I tend to avoid doing things that don’t spark joy. These jobs end up at the bottom of my To Do list and don’t make a fuss until a deadline pinches them and they squeal. I groan. Oh bother. Do I have to?
No wonder I’ve kept so busy for so long. When I’m prioritizing the enjoyable or urgent over the tedious or boring, I never have to get to the bottom of the list. I hold onto the hope that these things will fall off the edge and into the black hole of I-didn’t-need-to-do-it-anyway. Sigh. I can dream, can’t I?
Fred didn’t announce his plan to declutter our place. Stuff just appeared on the floor of our spare room: four extra ice cube trays, a fondue pot and skewers, board games no one ever chooses. That same week, I heard the acronyms JIC and JIT. Many of us tend to collect things Just In Case we need them instead of trusting that we will receive what we need Just In Time.
I keep a lot of stuff just in case I might need it one day–like the clothes in my closet that I never wear. The colour or fit’s not quite right, but I might need them someday.
Inspired by Fred’s quiet campaign and the invitation to be present to each moment gave me a bit of energy to address bottom-of-the-list things. I began to purge as if I were tidying someone else’s stuff. “You don’t even like this sweater,” I told myself and put it in a big garbage bag for the thrift store. I discovered I had five winter coats. Who needs five? Three went into the bag. I was surprised to find it felt good.
I also figured out how to take a screenshot on my phone so I could replace the points card I lost. I updated the freezer map. (If you have a deep freeze, an ageing brain, and no freezer map, let me tell you, you are inviting meltdowns on a regular basis.) I sent that e-transfer, picked up that greeting card, and used the tahini that was sitting at the back of my fridge.
I made that phone call. I knew I would receive the answer to my question in two minutes, but the call would last close to an hour. It was as predicted. I moved from my desk to the couch so I wouldn’t be tempted to multitask. I fidgeted. I waited for an opportunity to kindly end the conversation, but there was a steady stream of talking. I also tried to stay as present as I could and listen. What I heard was heartbreaking and inspiring. “You’re like John of the Cross,” I said. You found intimacy with God in a cruel, dark place.”
“That’s right,” she said. “It sounds funny, but I knew God before I knew God.”
God was there with her, with us in that conversation, and here with me now as I write and notice that astonishing things can happen in the moments I want to avoid.
He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen,
who were washing their nets.–Luke 5:2 (NIV)
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I wonder if, when the disciples were washing the nets, they thought this was a holy thing to do or that they would meet the Holy One while doing this tedious work. I hope you enjoy listening to “Holy as the Day Is Spent” by Carrie Newcomer.