Friday, February 20, 2009

Finish Each Day and Be Done With It

I've been struggling to write a new blog post over the last week. Whenever I'm inspired, I get interrupted, and whenever I get interrupted, I forget my inspiration.

Now I'm trying again...

My mom came to visit at the end of January and stayed until February 10th. While she was here, we learned that her good friend Pat, who I've known almost all my life, too was losing her battle with stage four breast cancer. I took Sam out of preschool on the 6th and Mom and I went down to Atlanta to say our goodbyes. My goodbye was brief, since I knew that Sam would not tolerate hours in a car, followed by hours in a hospital, followed by hours in a car again. I took him to the zoo for the day so Mom could have a longer visit with Pat.

I was relieved, since I hate goodbyes, especially the deathbed variety. I never know what to say.

But after we left the hospital, we stopped by Pat's apartment to gather a few things she wanted Mom to have. I was a litte morose that I hadn't been able to have a "meaningful" conversaion wth her. That our last conversation on earth was about morphine side-effects, and me, idiotically, under the circumstances, telling her that I hoped she felt better soon. I was even more morose standing there in Pat's apartment, looking at what would be left of her after she was gone. A cat pillow. An empty photo album. A brightly colored caftan. Worn bedroom slippers. Inspirational quotes on paper slips pasted on the wall.

One in particular caught my eye:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson (attributed)

I would like to think that that is what death is like. We shrug off our regrets and idiotic comments, our blunders and absurdities, and with an air of satisfaction that comes from knowing we did all we could, press forward toward the light and a new day.

The whole knowing-I-did-all-I-could thing is what troubles me. As a mother and a sort-of artist, I find it nearly impossible to achieve all I want to achieve, all that I think I am personally capable of. Why shouldn't I be able to meet my boys' needs, my husband's needs, keep the household running smoothly, write a novel, add a few fun craft projects on the side, have a rich social life in real time and online, write a blog a day, get 8 hours of sleep, 64 ounces of water, and spend an hour every day at the gym? I have 24 hours, right?

I'm still trying to figure out what enough is. It's a juggling act. I can be a good wife. I've been doing that a while already. It's like tossing a ball and catching it. But Sam has a ball and John has a ball. And there's the household stuff ball. The writing ball. The crafting ball. The friends ball. The gym ball. And all the other little balls that have to stay in rotation. And I'm not a very good juggler. More than three balls and everything comes crashing down on me.

Ever since I found the quote on the wall, the thought has been percolating. What is enough right now? What is going to satisfy me?

Lately it boils down to this:

The things that are important to me are: 1) my family, 2) my appearance/health, and 3) getting my house squared away.

If I died today, I could die happy about the writing. I did what I could. Three award-winning plays, and a finished novel. Yes, it's still unpublished, but that's okay with me right now. I wrote it to see if I could do it, and I've proven I can. I am satisfied. I don't need to prove to myself that I can write a second novel. Maybe at some point in the future I will, but not now. This is a ball I've kept in rotation a long time, and it is time to put it aside for a while. I have some sewing projects I want to finish, and some bouquets to make for a wedding. Right now, there's nothing I want to do more.

What am I going to regret on my deathbed? Not enough time with family. Not losing this baby weight. Leaving someone else to clean up my messy house.

So I intend to do something about that.


  1. Anonymous10:11 AM

    I love this post and your way of prioritizing what's important. Always good to think about if you died today. I used to do that a bit more (well not morbidly or anything) but haven't for awhile. Or you can write your obituary in your head which I also did before and realized there's so much left to do!

  2. I'm still trying to figure out what enough is. It's a juggling act.

    enough is not punishing yourself for not doing it all now. i think you're getting that now.


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