She said, “It’s all about the moment,”
But I got one eye on the clock
It’s all about the moment
I got one eye on the clock
She said, “Open up a little,
You might see what you have got.”
-Doug Hoekstra, “Everywhere is Somewhere”
It is a fact of existence: most of our time is not spent achieving our goals.
It sounds sad when stated like that, but really, there are plenty of activities that we engage in with no hope of completion at all, and we don’t get sad about those.
Take breathing, for example. Have you finished oxygenating your body yet? You haven’t? What’s wrong with you? Get to work! Hurry up—breathe in! Now do it again! And again! Faster! You have important things to do, and you can’t spend all your time hung up trying to get this breathing thing done.
After all, you still have to finish washing your dishes once and for all. And raising your children. And learning. You’ve got to get those things done so that you can get to all that important stuff on your to-do list!
Hmmm…so maybe the “completion” model doesn’t always work. Some things just don’t get “done”. Some things do, of course—you can actually finish washing a dish…but, like breathing, the only time you’ll truly be finished washing your dishes is when you’re dead. (On the bright side, your to-do list will shrink radically at that time too!)
So, whether we realize it or not, we’re all accustomed to engaging in efforts that will never quite bring a final sense of accomplishment. They’ll have mini-victories along the way—an empty sink, a high school graduation, another successful round of in-breath/out-breath—but then the task will immediately present itself again. You can try all you want, but you won’t ever truly get to cross it off your list.
Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Just take a moment to breathe. Ready?
Breathe in, and then out.
You did it! Good job! Another successful breath. Have you been practicing? Because you really are excellent at that.
See how that works? No, I don’t mean breathing—I mean accomplishing things. There are two ways to look at it. On the one hand, depending on your age, you have somewhere between 400 and 600 million more breaths to get through in your lifetime. Ugh, right? What a pain in the butt!
But on the other hand, you’ve knocked out a good hundred or so just sitting here reading this—and you probably didn’t even have to think about most of them. But I did—I thought about them, and let me be the first one (and probably the only one) to congratulate you on a job well done. You knocked out a solid hundred of those badboys, and you didn’t even complain. Every single time, you were keeping billions of cells alive, providing fuel for your brain, and generally maintaining your body’s health. That’s a lot that you got done, especially considering how far you are from finishing the job.
Do I have a point here? I sure hope so. I’d hate to think that I’m just writing this for my enjoyment, and for the enjoyment of a select percentage of you folks. After all, we’re here—here at The Not-So-Simple Life column—to get something done, right? We’re going to simplify our not-so-simple lives, starting with mine! Isn’t that the idea? To work doggedly toward that goal, which will someday be accomplished? So that at some point, in this world of ever-expanding complexity, you and I, with our constantly-evolving minds, will achieve the much-ballyhooed state of “simplicity”—and then be able to cross that goal off our list?
Hang on a second. I think I just realized something. (Breathe in, and then out. In, and then out.) Maybe you picked up on it too.
Simplicity is one of those tasks that can never be truly “achieved”. It’s a goal that can’t be crossed off the list. Like breathing, it’s something you have to re-do in every new moment. And like learning, it’s a process of constantly building upon what has come before, to create something new—and hopefully a little better, and a little wiser. Because like washing dishes, simplicity is a task whose challenges that are ongoing and recurring (and which sometimes can only be resolved with a nice long soak in some hot water).
Not all of my The Not-So-Simple Life columns reach useful conclusions or end in a convenient resolution of a particular problem. And the column as a whole often seems to almost grab simplicity by the tail, only to have it zip off under the door at the last second. (How does it even fit under there?)
Obviously, resolution is one of the goals behind this endeavor—as it is the goal behind many endeavors. I do hope to find simplicity through these textual journeys, and with luck, to do so in a way that brings some of you to that “destination” with me.
But just keep in mind, even if we do get there together…there’s still going to be the next step after that. And then the next, and the next…
It’s OK though. Just breathe in, and then out. In, then out.
Good job! You did it again!
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