How many good things can be absorbed at once?
Column by Jim Bishop
Slow down, you’re movin’ too fast,
You’ve got to make the morning last …
-Harper’s Bizarre (1967)
So what’s a tired body to do? I could (should?) be at five different places the evening of Sept. 21:
– The message by and award presentation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the James Madison University Convocation Center.
– The opening session of our church’s annual retreat being held at Camp Overlook in Eastern Rockingham County.
– The annual fund-raiser of our Leather and Lace country-western dance club to benefit the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.
– A live video taping session of “The Creation Chronicles,” the captivating take on Old Testament stories by Ted Swartz and Company.
– The premiere showing of the independent film with a Mennonite theme and setting, “Pearl Diver,” at the Dixie Theater in Staunton with the writer-producer-director, Sidney King, in attendance.
To be perfectly candid, my first preference was: none of the above. I felt desperately in need of one weekend with no extracurriculars planned, but that wasn’t to be. Thing is, all these endeavors merit my wholehearted support and involvement. I identified with the sentiments of country artist Alan Jackson, who rightly observes, “Too much of a good thing … is a good thing.”
So, what will it be? Wife Anna and I opted for the Leather and Lace benefit, largely because that was on our schedule long before we knew anything about these other events. Plus, we needed the exercise; these dances are always a great stress-reliever, and the group will raise some needed funds for a worthy local charitable cause.
Being pulled in different directions at once isn’t unique to me. Having recently discovered that three other couples at church also celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in July or August, I suggested that we gather at least for a meal at a local restaurant. It took nearly two weeks of phone calls, a time established and cancelled, and then after another date was set one couple wasn’t able to come.
Even those of us with early senior-citizen status have too many things happening at once.
Guess it’s unrealistic – or is it? – to think that the pace might slacken a bit with advancing age, but if anything, it feels like it’s quickened. Work expectations and demands continue to rise along with accompanying deadlines, much of it related to the remarkable technological capabilities at our disposal.
I realize that I bring some of this frantic pace on myself, largely because of “extras” tacked on to my weekly schedule that I truly enjoy doing and am reluctant to relinquish: freelance writing (including this weekly column), two weekly radio programs – one music, one public affairs – and a monthly two-hour “Warped Records Show” on WSVA.
I recognized that things were getting a bit out of hand when one day last week I noticed my gas gauge indicating that I was driving my vehicle on vapors. The next morning, a frantic search of our house ensued when I couldn’t find my set of keys. I’d about given up when I found them – at the bottom of our kitchen trash can covered in coffee grounds.
Even though my office would suggest otherwise, I think I’m fairly well-organized, a good time manager and able to tackle numerous tasks and projects at once. Just keep me away from continual committee meetings, please.
I like just hanging around the homeplace, my refuge, even though the yard needs mowing again, and Anna wonders why I’m doing a poor job with my chore list.
I need more exercise, to check in with my spouse and just sit on our backyard swing at twilight and reflect on the day.
So, what do I need to eliminate or adjust to have better charge over my daily schedule while being able to say “yes” to requests from others, to correspond regularly with friends and family at a distance and to spend ample time with family members who live close by?
One area where I’ve improved – cutting back on television viewing, and I’m not missing much. I go to bed early and savor every good night’s rest.
Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down, but that option doesn’t interest me at the moment.
In fact, every day I beat my own previous record for the number of days I’ve stayed alive.
For that, I am thankful, even as I struggle to juggle priorities.
Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University.