Working on my to-be list

Working on my to-be list

I don’t read emails or blog posts, I scan them. The idea of slowing down and staying fully present with a thought is very difficult, very foreign to me. If you’re like me, you might notice a persistent voice, right now, telling you to hurry through this post, to grab the point that Simmer is making, deposit into the meaning-bank for possible future use, and move onto the next post or email waiting in the inbox. If you’re like me, right now you’re saying to yourself, “I got it” and hurdling over phrases and sentences to get to the next paragraph to see if there’s more you need to grab. If you’re like me, you don’t read, you plunder for necessary meaning as if you’re looting a store for a couple of things of value.

I’m also aware that I’m that way with many parts of my life I supposedly care about. I listen with a half an ear to my kids, I listen to my wife Rebecca impatiently, hoping she will get to the point so I can move on, I hurry down the road with my dogs to get the walk out of the way as fast as I can so I can get onto some other tasks that I can also hurry through.

When I think of working more on purpose, there is a voice in me that says emphatically, “I don’t have time to do any more.” The conveyer belt is too fast already. I need to work, sack the trash, lug the air conditioners back to the garage, order the stone for the patio, pick up the prescription. Purpose? Maybe I can schedule some world-transformation Tuesday between my son’s soccer game and grilling the burgers. If I can’t sandwich it in there, I’ll get to it next lifetime, or the one after that. My mission gradually becomes my o-mission, what I leave out.

This is all wrong. I was taught on my Mankind Project training many years ago that a mission statement had a vision and an action. An action: I saw it as another task on my endless to-do list. But what if mission is not a job? What if it’s really a presence? What if it’s a challenge to do less, with magnificence? What if it means slowing down, committing to be fully present in this ordinary, splendid moment? What if mission means that I commit myself to be a human be-ing rather than a human do-ing? What if busy-ness is a symptom of evasion of what really matters?

Athletes talk of special times when the game slows down, and maybe mission is really about a commitment to slowing life down so that moments become momentous. These are the moments of Flow that Mihaly Csikszentmihaly identified. This precious moment with my son Josh outside school when he quietly takes my hand as we walk. This encounter with the CVS clerk. This walk with my dog in the rain, both of us dying, him probably a few steps ahead of me, leading the way. I’m ditching my to-do list and starting a to-be list. And what is startling to me is that there is only one thing on the list: to answer the door and welcome the visitor who has been waiting.

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