I’m not keeping up very gracefully; there, I said it. In the last four months, I’ve had five major trips, my daughter’s family moved (and took my heart with them), Husband retired, I planned and threw a surprise retirement party, I consoled three family members struggling with depression (while trying not to join them), I reorganized and redecorated a room in the house, I accepted a new Church position, finished my second novel, planned its book launch (Murder On Deck), and started another book, while outlining four to follow, all the while juggling routine things like keeping the house running, the refrigerator full, the weeds at bay, the gas tank full, managing the family newsletter, helping friends as needed, and ignoring the squawks of my fat and intriguing medical chart as best I can.
We’re busy—we’re all very busy. I think the real news is that more of us don’t go up in a puff of smoke by the end of a normal week.
We all have the same amount of time in a day, week, month, year, although none of us know when the expiration date looms. How do we prioritize all that needs to be done without going ‘round the bend?
I think payoff makes a big difference for me. If you offered me a million dollars to wash your dog, even though I detest dogs, I’d be there with my soap and bucket in minutes. Sometimes thoughts swirl in my head, setting up a cloud of distraction I can’t see past. In that case, writing them down (getting them out so they’re less in) is the payoff. Walking past the toy room after my three small grandchildren moved away threatened my tear ducts, so redoing that room, winnowing the roomful of toys to one bin and box of kid books, is what I needed.
Some days I lie in bed listing all the things I wish to accomplish that day, and arise with a sense of purpose. And there are days when I lie back down at night, knowing I actually did accomplish the list. Those days are infrequent; more often, my plans are derailed by something or someone.
When I was a newlywed, I met a woman who was so severely scheduled, she could not let go of her calendar long enough to be of any use to anyone. If a neighbor needed help to run a child to the ER, too bad: Tuesday’s floor-mopping day. On a ward temple trip day, she’d be home washing curtains, because the third Saturday was always curtain-washing day. Personally, I can’t recall the last time my curtains made it up the list of priorities enough to be washed. I bandaged her son’s bleeding knee myself because she wasn’t done rearranging the front closet and he couldn’t wait.
I watched this woman with fear and fascination, determined to allow myself space and time to help as needed. She accomplished more than I, certainly, but I’d like to think that days when I choose to jettison my plans, I’m choosing the better part. Some days, a friend needs a ride to the store; the laundry will wait. If a grown child needs to talk for an hour, the To Do list is set aside.
I guess it’s the same with writing. I know writers who stick to a rigid schedule, say 4am-7am; don’t bother them unless the neighborhood’s on fire. I also know writers who write when the muse rears her head, and not between. So long as I write a bit every day and don’t neglect the most important tasks, I’m probably alright. Right?