Priorities

Please don’t judge my toenails, we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

I said to Larry, “Honey, what would we grab if we had to evacuate?”

Larry says, “We’re not evacuating?”

“I know but what would we take if we only had minutes to decide?”

I get the look, he says, “my wallet.”

“What about our wedding album?

“How about we just grab the dog?”

Many friends are making these very decisions in real time, fires are raging all around us, burning structures and homes. It’s devastating and yet galvanizing as a community.

People are opening their homes to families and friends in need, it’s heartwarming, and heart wrenching all at the same time. In some cases I’ve heard of hotels offering discounts and allowing pets to families that have been evacuated. Maybe we have not forsaken our humanity after all!

Of course this got me thinking about priorities and how 2020 has been all about organizing my life in such a way that the most important things take precedence, like securing food, figuring out how to work effectively in a remote environment, while keeping children safe and entertained, prioritizing who’s in the bubble and who’s not, remembering our masks when we venture out, decluttering our spaces now that we’re spending all our time at home, remembering what’s most important, and what’s no longer essential. Clearly toilet paper rose to the top of the heap.

Don’t half-ass everything, whole-ass what really matters.” Chris Duffin

Suddenly I found myself working full-time at a part-time job, breaking out in hives as I attempted to acclimate to new technologies, and pedagogical practices. Notre Dame has been preparing us to teach remotely using state of the art technology, and best practices for flexible learning, via back to back zoom calls for the last three weeks. I’m completely befuddled as you can only imagine. My brain is on overload and my space for creativity has been relocated to the if time permits file.

“All art involves conscious discipline. If one is going to paint, do sculpture, design a building or write a book, it will involve discipline in time and energy- or there would never be any production at all to be seen, felt or enjoyed by ourselves or others…

the balance of the use of time is a constant individual problem for all of us: what to do, what to leave undone. One is always having to neglect one thing in order to give precedence to something else. The question is one of priorities.” Edith Schaeffer

Since my actions express my priorities I’ve been taking note of what I actually do as opposed to what I profess to do? Lately I’ve prioritized work, the grandkids, food, exercise, writing, and Larry respectively. I spend most of my day on zoom calls after a quick walk in the neighborhood, afternoons are spent with the grandkids, dinner on the patio, and when possible I slip in a few minutes of writing, then fall into bed exhausted.

Poor Looney has been quietly campaigning for a reordering of priorities that favor his needs. Bahaha

It’s a little humiliating to admit I still waste time playing solitaire on my iPhone when I can’t sleep, or browsing social media as if in a daze, and raiding the refrigerator when I’m not hungry. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe notes, “things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Looney would wholeheartedly agree.

“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.” Victoria Moran

While waiting for Sue in the early morning, I sat on the front porch sipping coffee, watching the neighbor’s cat leisurely lick its paw. I realized the only thing a cat worries about is the present moment, because you can only wash one paw at a time. Maybe this feline was onto something?

“Curiosity killed the cat,” Fesgao remarked, his dark eyes unreadable. Aly rolled her eyes. Why did everyone say that to her? “People always forget the rest of the saying,” she complained. “‘And satisfaction brought it back.” Tamora Pierce

Do you ever feel as if you’re trying to conduct a symphony in the midst of a burning building, people are bailing, as you continue to direct the harried musicians? It is impossible to do our best work while multitasking, especially when under duress, one paw at a time, that’s my new motto. As Robert Heinlein says, “women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” Snap, snap.

Sitting in my eggplant recliner, behind a makeshift desk in my room, I can’t seem to stop myself from pondering the end, you know what I mean? I’m referring to the end of life. I realize this is a morbid practice, but you’ll have deal, because it informs my priorities.

It’s a bitter antidote to stare down my own demise, but revelatory when I follow the breadcrumbs, and consider what would happen to all the things I sweated over?

As I glance around the room various collections come into focus, window treatments, the height of the nightstands, matching lamps, not to mention the art on the walls, photo albums stacked in the cupboard, the flat screen television anchored above the fireplace, boxes of paraphernalia stashed in the closet, the diversity of shoes, cocktail dresses, and yoga pants, not to mention scented candles, moisturizers, towels, and trinkets. This speaks volumes of the human condition does it not?

While death is bad, it is inevitable, but the point being we are not helpless either. While it’s still possible we have room to act, to shape our stories, we have the opportunity to realign our priorities in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of life claims Atul Gawande.

I realized while I sit here contemplating my untimely death, all that really matters is our relationships, and how we groom them one paw at a time. As Maya Angelou says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Few delights can equal the experience of being intensely loved despite our flaws, and failures, maybe even because of them. Looney had it right all along.

I’m Living in the Gap, looking at my life, imaging how I make you feel.

What are you prioritizing these days, what are you letting go, and what are you holding close?

Anecdotes:

  • “We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there. Andy Stanley
  • “Life is as simple as these three questions: What do I want? Why do I want it? And, how will I achieve it? Shannon L. Alder
  • “You don’t get time. You create time.” Sanhita Baruah
  • “Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.” Robertson Davies

16 Comments

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    1. Thanks Cindy, it’s been a daunting few weeks, I might be leaning towards the morbid, but who knows, we’re all swept up in this pandemic. The impact on our lives, our communites, our world seems unimaginable so I’m trying to control what I can by ordering my own house. The band appropriately named Crowded House came out of Australia! Enjoy your weekend, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kim, I do the same thing when designing the curriculum for the semester. I start at the end, what is the goal, and then figure out what we need to accomplish to get there. I think backward design has a lot of potential. C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You are singing to the choir, I love the family but I definitely need time to recover when there’s been a lot of togetherness! I’m currently reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, wow, that woman has a way with words! C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Cheryl–Thank you! I too have thought much about my priorities in relation to the final act. To that end, I am doing my best to “live the questions” and “follow the energy”.

    I’d never heard the second part–and satisfaction brought it back (the cat). I LOVE THAT!

    ❤ G

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gail, so good to see your name appear in my feed. In my classes we call it backward design, starting with the end in minds allows us to see what must be done to get there! No a bad approach! That quote jumped out at me because I never heard the satisfaction part, seemed to fit. Thanks Gail, love connecting with you, I’ve missed our interactions at TCW. Love, C

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