It’s So Much Work Just Being Alive

My husband laughed last night when I said, “It’s so much work just being alive.” I was describing my day, in which I’d awakened with a list in my head of all the things I was going to get done, and by the end of the day, only half of them were completed.

In the middle of responding to e-mail, I remembered I needed to reschedule my dentist appointment. Which reminded me I had to fill out and scan pages and pages of “new patient” info for a new doctor I’m trying. Which reminded me we’re almost out of coffee, so I hopped over to the website of our local coffee maker and placed an order. Which reminded me I needed to get one get well card, one sympathy card, and one wedding card in the mail that day.

Before you knew it, it was time to prepare dinner.

And I’m the lucky one right now. I don’t have a senior graduating from high school this year or a child getting married. I’m not trying to sell my house or complete a grad degree. I’ve just got the “usual” life messes to deal with, and that feels like enough!

There was a time when I was convinced I could do it all. I completed that list, even if it meant staying up past my bedtime, or giving up my reading time, or eating lunch at my desk. No more. I mentioned earlier that when I finished my chores yesterday, it was time to start dinner. Only I didn’t. I went outside and sat on the Adirondack chair on our porch and watched the breeze stir the baby leaves in our oak trees. I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face. I delighted in watching two squirrels chase each other around the yard.

It took me 54 years to finally and truly realize I was addicted to the “reward” of getting things done. The opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment and conclusion. The pride that came from knowing I could “do it all.” I had come to value my own worth based on excelling at my many jobs and being the best mother, wife, author, speaker, volunteer, business owner, ideator, and creator I could be. I understood the importance of fun, and I worked that into my schedule. But I never understood the pleasure of just sitting in the moment. I never saw the value in “doing nothing.”

I do now. It still doesn’t come easily to me. I have to quiet the part of my brain that is screaming, “Get up! There’s so much to do.” Because there really isn’t. What’s that old saying, “Be a human being, not a human doing”?  It turns out doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It’s so much more than that.

I think my muse got tired of following me around the house as I tried to get more things done. That’s why I haven’t heard from her much lately. She went outside to sit under the oak tree and wait for me to join her. She was tired of raising her voice over the sound of the microwave, the dishwasher, the printer. Like a loving child, she wanted a deeper conversation and my full attention. She was pouting, I think, until I came to my senses. But now we’re talking again. And it feels good.

By Teresa R. Funke

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