I am newly turned 48 years old this year. I have lived on this round blue planet for nearly half a century.
This (to my mind at least) is a not insignificant amount of time. I have had lots of years to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, try again, make more mistakes, learn from those mistakes, try again.
I have watched myself go from a literal human-doing, someone who ruled herself with the iron fist of lengthy to-do lists – and when I say “lengthy” I mean 20, 40, 50 items on a daily to-do list – to more of a human-being, who can let her gut make the daily to-do list and even change it up in the moment if that feels right.
But I haven’t yet been able to let the to-do lists go. I haven’t yet been able to relinquish the doing in favor of simply being.
Perhaps part of the reason for this is because I am more than a little afraid I am going to like “being” so much I stop “doing” entirely! Someone has to earn the rent money around here, and it certainly isn’t going to be the rest of my feathered and shelled flock doing it!
And part of the reason, I suspect, is because I still don’t know how.
For so many years – decades, now – treasured mentors from a variety of walks of life have been reminding me that what I do does matter. It truly does.
It matters from the standpoint of putting into this world what I want to receive from this world. It matters because every action I take will have a reaction (as in, if I choose to sleep in every day instead of going to work, there will be no rent money and I prefer to keep a roof over our little family’s head).
The second part of the lesson that my various mentors continually remind me is that what I do is not the only thing that matters. In fact, what I do doesn’t matter as much as how I do it. How I do it is everything.
Here is an example. I really love pomegranates. Every year when pomegranate season rolls around I head to the store and load up on the round red fruits with their zillions of carefully packaged little juicy red seeds.
And then I go home and procrastinate. I have calculated it takes me about 30 to 40 minutes to extract the seeds out of three hand-sized pomegranates.
I used to enter into the extraction process under extreme duress, chastising myself for spending 30+ minutes of my oh-so-valuable “should be working” time peeling pomegranates instead of all the other more important things on my to-do list. I categorized “peeling pomegranates” as a selfish activity – one without any type of career-enhancing payoff – and therefore one that could and should wait….indefinitely if necessary.
But pomegranates aren’t cheap. Each one can cost upwards of $2 to $3 a fruit. And they don’t last forever. So eventually the day would come when “peeling pomegranates” had at last migrated to the top of the daily to-do list and I would do them, grudgingly, guiltily, angrily, hurriedly, red juices spraying everywhere as I wrestled each fruit into submission.
Over the years, thankfully, the pomegranates and I have developed a slightly friendlier relationship. This morning I peeled three of them, carefully depositing each seed gently into the storage container while my parrot, Pearl, regaled me with impatient and hungry-sounding songs (he loves pomegranates too).
I wasn’t in a hurry. I felt at peace with my decision to peel the pomegranates and use my morning time in this way. I enjoyed the thought that I was taking time for self-care, nourishing my beleaguered body (and particularly a certain under-functioning gland that starts with “T”) with some of the best eating on the planet. I felt love for the red fruits and – honestly – felt they might even love me back.
This experience totally transformed my experience of the very same activity that I do each year – peeling pomegranates. Not only was it kind of fun instead of a total chore, and I emerged from the 30 minutes of peeling feeling grateful and refreshed rather than irritable and grumpy, but I truly believe I will be able to receive more of what the pomegranates so freely offer me by how I completed the peeling process.
This is just one of many tasks that I do on a fairly regular or even daily basis that needs this type of transformative attention. I am definitely not there yet. There are lots of areas that need lots of improvement. And I am starting to understand that as I transform how I do whatever-it-is, it will likely be more fruitful (figuratively or literally as the case may be) as well.
I even suspect that my to-do list may get shorter over time, because some of those items may only be there to teach me that it isn’t what I do so much as how I do what I do that matters the most.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever had an experience where changing how you do something has totally transformed that task for you – or even eliminated it from your future to-do lists?