The Single Most Significant Thing I Do

The other day was one of those in which nothing ever quite worked out the way it was supposed to, schedules were disrupted, the computer acted up, and everybody was hungry but no one had any inspiration, or time, to make dinner — you’ve seen this before, haven’t you?

Waiting. That’s what I was doing that day. Some days are like that. Waiting by Steve Henderson, available as an original watercolor and a signed, limited edition print.

I was waiting around for a particular project to be finished so that I could send the results on, and it occurred to me, “This is the single most significant thing I have to do this day. If I get nothing done more than this, then I have succeeded.”

Well, I succeeded, but since I’d had so much time to think while I was waiting, I thunk, and I remembered back to the progeny’s younger years when they asked questions like,

“What is your FAVORITE food of all? What color do you like BEST? What is the ONE movie you adore?” as if life could be compartmentalized into a rigid inventory composed of cheesecake, cobalt blue, and The Lord of the Rings. Another day, I tried to explain to childish minds, the answers could be medium rare steak, hot pink, and Runaway Bride, but they insisted upon one answer to each question.

Eventually they grew up, and the questions in question no longer arose, but the spirit of those demands lives strong not only in their minds, but mine, and maybe yours as well: certain things we do in life are MOST IMPORTANT, and other things aren’t.

Like this:

A person who holds a powerful job and makes lots of money is successful, and everything he or she does is important.

Another person — a young mom I know who chose to stay home with her newborn baby comes to mind — does nothing more than change diapers, wash dishes, and prattle with a six-month-old. Anybody can do this, it’s menial, and it’s not particularly important.

Do we really believe this? Deep down, I think that the answer is “yes,” and “no.”

It’s funny, the things we consider important, and the things we don’t. Afternoon Tea by Steve Henderson.

We believe it because we  admire and talk about those movers and shakers — they’re smart, they’re savvy, they’re energetic, they’re, unlike us . . . unabashedly successful — basing our conclusions on the lifestyle they lead because of the money they make, not questioning whether they leave a tip for the cleaning staff at the $500 per night hotel room, or apologize to a subordinate in the office because they were wrong and they’re big enough to admit it, or stop everything they’re doing and truly focus on the person in front of them who is talking.

Maybe they do all of these things, maybe they don’t — but the point is, we don’t take these factors into consideration when we define “success.”

This last week, I have received a number of phone calls from people who wanted, and needed, to talk, and it was strongly impressed upon me that the most important, significant thing I could do was listen. And so I adjusted my schedule accordingly.

Another time, the Toddler became my sole responsibility for the afternoon, and because my schedule was flexible enough I chose to defer certain projects in favor of lying down beside her, reading books with pictures of flying cows, and unexpectedly — because we were exhausted — both falling asleep.

We awoke with our arms around one another. She looked at me with those deep baby blues and smiled, then snuggled closer.

There’s never enough time. But how we choose to use the time that we are able to control, that is a reflection of ourselves. Reflection by Steve Henderson.

At that moment it struck me between the eyes:

“I have a lot of important projects waiting and they will get done.

“But this is the single most significant thing I have done today.”

 

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2 Responses to “The Single Most Significant Thing I Do”

  1. Thank you for these pithy and accurate thoughts. We in the U.S. seem too often to brush off family, friends, walking in the park and just plain thinking in favor of the “to do” list. This seems to be an American issue as other countries and cultures do not view life in this same way. We have much to learn from others, particularly those who take the time to connect in “real life” to others (like Toddler) and those who make time to contemplate.

    We would all do better with more contemplation and snuggling time and less anxiety creating to do lists.

    Best,

    Pat

    • Pat: I agree with you wholeheartedly. Our cultural norm is so ingrained in us that it’s hard to realize that it isn’t a universal norm, and there are people out there (lots of them) who sit under a tree, close their eyes, and listen to the sounds around them — not just for a 30 second meditative moment, but because it’s a normal thing to do.

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