Thursday, March 12, 2015

Juggling Chainsaws

I think the hardest part of normal life is making time for the things that matter. Most days by the time I’ve gotten home from a full day at work I struggle to juggle chores around the house, spending quality time with my wife, and playing with my children. And heaven forbid I sit down at any point, because if I do the day is officially over. I will not get back up until it’s time to pry my lifeless body off of the couch, and stumble to the bed.

Not to mention, we now have three children, which has been a tough transition for me. It was like we woke up one morning and had an instant toddler sprout up in the boys’ bedroom; a demanding, crazy, whining (and wonderful!) little two year old boy. We have quickly learned that a toddler is a toddler no matter what part of the world they originated. Like I said, this new addition has thrown me for a loop. It was as if life was going pretty smoothly, as I had learned how to juggle the balls I’d been given, and then we decided to work a chainsaw into the routine. It’s not that it can’t be done, but it takes time hard work, and lots of concentration. Most days lately I feel like I am about to drop everything and possibly severe a hand.

I mentioned this to some good friends we had over at our house last night, and they all agreed. It seems that for most of us managing time gets harder with age and responsibilities. Oddly enough, we all have the same amount of time we have always had, but for some reason the sand seems to be slipping faster through the hourglass.

“My son just turned fourteen,” my friend Greg said with a long exhale.

Greg, along with my friends Jake and Carey, had all hopped in a car with me to run a quick errand. The light from the rain reflected on the wet streets like neon, as we made our way in the dark of the evening.

“That’s hard to believe,” we all collectively responded.

“I’m about to have a middle-schooler this year,” I added.

Jake piped in, “Dang, that’s crazy.”

“Life just goes by so quickly,” Greg said, “If I really stop and think about it… it could make me have a panic attack.”

We all agreed. The furious pace of life is enough to take your breath away sometimes. I admitted to having those panic attacks myself for the same reason. I have had specific moments when the jarring reality that life is fleeting kicked me in the stomach without warning. There have been plenty of quiet moments as I am lying in bed at night where my mind runs wild with the thought of life, death, and just how frail I am.

One moment I remember specifically.  It’s the moment I realized I had man-hands. Seriously, this happened a few years back. I recall looking down at my hands one morning as I was dressing for work in the silence of the darkness. Suddenly my attention became fixed on my own hands. They looked older. It was kind of weird. I felt as if someone had transplanted my youthful hands with the hands of a grown man while I slept that night. It was an odd feeling. I guess in my mind I felt as if I was still a teenager. But teenagers don’t have big calloused wrinkling hands. I know this sounds silly, but I had never considered I was growing older.

I say all this for a reason. I think a lot of times we waste time because we think we have a lot of it left. But the truth is, we don’t. It’s easy to throw day after day away in seemingly meaningless pursuits when we whole-heartedly believe we’ll have thousands of more days to come. Don’t get me wrong, I hope we all have long lives ahead of us, but we still have a set number of days and hours. In the grand scheme of things our lives are not long enough to warrant throw-away days. That's not to say we shouldn't rest or play, but that we should instead live with more intention.

This is not a scare tactic. It’s a healthy reminder. I think it is good to be reminded of our own mortality every once in a while. It’s beneficial to look down at your aging hands and listen to the beating of your own heart.  I have found that the most grounded and well balanced people I know often have a very realistic view of life; that is that life is brief. For these people brevity is a means of focusing an otherwise meandering existence. But for those of us who are the ones meandering, the thought that our days our numbered scares us to death.

“The thought of it all can take your breath away sometimes,” I said to my buddies in the car.

Our conversation about life and the passing of time was a rich one. I was thankful to have friends that thought deeply on important things, and weren’t afraid to be vulnerable. We went on to talk about other things, like politics, and marriage, and where we buy groceries.

“Man, we really are old,” Greg exclaimed, “Could you imagine talking about this stuff ten years ago.”

We all laughed.

“Yeah, and that reminds me… my hip has been so sore lately,” I said with a smile.

What followed was a barrage of old men jokes.

The truth is we all want to make the most of our time, but struggle in the daily routine. If you are like me, this might be a symptom of over commitment. There are just too many balls to juggle, and maybe even a chainsaw or two. Or maybe it’s just laziness that comes from a meandering existence. Take time to focus your life. Keep at center the things most important to you and work your way outward. Be determined to make these areas first priority. They get first dibs at your time, your thoughts, your money, and your schedule. Anything truly important to you will dictate how you live in each of these categories.

Keep in mind that life is short and let it help you channel your attention into making decisions to pass on the unimportant and taking action on things that are. Making the most of your time is only a decision away. 

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