“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


A Smaller Picture

Saturday, January 13, 2007

In response to the Write-Away Contest over at Scribbit, because that plate is beautiful and it gave me a chance to set a small writing goal...and meet it.

One of the associate pastors at my church jokes about his wife’s organizational skills. “Most people have calendars with a week at a glance. My wife has twenty years at a glance,” he teases.

His wife is the church administrator as well as the worship director, and is one of the most organized and visionary people I know. She plans all our major events and knows the church’s schedule of events for years ahead. She keeps the worship team running smoothly, which includes organizing practices, recruiting new members, planning ahead for growth and improvement, and choosing songs that will coincide with the vision of the church, among many other things. This woman knows how to set goals and she does a fantastic job of carrying them out.

Myself, I’m a whole different story. I’m lucky to have the next five minutes at a glance. I usually don’t know what’s for dinner until I start making it and often I’m not even sure what it is until it’s done. ("What are we having for dinner, honey?" "Um, pasta surprise...again.") I’m lucky to get the laundry folded and put away before the next week’s laundry day, which means that most days I wear whatever appears at the top of the pile. Even in my job, working for a temp agency, there are times when I don’t know where (or if) I’ll be working next week.

The obvious solution would be to set goals. If you think I haven’t tried that, you would be wrong. I have set goals: weight-loss goals, house-keeping goals, Bible-reading goals. If there’s a goal to be set, I have probably set it. I have also probably failed.

I’ve tried to become better at meeting goals. I’ve created special calendars and spreadsheets. I’ve stuck posty notes with reminders in strategic places, but to no avail.

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, goals and I have never been able to create a deep and lasting friendship. I start filling in the calendar with important dates, household chores, monthly goals, but by the second or third day I have already abandoned the calendar to its own devices and neither the calendar nor I have accomplished anything.

Being the semi-geek that I am, I have used a spreadsheet to track daily steps completed toward an ultimate goal. The process usually goes something like this: The first couple of days, blanks are filled in religiously; by the fifth day I realize that I have forgotten to record my progress since the second day and go back, trying to remember the past few days in order to fill in the information as accurately as possible; by the seventh day I have started to think that keeping up the spreadsheet is more work than the goal itself; by the end of two weeks I have forgotten that the spreadsheet exists and the goal is never accomplished.

Every person I know has certain things they would like to change about themselves. Some of them want to be thinner or more healthy, some want to make more money, some want to spend more time with their children. At this time of the year, we tend to think of new beginnings, clean slates, making a fresh start and setting new goals, and every year we promise ourselves that this is the year we will meet them.

I have lived for thirty-five years on this earth now. I know myself fairly well, and I know that I am no more likely to become a goal-meeting maniac this year than I was last year or the year before, or any of the thirty-some years before that. This year, instead of setting specific goals, knowing that I will probably only be disappointed in myself, I am going to take a different approach. This year I’m concentrating on the small things.

I tend to be an all or nothing kind of girl. The problem with an all or nothing attitude is that all is rather daunting. All looks monstrous and overwhelming and makes me want to sink into my shell and hide away; and since all seems to be impossible, I usually end up with nothing. I want the final result, but I’m not terribly thrilled about the process of reaching it. I love picking ripe, fragrant vegetables from the garden, but weeding the garden and daily watering tend to be forgotten. I want a clean, comfortable house, but I’d rather blog than do the dishes.

This year, I’m concentrating on some instead of all. An entire clean house is a never-ending task, but I can fold a couple loads of laundry while watching an hour of TV with my hubby. Losing 50 pounds seems impossible, but eating just enough to fill my stomach and putting the rest away as left-overs makes me feel better and saves me from having to cook a meal the next day. Building a new home is an overwhelming and confusing series of tasks, but when you break down those tasks and concentrate on one at a time, it becomes not only manageable, but has the potential to be enjoyable too.

This year I am taking a new approach. I am stopping to smell the roses. I am not going to kick myself for not accomplishing everything I should, because there is always another day, and sometimes spending time with my husband or my friends is more important than cleaning up the tomato sauce that splattered on the kitchen floor. (The dog is likely to clean that up anyway.)

This year, I do hope to accomplish some major goals. I understand the value of major goals, but the end result will not be my focus. My focus this year will be on the details, the little things that can carry me along piece by piece until the puzzle is complete and I can see the big picture at the end. I am hoping that at the end of this year, the picture I see will not be filled with stress, frustration, and unaccomplished goals. I hope that at this time next year I will be looking back on a year filled with beautiful moments, because I took the time to enjoy each and every one of them, minute by minute, one by one.

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At 1/17/2007 1:11 PM, Anonymous HolyMama! wrote:

beautifully written.

i'm all or nothing too, so i SO relate to this post.

i also fall into a pitfall of 'i don't have time to do the whole job, so i'll do it later.' then it grows bigger and bigger and requires a chunk of time so large, i'll NEVER be able to get it done all at once, and should have just done it a little bit at a time when i could. but that's not all or nothing.

and i am.

do you do that, too?


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