With the drumbeat of the urgent propelling us to work late into the night, we often miss the soft tap on the shoulder of the important.
There have been several life changing times when I have awakened by the cold bucket of water called perspective.
Working in Atlanta as a market analyst, I was a newlywed. I traveled the country and was known as a person who could handle any difficult partnership. I'd leave in the waning hours of Sunday night and return on the red eye on Fridays My husband and I saw each other more in New York than we did in our home in Peachtree City. I acted like I was invincible and I guess I was at 23. Until the day I didn't feel so good. I was pregnant.
Initially, I wasn't happy because I didn't put that on my schedule. As soon as I started getting a little excited, I had a terrible miscarraige. My frenetic pace had caused me to lose sight of what was important. My health. My future. My unborn child.
Perspective.We sold everything, bought a 3200 acre pecan grove and moved home to Camilla.
I remembered the importance of family. I learned the importance of pace and that the work-aholic perfectionist, driven, ambitious person that I am doesn't allow me to take a position in corporate American without eyeing several rungs up the ladder.
Working as a general manager over a 13 county market in southwest Georgia, I prided myself on the motivation of my staff and the fact that I took a market selling 70 cell phones a month to over 450 a month within 3 months of arriving.
Consequently, I was the highest paid general manager in the company and I loved it. I worked from 6 am to often 10 am, hiring new staff, expanding, purchasing land to build an improved location, and more.
My husband farmed and picked up my 9 month old son from a lady's house where he stayed every day. She reported my son slept a lot in the daytime. I'd get home at 10 pm and he'd want to play with me, talk to me, or just cry till 2 or 3 in the morning. He just wanted to see his mama. My desire to have a title, money, and prestige had caused me to lose sight of what was important. My health. My child. My husband. My family.
Perspective.I quit my six figure job, and became a stay at home Mom and had a daughter. I created lesson plans for my children, read 50 books a day to them, played outside, got a dog, and took them to the farm every chance I got. We mooed at the cows and talked to the birds.
I felt a little lost and many people in town called me "stupid" behind my back. for leaving such a prestigious position. I went from the town's favorite daughter to a dumb daughter overnight! I didn't get to buy new clothes and I struggled with a self esteem that had always been fed by my latest "conquest" but I was at peace with my priorities. My children, my husband, my emotional and spiritual health were important. (And meanwhile, I took a little time I had to learn something else people thought was dumb... HTML.)
Last week I saved a bluebird. The poor bluebird had gone from a feline plaything to a doggie's lunch as the dog commandeered her delicate body. I took the shovel and scooped up the peeping animal. When I shifted the shovel, I saw that the bird was not going to live. I held the bird high above the jumping canines and yelled to them that this animal was going to die in peace. I could not save her but I could give her that.
As I watched the bluebird breathe her last, I saw her struggling for breath. Then the bird looked at me and we connected. Then, the next second, I realized that I wasn't looking at a bluebird but at a carcass of a bluebird. The bluebird was no longer there.
Perspective.I recalled that God knew the plight of that bluebird. (The Bible says he knows when even a sparrow falls.) She was definitely there. And then she was not.
As we had the bluebird's memorial and burial (we all cried), my five year old delivered the eulogy, "He was a good bird. I love that bird."
I have been awestruck since that July day of the difference between the living bluebird and the dead bluebird. I look at everyone in my family differently. I know that my children are truly more than skin and bone. There is something inside them that is important, eternal, and that is who I love. That makes them alive. Something that I must cling to, and hold, and love for every second that I have. That is perspective.
So, as I go into my classroom today and apply my relentless drive to ambitious lesson plans I always focus on keeping perspective. It is the children behind their body that is most important.
If you are a "driven" person like me, you must keep this perspective or you live your life and check a lot of things off of your list without doing anything really important.
I have a ton of grading to do. But last night, I went to my son's first JV football game. He loves football and it was important to him. We drove over an hour there and over an hour back. So, although nothing on my list was done, the most important thing was. I was there for him.
My father in law is in geriatric ICU right now in Atlanta. My husband and I are changing our schedules to give him every chance with his ailing father. Although his father needs good doctors, he needs his family more and my husband is the light of his eyes.
Far too many have lost their perspective.
They do good work that is worth doing but they row ceaselessly to the drumbeat of the urgent. They cannot miss a step, they cannot put down anything. They miss the soft tap of the important that is just over their shoulder.
I like to explain it using an analogy I heard as a young woman.
We are all juggling. We are juggling balls of various types: work, education, children, husband, health, emotions, spirit, family, etc. and it is a tough balancing act. But when things get too busy, you must remember that some of the balls bounce and others do not. Some of the things you are juggling are glass and when you drop them, they shatter and can never be put together again: relationships, health, emotional health, etc.
So, as you are entering nutty days of September. Keep your perspective.
And when there is too much to do, drop something that bounces but keep your eyes on the things that do not.
That is perspective.