Can we check back in with my current obsession on all things Time? This turning fifty business is doing things to my head. Good things, don't get me wrong. Not whacked out, "Oh my GAWD, I'm thirty and my life is over" things. Positive things. Big things. Nice things. Happy making things.
But the fact remains. It's doing...things...to my head.
There is a little parable (of sorts) that cycles through every few months or so and has made its way around the Facebook universe a multitude of times.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’
The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.
'If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
'Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.
'Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I’m glad you asked. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.'
I love this. For its simplicity. For its truth. For its...real keeping.
For its ability to express, more adequately than I ever could, what FIFTY is doing to my head.
I've been weeding and pruning. I've been honing and fine-tuning. I've been de-cluttering and rearranging. I've been examining and letting go. And in the process, I've come to see my own life's golf balls with greater clarity than ever before.
My tendency has always been to cast a very wide net, gather a million and one brilliant ideas, wade through the chaos of early, initial enthusiasm, exhaust myself, and stop. Until the next time. My instinct is to convince myself that I must do everything at once, right now, or lose. My reality is - naturally - that I cannot possibly do everything at once, right now, so give up.
I often sometimes just now had the notion to think of my life as a web browser. I keep opening new tab after new tab, new window after new window, until suddenly - inevitably - the whole thing freezes up, crashes, and requires a re-boot.
YES. EXACTLY. THAT.
The whole "I'm turning fifty soon" concept has helped me reconsider learned inclinations and ingrained habits that produce more harm than good. It's helped me focus on what matters. On what my head seeks, my heart desires, my soul craves. It's lent a sharpness to the previously blurred edges of my path forward in this life, and opened up a healthy curiosity about what sort of legacy I might hope to leave behind some day.
My life, in golf balls:
- My spiritual journey. I've come a long way, and still have so much farther to go. But I know that when this house is in order, everything else feels ... easy and right.
- My family. I love my family, and every member of it. I'm even learning to fully appreciate the "warts and all" bits. Sometimes my sentiment and emotion regarding these most valuable people in my life gets the best of me, and I feel like my heart is so full, it might explode. But it never does. It just overflows. (P.S. Have I mentioned that I'm grandma to the most astounding and wonderful grand-baby ever conceived?) (P.S.S. My very closest friends are as much family as my family. This golf ball includes them, too.)
- My health. I need to make whatever changes are required - in my head, in my attitudes, in whatever it is I *think* I know - and love myself enough to take this seriously. It's really no more complicated than that.
- My work. The position I hold at my work place is rather insignificant on its face. But the privilege I've been given to be part of the work of the Alzheimer's Association is enormous and life changing. Because of my exposure to this world - the people, the lives, the heartache, the needs - I've been moved...maybe even called, I don't know...to do something. The idea for establishing a respite ministry initiative at my church was born, and maybe I'm crazy, but it feels like a higher power is putting the full weight of momentum at its back, compelling it forward.
- My world. Books and reading are as much a part of the fiber of my being as blood or bones. When the opportunity presented itself to use my time and talents to help grow an existing literacy initiative that I believe in completely to a national scale, I grabbed it with both hands. I'm stumbling my way along, learning as I go, but efforts are beginning to bear results, and there is only up.
- My joy. All of the above roll into this one, of course. But there are other things. Small things, some of which might even be a little selfish. I suppose these could be the pebbles in my jar, but to my way of thinking, they matter enough to the quality and meaning of my life to warrant their own collective golf ball. Reading. Art. My home. Writing. Learning. Traveling. Cooking. These things aren't just the "filler" of my life. They are its fruit. They deserve to be given a higher priority in my every day.
And there you have it.
This is what the "I'm turning fifty" business has done to me.
If this is just the lead in, I can hardly wait to see what the actual decade has in store.
*Title quote from Cory Basil's 'Skinny Dipping in Daylight.'