Earlier this week, I was commiserating with a friend about the never-ending to-do list and a great metaphor came to mind. My friend listened patiently while I stumbled through it, but now that I’ve had a chance to give it more thought, perhaps I can express it a little more eloquently.
This is for you, Tami.
We spend our days in the valley we call home, bucket in hand, emptying out all the water that pools at our feet.
When we were young, it might get to be ankle deep and we’d have plenty of time to scoop it all out before we went to bed at night.
Assuming we wanted to.
But even if we let it collect for two or three days, we still had plenty of energy to empty it.
But as we age and the responsibilities pile up, so does the water — knee deep, thigh deep, waist deep — until, too often, we find ourselves furiously dog-paddling just to keep our heads above water.
Every night, after a full day of bailing, we fall into bed, exhausted. Most nights, we’re still sloshing through water on our way to the pillow, so we put our buckets by our bedsides, knowing we’ll need them first thing in the morning.
Every once in a long, long while, we manage to empty the pool of water and find our feet again. We wave the victory sign and tell ourselves, “I did it. I caught up! Tomorrow I will ____.” (Fill in the blank with that one delicious thing you’ve been promising yourself ‘some day when you have the time.’)
But here’s the thing: whether or not we bail out all that liquid, even if we manage to mop the floor dry, when we peer over the side of the bed the next morning, the water will have rushed back in again.
The valley we’re living in is fed by an underground spring that takes advantage of our sleeping hours to seep back into all the areas we’ve cleaned up.
The water is never going to go away.
The bailing is never going to be done.
There’s never going to be time for YOU and YOUR desires and YOUR creativity until you take the energy you spend on dog-paddling and use it to build a boat . . .
. . . that you climb into for even a little while EVERY DAY.
You might sit on the deck with a cup of tea and watch the world go by.
You might bring along a book or a movie to help you sail away to other lands.
Or use it to travel to a class that is just for you: for your body (yoga or the gym), your mind (a skill–maybe a language–you’ve always wanted to learn), your soul (anything that results in creative expression).
Start giving yourself a little bit of time every day on the water rather than in the water. When you’re not in slog mode, you’ll see there’s so much more to life than constant bailing.
And who knows where that will take you?