Recently, my son was ill with an upper respiratory infection and had been complaining of ear pain. It seemed prudent to have him seen by the doctor so off we went to have the experts take a look. Since my son isn’t easy to rouse in the morning, I was pleased to have left a little wiggle room in our schedule before our appointment time. Except…I drove right by the entrance to the parking lot! And on the return trip after we turned around for another shot, I drove right by it again!
Now, it’s easy to miss the entrance to a building when you’re distracted or perhaps unfamiliar with where you’re going. However, we drive by this particular medical building all of the time and I knew exactly where I was going. Furthermore, there were no other places we needed to be or that I had in mind as an add-on once the doctor’s visit was over so I should not have been so distracted. And what’s even more bothersome is that I wasn’t even aware of my distraction until it happened a second time.
That moment in time, when I realized I had checked out again, was a harbinger moment for me. What was I doing? Why was I letting it happen? Why was my mind so busy and where was it going without my permission? Assuming this was more habit than happenstance, I also worried about what other things I had missed as I traveled elsewhere in my mind.
I had just enjoyed a 3-day holiday weekend with no shortage of ways to fill the moments. And yet, my “to do list” was no shorter for it. And apparently the clutter in my mind hadn’t enjoyed a visit by the cleaning crew either. What had I accomplished in those hours of freedom from the demands of work? What relationships had I strengthened? What had I done for my own health? What knowledge had I gained? How did I let my life become so full of distraction?
Initially when I think of the phrase “the fullness of life,” it has positive connotations for me. It evokes images of time spent in the company of loved ones or enjoying moments of solitude engaged in our own quiet pursuits, nurturing ourselves and others. However, in this instance, “the fullness of life” brought forth concerns about the “noise” that makes up so much of our days.
I acknowledge the need for income producing work, for clean clothing, for meals to nourish our bodies, for interactions with others. These aren’t necessarily “noise” in and of themselves, but they can become so if we aren’t mindful of their place in our lives. If we don’t engage in them with some sense of purpose or intent but rather, go through the motions mindlessly or in a harried rush because we haven’t allowed space for them, they can certainly become noisy, distracting, and energy depleting experiences. Those moments spent in the company of others or engaged with our own pursuits can be life enhancing or burdensome depending on how disciplined we are about protecting our time and managing the expectations we have for ourselves or that we allow others to have for us.
And with that, my new mantra for life goes something like this quote from one of my favorite authors:
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact.
And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.”
~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!