Santa stop here

Friday, August 7, 2009

Food for thought

My sister-in-law sent me this food for thought...

There are four things that you cannot recover in life:
(1) The Stone..........after it's thrown,

(2) The Word.............after it's said,

(3) The Occasion....after it's missed, and

(4) The Time............after it's gone.

I was pondering the veracity of it as I glanced up at the clock and noted that it is after 1:00 in the afternoon, and I have relatively little to show for the 5 1/2 hours I've been awake today. Sure, I’ve spent my usual early morning stint outdoors lamenting over the algae in the pool and trimming back my mint while the breeze was still cool and refreshing and the sun not quite up and at ‘em. Then, I came in and gathered the trash for pick up and set it on the curb. I ate the leftover blueberry pancakes I came across while cleaning out cucumbers that had gone soft and other perishables that had perished since last trash pick up. As soon as I sat down at my computer and turned on the modem the telephone rang. (I have the cheapest DSL internet plan there is, and I’m missing some filter. So, whenever I’m online and the phone rings my internet connection is disrupted.) Cousin B was en route to a job interview and seeking words of encouragement. That conversation completed, I returned to the task at hand: checking e-mails. This time I actually got all the way to my inbox and discovered 14 new messages awaiting my attention. I automatically deleted the unsolicited ones (ads about financial aid to pursue an online degrees, etc.) or those from unrecognized senders. That left about 10 messages to actually read. I can always tell when someone else has been sitting at their computer “catching up” on e-mails, too, because my inbox fills with forwarded “must read” alerts and “pass this on if you love God” prayers and “please do not break this because it’s going all around the world” messages. I began with my sister-in-law since we were going back and forth hammering out the details of the birthday bash she is hosting for my son, my dad & my nephew this Sunday. I had made it to about the 4th message when the phone rang again. B’s interview was over and he was pulling into my driveway and needed to know if I was decent (the interview was about 2 blocks away at A & A’s elementary school). I shimmied into appropriate undergarments and let him in. An hour and a half later I was forcing him out of the door. We had chatted about how the interview had gone, our financial woes and our hopes for a more financially sound if not prosperous future. Both of us were about as unenergetic as could be, and instead of uplifting one another we were just dragging each other down. That’s why I had to take the initiative to “force” B out the door.
All of the above counts for the first 3 ½ hours of my day. I guess I devoted about another hour to the internet from roughly 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. then the telephone rang 3 times. First, Mike calling to say he was not working late and would need my van when he got off work. Next, Barrett calling to tell me to get off of the phone with Mike or Jamie (good guesses, B!) and give me an update on his computer situation while en route to work. Finally, Tia called just to chit-chat about what I was doing, the errands she was about to run and whether or not I needed anything from Costco. Another hour had passed while I was on the phone. So, I guess my entire morning really was accounted for, even though the things I did “accomplish” (visit, check e-mails & chat on the phone) didn’t really correlate with my mental list of “things to do today.”
Now, here I sit blogging away about how time gets away and you never get it back when my list of things to do is still undone.
There are two basic things in life that have to happen in order to be productive and successful:
1) One must realize that everything takes time. I think I touched upon this in an earlier blog, but I'll elaborate again in a minute.
2) One must operate with intentionality in mind. I haven't read Joel Osteen's The Purpose Driven Life, but I'd be willing to bet that some of what I'm about to say is akin to what is in his best-seller.

When I say “everything takes time,” the meaning is two-fold. On the one hand, doing things and doing them well takes time and effort: the old “Rome wasn’t built in a day” adage comes to mind. This is of some consolation when you feel your progress on some big project is a little slow. On the other hand, every little thing you do takes up some of your time. I have a tendency to overestimate how much I can get done in a given period of time and underestimate how long it takes to accomplish a task. Either one of those shortcomings is bad enough by itself. Put them together and you have a recipe for disaster every time! Answering the telephone may take a minute if it’s the library’s automated system calling to tell you a book is ready for pick up; or, it can take an hour or more if it’s your girlfriend with whom you haven’t touched base in a few days. So, I ask myself why I feel compelled to answer the phone every time it rings. Answer: out of sheer habit. I don’t have caller ID to “screen” calls, so I just answer. I usually regret when I pick up and it’s someone begging for money, a telemarketer trained to get three rebuttals before ending the call or worse yet someone conducting one of those annoying surveys where they must ask you a million questions even if you have already explained that you do not listen to a particular radio station or shop at a particular store. Tick, tock, tick, tock…the minutes of the day are ticking away. You’ve lost your momentum for whatever you were in the process of doing whenever you answered the phone in the first place. In this case, the act of answering the phone takes up your time.

My online defines intentional as an adjective meaning:
1. done with intention or on purpose; intended: an intentional insult
2. pertaining to intention or purpose
synonyms: planned, designed; see deliberate
Intentionality-(noun version) is the state of having or being formed by an intention.

Growing up we were never allowed to use a form of the word in the definition of the word. What’s up with that?! In my own words, intentionality means: if you don’t use your time wisely someone else will be glad to use it for you. It’s similar to the phrase, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Think about it. If you call your doctor’s office, they usually have someone whose sole job is to answer the telephone, take a message and inform you that the doctor will return your call between this time and that time. Imagine if the doctor paused to take every call that came through for him/her! There would be relatively little time to actually see patients. The doctor intends to meet the needs of his in-house patients as well as those who have called the office. To accomplish this, however, he or she must have a plan. If you don’t have a clear plan and means to accomplish it (intentionality), then others feel you have all the time in the world to devote to what they would have you do. Am I making sense, or am I just rambling on and on? I guess what I am saying in a nutshell is it is not enough to hope things happen; sometimes you have to get to work and make things happen. If you intend for it to happen you need a plan and means to accomplish it.
One last example then I’ll close. Every year Mike bids for the next year’s vacations sometime around October. Inevitably, a vacation week rolls around, and he is 4 days into it when he says, “We should have planned a quick trip to wherever.” Then, in the blink of his eye (the time drags on for me) he is headed back to work, and we haven’t been anywhere or done anything worthwhile (like spring cleaning type stuff). We haven’t mastered the art of intentionality. Usually, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles because Mike is off work, but the kids & I are still in school. This past vacation, however, we were all off from work and school for 9 days in a row. We had no funds to travel, so it would have been the perfect time to get “stuff” done around the house (and God knows there is plenty to be done!). We caught up on some old movies, but that’s about it because we lacked the fundamental intention (deliberate plan) to get anything done. Nine days we won’t get back because they have already passed. I’ve brought this topic to family huddle, but nothing seemed to come of it. I’ll keep it going, though, until I can get my point across. Good night. Until next time…

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