By: Patty Murray, Chairwoman and Co-founder of Hope for Two…The Pregnant with Cancer Network
Everywhere I go I hear common refrains: “I’m so tired; I have too much to do; I don’t have enough time to pack it all in and still have quality family time, ‘me time’, or just plain old ‘down time’.” I’ve given these sentiments much thought lately since I believe they are growing louder and more frequent. A few years back, I wrote an article entitled “Lesson Learned”, which focused on not having to do “it all” (with “all” being the activities that fill up our lives). But recently, I took a step back and wondered, maybe, just maybe, we simply just have too much to do. Instead of resigning ourselves to the fact that we cannot do it all, we should be proactive and pare down our commitments. Perhaps then we can feel accomplished when we complete our shorter task list and leave time for what is truly significant.
However, just contemplating the paring process makes some break out in a cold sweat. While wanting less on their plate and not to be on the vicious treadmill, they feel that nothing can be cut out. But I will revert to a garden analogy again where cutting back reaps great rewards. This spring, I will step outside and do what will seem counterintuitive- to prune back and tear out so as to have healthier, more abundant plants and a more organized garden.
With pruning shears and spade in hand, I will reluctantly begin my job of pruning back my many rose bushes and dividing, then sharing, my perennials. I am reticent because they were such a part of last year’s beauty. What’s left looks pretty scary, barren, and downright ugly. However, as in past years, after such a cleaning out, a symphony of colors will emerge from my Fairy Rose Bushes, Irises, Coral Bells, and Salvia. The hard work of pruning and discarding will pay off this summer with less time gardening and more time to enjoy its beauty.
I’ve found this lesson to hold true in our lives as well. Over the years, I have heard so many stories that highlight this message. One of them came from a long forgotten grammar school friend who contacted me after she was frozen in fear from her recent Breast Cancer diagnosis. She literally didn’t take a shower or go out of her home for days. Besides being fearful, she was quite upset over lost time. While sobbing, she told me how, in the past, she was so particular with having her daughters clothing match and having perfectly ironed bows in their hair. It had been so important that she took them to the requisite number of after school activities so as to make them “well-rounded”, all the while trying to fit in working, cleaning the house, seeing friends and family, etc. Looking back, some of it was nonsense, unnecessary. I told her not to look in the rear mirror but to forge ahead and be grateful for learning the aforementioned valuable insight.
This awareness was echoed by my friend’s elderly mom when all five (5) of her children were given the gift to share her last moments on earth. My friend grew up when the chrome kitchen table was all the rage. During her childhood, at the bequest of their mom, each child took their turn on Saturdays taking a toothbrush to the chrome table to bring back its original luster. Through tears, her mom recalled this practice and asked them all to promise her that they would let some dirt and dust bunnies accumulate, to spend less time on the “stuff” of life, and more with people and what is really meaningful. If she had a chance, she would have done things differently. Perhaps she needed a pruning shears earlier on. I have found that once you eliminate the excess commitments, “things”, and activities, then the people, relationships, and significant activities emerge and flourish. Then maybe, just maybe, we can all feel less stressed, tired, and will have enough time, on most days, to do what is important to each one of us. Until next time, I wish you peace, courage to cut, and time to enjoy LIFE! ✿