Saturday, June 28, 2014

One Thing at a Time can Work

One of the greatest hardships I endure is probably one of the hardest you endure: having so many different things to do. There are two types of a lot of work: one thing that's huge and a million small things. Brick-laying is hard work, but it involves a finite set of actions. I bet stressed-out brick-layers are few and far between. Become a brick-layer, if that's at all possible. When I worked for a brief spate as a principal, tee hee, I encountered the very essence of a poorly-designed position: too many different functions rolled into one. This is in essence what's wrong with our cheapskate Catholic apostolates. For this reason, the person I most pity in this respect is my former boss, Keith Cassidy, President of OLSWA. The sheer number of things he has to do and keep track of - no thanks! I don't know how he keeps from spontaneously combusting. But he has one thing going for him, which I do too, and which, if you don't too, you should - he and I live in a small town. It is far less stressful.

I grew up in suburban Halifax, and would rather not live there again; a fortiori Ottawa.

When I need to go to the bank, post office, grocery store, gas station and pharmacy, all of which I visit nearly daily, I can either walk the 500 feet, or drive there and park once. In Ottawa or Halifax such would take hours to do and a quarter tank of gas.

There, by condemning Halifax and Ottawa I've just alienated half of my family and friends. But I do love your used bookstores, guys!

But seriously, contemporary city life is both unhealthy and unnatural: the former follows from the latter (nor am I certain I needed the word contemporary).

All of this is the preamble to this "what I did (differently) this week" post.

As you may or may not know, I write for several different 'things.' They are all great, and I love doing all of it. The problem is, dividing one's time and attention can get kind of stressful. It is now being pointed out that multi-tasking, this great skill we are all supposed to strive towards, leads to anxiety. Ever met a woman?

So take a job, throw on a family, add basic things like paying bills, cleaning your house, etc., and no wonder we are such a miserable wealthy society! Hence our over-consumption of coffee, alcohol, Paxil, pornography, and marijuana. Anything to cope.

So, with all my assignments, deadlines and demands, I did something different this week: only one of them. I gave all of my work time to one thing: getting the summer edition of the Catholic Review of Books ready for the copy-editor, Patrick Wilson. To do so I had make sure that over 30 individual reviews were print-ready. And, it took the whole week. That meant I had to set the other tasks aside. As I used to tell my students: every choice you make is a choice against something else, and you have to accept that. Many young people believe they can eat their cake and have it too, by expecting deadline A to change in light of deadline B, for instance. As an adult, I recognize that LifeSite is not going to pay me for not working for them, and that not working for my other contractor may lead to dis-ingratiation. That's life. You have to realize that you may spoil everything by spreading yourself too thin, and, even ultimately, spoil your self - your health - by stressing yourself out.

On the plus side, that task is out of the way, and I am much freer now to make good contributions on my other tasks. I don't know if simplifications like this are possible to you, but I think you should think about whether it is or not. Busyness is not virtue in itself, and perhaps even a sign of a lack of wisdom.

The Psalm for workaholics:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2

When I have done what I think best, I have to trust that God will take it from there, and whatever happens will be what is okay for me.

2 comments:

  1. Suburban Halifax? Is the D word to difficult to write? The buskers had it right all along!

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  2. "When I need to go to the bank, post office, grocery store, gas station and pharmacy, all of which I visit nearly daily, I can either walk the 500 feet, or drive there and park once. In Ottawa or Halifax such would take hours to do and a quarter tank of gas."

    Cole Harbour Road. Lacewood Drive. Spring Garden Road. Kearney Lake. Bedford Highway (multiple). Robie and Almon.

    Some - but not nearly - areas where you can find all of the listed requirements within 500 feet. But please: do go on with you blatant falsehoods.

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