Sunday, July 06, 2008


A Simpler Life

One of the most consistent traits listed on my professional career performance reviews was the trait of “organizational skills”. And just what did that mean? It meant I could make lists. Lists of things to do in priority order. To the corporate manager, that meant I could take a pile of issues and put them in to a first-to-last order. And then it was simply a matter of the execution of those tasks.

Black and white to my mind. Logical. Just put the first step first and then list the rest. Just make a list, Sandy. For we Type “A” personalities, lists are a natural trait. A natural habit. Kind of like breathing. For those of you who are not Type “A”, we seem odd and strangely pushy to you. We don’t mean to be – we just see things so logically and naturally. It’s that darn list thing!

Fast forward twenty years and I’m still making lists. Oh, those lists! I have a list of things needing to be done for the Memory Beds. A list of things to be done in the Old Barn. A list of things to be done in the New Barn. A list of things to be done in the pastures and for the fence lines. Then there’s the list of miscellaneous outdoor things to be done.

Now, let’s move indoors! There is a list of things to be done in the garage and a seperate list for the workshop. A list of things to be done in the basement. A list for the attic and, of course, a list for the living spaces of the house. By room, no less! If you are brave enough, wander over to my desk and see the lists (yes, that’s plural!) of things to be done for Refuge Farms paperwork – by category! I have grant lists, publicity lists, new federal compliance lists, correspondence lists, fundraising lists… As I write this, I’m wondering if somewhere I just don’t have a list of the lists!

And it may again sound very peculiar to some of you, but crossing an item off from a list gives me pleasure. And oh, the joy! The joy when I can actually throw a completed list away! And while I’m being honest, I’ll let you in on a never before shared secret: Now that I’m older and feeling the pressure of time passing too quickly, I’m making shorter lists. That way I get to shout for joy more frequently whenever I toss a list away!

Earlier this week, I took the time to look through a magazine that LB had thoughtfully given me. In her gentle way, encouraging me to not work on a list for just a little while. In this magazine there was an article in a section called “Purpose”. The title caught my eye: “The Joys of A Simpler Life”. Huh. A simple life. Is there really such a thing I wondered?

It was a short one-page article written by a man with an obvious belief in a Higher Spirit. What grabbed me so about the article? Here. Read some for yourself:

“…That’s when I realized the truth – we couldn’t get it all done, and God never intended for us to make completing a to-do list the purpose of our lives…There are many things we think we must do that really are not worth doing…Simplifying is really about choices – prioritizing what is important – and then sticking to those choices no matter how tempting it is to add more to your to-do list… There is a price tag on every decision you make in life, even those that seem insignificant. Every time you give a minute of your life to anything, you’re giving a part of your life away.

You are the only one who can assume responsibility for your time and clarify what’s really important to you…Ultimately, it will be the donation of our life that will count far more than the duration. It’s not how long you live, or even how much you cram into how long you live. It’s really about how you live.”

As I read the article, I could not help but see the similarities between this man’s message and the message of my dear Andy. “Gilbert”, he would say, “When you’re born there is a number written on the wall. That’s the number of heartbeats you’ve been given. The trick is to never waste a one. Because you’ll never get that one back.”

So, today I did a very bold thing for me. Given my history and my need to “get things done” and the fact that I have lists everywhere. Given the pressure that I am putting on myself to do more than is humanly possible. Given the pressure that I am putting on myself to never fail. Given the pressure that I am putting on myself to get it all done. Today I put the lists away.

Today I will spend time with Keller and treasure his joy in just being here with me. And today I will try to spend time with each member of The Herd and touch them, talk with them, and reconnect with them all, one by one. And the time will have nothing to do with feeding or any chore at all. Just time with those that I do it all for. And today I will spend time in Donna’s swing and remember her. And Mom. And Dad. And Andy. And, of course, Frannie and my Jerry.

Today I will spend a day in a simpler life. I will treasure the breeze and enjoy the heat of summer. I will walk the Memory Beds and thrill in their blossoms, purposely overlooking the weeds. And I will take my bike down the road for some exercise and a change of scenery. Yes, today I will have a simple life. I will actually take time to eat a meal. And I will spend the day surrounded by the creatures that I treasure so. Once again, looking to them to teach me. Show me how to enjoy the day. A simple day. The gift of life to be learned from those who were thrown away.

Enjoy your day, today. Live simply today. Refresh yourself today. And let the lists wait for today. They’ll be there, neatly waiting for you, tomorrow!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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