talked about what we might regret not having done if we died on the way home. There was a lot about connecting with family, saying the things that we feel, but don’t always express. With Valentine’s Day coming, it’s nice to think of the everyday gifts of love we can give to others by saying, “I really appreciate your being here. Thank you for enjoying this moment with me.” A good friend lost her son recently in a very violent and sudden way, and she could feel somewhat comforted by the fact that she and her husband had been to visit him recently and had let him know that his family loves him, in spite of his difficulties.
Every day is a balancing act. We can’t be responsible adults and not report to work Mondays on time, or have a balanced dinner ready for the family at the end of the day. But it’s important to take time out, too, to have play dates with ourselves and our friends.
I know that I have a bad habit of over-booking my time, usually because there are just so darn many interesting things to do, I want to experience them all. Now that I have had serious talks with my financial planner and know that a full-time job for money will be part of my life for at least the next few years, I’ve stopped raging against my fate, and started looking harder at how I spend the time that is more precious than money. I’ve decided to stop wasting my energy worrying about things I can’t change.
Some sunny Saturdays, I do have to say, “No, I must stay home and get this project done, or force myself to stay inside and face my painting (which I know I want to do) even though I might not have anything to show for the effort.” Other days, like today, I absolutely must grab onto the one sunny day in a rainy winter with friends and feeding ourselves with talk and laughter and making things together.
When I am tempted to volunteer for yet another task, I try to ask myself, is this really how I want to spend my precious time? When I get down on myself for not being able to do EVERYTHING I want to do as fast as I want to do it; when I was supporting myself only with pattern-making and teaching, and there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, I tried to remember to stop and ask myself, “Is this what I really want to be sacrificing everything else to do?” “Will I survive if I skip sending a piece to this show one year? “ We can find some things to ease up on, let go of.
Each project breeds new projects and possibilities, like petals of a flower unfolding. All of us Creative Beings will come to the ends of our lives with UFO’s still in the closet, treasure troves in our stashes, and probably some dishes in the kitchen sink from breakfast. It’s in our natures to continue to see possibilities as long as we have life and breath. The trick is to know when to grab and what, and when to let go and enjoy. My surest antidote to illness is to drop everything and enjoy the day. The work, whether it’s work for money or work for the joy of it, will still be there when we get back, and we can get back down to it with renewed vigor after we’ve taken time off to appreciate what’s around us. I’ve just written this essay in an hour, when it might have taken all day, if I’d pushed myself too hard or felt I was sacrificing too much.
Being fully alive is truly a gamble…I’m betting that I’ll live to be 95, and the statistics are on my side, but just in case, I’m going to enjoy the process as much as I possibly can. What would you regret not having done if today was your last? Make a doll to remind you to Do Everything, so your bucket list will all be accomplished….there will always be something new and interesting to accomplish.