"To know that which lies before us in daily life, is the prime wisdom."~John Milton, Paradise Lost
I have an affinity for lists. Sometimes my lists are friendly directives and keep me on track. Other times my lists shout that I have not accomplished enough, and I become discouraged when I see that only a handful of expcetations for myself have been checked off. I've been known to actually add something I've completed to the list and then check it off to make me feel better.
This week I picked up a list I'd made for last weekend: Walk x2; paint nails; laundry; write; social media; work on talk; prepare for work; email x4; buy card and write editor; file appeal for health insurance; work on financials with husband. I actually forgot about the list, then I found it a few days later. I realized I'd completed about half its assignments. I didn't feel guility as much as I believed I needed to be more realistic about how to use my time. I frequently pack my schedule, not to mention my shoulder bag that I take to work. That bag is stuffed with items. I'm sure if I took time to dig to the bottom, I'd find my favorite lipstick I've been missing for a while. Living life like this can cause me to feel so tired, I numb out. Then when I get home from work I do stupid stuff like sit in front of the TV, mindlessly eating ice cream and watching shows that don't really matter--empty calories, empty mind.
One of my sisters recently talked of how she was "clearing the table" in her life. She was delegating tasks where she could and deciding to increase intentionality regarding her schedule. I liked her metaphor. I thought about how good it feels to clear off stacks of paper and mail from my kitchen table, put on a fresh tablecloth and place a decorative vase in the middle of the cleared space. That act of de-cluttering clears my mind as well.
This past week I decided to make one intentional move to begin clearing the table, removing items from my bag. I wouldn't turn on the TV after work. It seemed so simple. Yet I found myself craving Dr. Phil and re-runs of Bluebloods. But I did it. At week's end I re-evaluated. I hadn't eaten from the ice cream carton. Most afternoons instead of being inducted into afternoon television, I took a walk. Another day I reorganized a bookshelf and found a book on writing I'd forgotten I had--Elizabeth Berg's, Escaping Into The Open, The Art of Writing True. I read four chapters.
Later in the week, I watched Charlie Rose interview Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Charlie asked Bill, "What's one thing you've learned from Warren?" Bill responded, "Ask Warren to show you his schedule, Charlie." Warren pulled a slim daytimer from his suit jacket pocket. The cameraman performed a close-up as Mr. Buffett flipped through the pages. There was mostly white space. "I don't fill up my calendar. I have billions of dollars, but I can't buy time. Time is my most precious commodity." Bill smiled and said, "That's what I've learned, Charlie. Billions of dollars won't buy me time."
Realistic lists. Shoulder bag de-cluttered. The table cleared. A decision to turn off the TV. Increased movement. Decreased calories. The value of a book. The wealth of time. Prime wisdom.