I'm under the gun with two article deadlines, an urgent project to finish, and I've already pushed another editor to the limit on yet a third assignment. My bedroom could only be described in gentle terms as "disastrous," and the mountain of laundry gives me a dirty laugh every time I forget to close my eyes as I walk past it.
I am totally overwhelmed, stewing and sullen, resentful and angry, when out of nowhere a thought knocks insistently on the bolted door of my mind.
This is not what life's about.
When I get caught up in the grind of life, I forget that the grind isn't life; life is life.
It flashes like a neon banner and lights up my world for a brief moment. The message is profound yet very simple. Nothing novel, but something I tend to quickly forget. How easy it is to fall into an abyss of distraction and lose sight of the big picture. Fact is, when I get caught up in the grind of life, I forget that the grind isn't life; life is life.
I recently remarked to my husband on what a conundrum working parents face. We work in order to have money to better care for our families. But that self-same work that will ultimately benefit our families financially can also take us away emotionally. At the end of the day, the equation can become skewed and the results can be somewhat ironic. Yes, we can afford the new dress, but there's barely a minute to read her a book. You want to go to summer camp? Of course. But I can't really talk to you about your ten-year-old woes right now because I've got to get some work finished...
We're buying into a cheap knock-off when we mistake the means to life for life itself. After all, what is life if not love, nurturing, giving, being, enjoying the gifts we've been granted. The rest is a sideshow -- necessary, of course, but not to the point that it eclipses the main attraction. When I find myself wholly wrapped up in the props and scenery, it's time to take a step back and refocus. It's time to realign myself with what really matters.
So I left my bad mood, my deadlines, and my angst for a brief few minutes. I chatted with my husband, I cooed at my baby, I freed myself from the externals and soaked in the beauty of the moment. It was only a few minutes, but it may as well have been light years. And I committed myself to repeating the pattern -- pulling back from the chaff to savor the wheat if just for a short time every day.
Just for today, I propose a new routine: a Live Life Break. It can take on thousands of forms. A hug and a smile, a quick but meaningful conversation, a few minutes watching the kids play together, or a game of Peek-a-boo with a toddler. It can be calling a parent or grandparent just to say hello, or writing a special note to a loved one. It can be sketching a quick picture of the horizon, or sitting in solitude and connecting with God. It can be a jog in the forest, a coffee klatch with a best friend, or a nocturne on the piano. But no day should go by without living life, at least for a brief while.
Deadlines come and go, as do laundry and dishes. As soon as one job is finished, another one rears its demanding head. A year from now -- even a week from now -- I won't even remember which project was so urgent and kept me in the doldrums, overwhelmed. But a week from now, my baby will be a week more grown up; my daughter will have a week's tests and friendship crises under her belt; my husband and I will be married one week longer; my mother will be one week older.
There is a guilty twinge in abandoning my burden, taking a break from life to enjoy life. But not only does it buy me something priceless, it renews my batteries so I can function better even at the office and with the housework. What a delightful paradox.
My world is divided into two sections: Life and Grind. Grind takes up a lot of time and energy, but Life is infinite and oh so sweet.