When approached by my daughter, in all her 6-year-old excitement and whimsy, asking about joining a new extra-curricular activity, I smiled and added it to my list to see about it. I love lists. For non-list makers, I know that the simple idea of bullet points or check boxes seem rigid or unnecessary, even soul crushing. But, for those of us who thrive in the planned out day, lists are our call to victory. I make lists, color code lists, cross off lists. I heart the bullet feature on my Word document. It makes me feel that things are right with the world. Even now, I want to make a list explaining why lists are amazing. I will refrain, but it would have been an epic list to be certain.
It was after Thanksgiving when my little girl asked about this activity. It was a small commitment, a one day a week, right after school, jazz & tap dance class. I called the instructor, whom we knew, and inquired about when classes start up, costs, and so forth. She told me that in order for Em to be in the summer recital, she would need to start ASAP. Whew! Those letters…A-S-A-P. They trigger my anxiety. While I would say I work well under pressure because I am good at multi-tasking, I will also take the stance that when pressed with any type of deadline that feels unexpected, I can retreat into untethered territory. I like plans. I like planning. Refer back to my love of lists.
Everyone knows that December is a busy month. Being a major lover of Christmas, I find most activities delightful and I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It is, however, a lot to take on especially being an educator with end-of-semester deadlines and being the mommy of a little one who has activities and parties and so forth. But, still, I transition into the Christmas season with ease. I have my Santa spiral notebook and my planner (my prized possession) everywhere I go. I won’t miss a beat. And yet, ASAP…those letters ring out with an ear piercing demand. I knew that it would be a bit of overload to try to begin classes in December, to pay for those classes during an already pricey month, and doing it all while my husband would be out of town for a job.
I was beginning to stress. Notice that I am intentionally not using stress as a noun. Oh no, for me, when stress happens it is most certainly, undeniably a verb. I read in a medical article that stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. There has never been a definition with more truth than this for me. My body, my emotions, my overall well-being is affected when I am put in a situation that requires a response that I am not prepared to give. Rather, that situation sits there on my To-Do list as a bullet point mocking me. I felt a sense of urgency to respond to a request that I did not have a response for, or truth be told, a response I felt bad about giving. Starting a new after-school class in December was not going to work for us. I knew that. And yet, I lingered, pondered, paced and thought about it way too much.
The thing is, with stress being an active verb in my life, the trickle down affect is immediate. If I am stressing about one thing, then other items that are unanswered or not properly addressed on my lists seem magnified. And, I once again must balance my optimism and my anxiety.
And so, a few days ago, I found myself in a cranky mood, laying on the couch staring at our beautiful Christmas tree. And, I took a deep breath. I tried my best to be still, to listen, to breath. I know my head gets so busy that it competes with the Holy Spirit’s whisperings.
Psalm 46:5 says, “God is within her, she will not fall.” It continues on in verse 10 stating, “Be still and know that I am God.” Romans 8:28 proclaims, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
My current state wasn’t about this impending dance class, rather it was a bigger issue, as they most always are in our lives. This reaction was about urgency. I felt an urgent call to respond…to have an answer…to reconcile ideas and reality. I had fallen prey to a tactic of the enemy. It is a tactic I should see coming a mile away, but I get caught in the trap more often than I care to admit. I wave the urgent flag. I send the smoke signal. I declare a Code Red. I am not a victim, rather I am the culprit. I walk in a false sense of urgency. I make non-urgent situations urgent. Sometimes the best phrases we can say for our own sound mind is “no,” “not right now,” “at a later time,” or “in the future.” Life is best lived, enjoyed, in a state of bloom when we take on the things we want to do, have time to do, and need to do without putting pressure on ourselves to answer that call to urgency.
I am finding that if I allow my pace to slow down, be still, and savor more moments that the Lord is more accessible to me. He is more accessible not because He was absent, rather I was in urgent mode and had no capacity for His company or His guidance.
My daughter’s dance class was not a Code Red. ASAP does not mean REQUIRED. It simply means that a response is needed soon. And so, I responded. I told the teacher, whom we love, that it would be January before she could start new classes. If that meant Em could not do the summer recital, then that’s ok. She will still have fun on Tuesdays dancing her heart out with lots of wiggles and giggles. If she ends up getting to do the recital, then cool.
Around the same time as what I am now referring to as “DanceGate2019,” I had another pressing matter at hand with a dreaded deadline that required an ASAP for a personal matter that I was trying to participate in come January. As stated earlier, stress can be brought on by a need for a response. Not just any response, but a response that requires URGENT attention. The problem is that I tend to make waterfalls out of raindrops. My husband, a realist and solid pillar of practicality, basically lives his life with the motto of Don’t Rush Me, Just Relax, It Will Get Done, There Is No Need To Panic. Oh how the Lord knew the balance I needed with a partner that is so very different than me in many ways. I thought about how he would handle this situation. He would not find this situation urgent. He would take it as a situation that simply needs a response of yes or no. If it is yes, then, things will fall into place to get the ball rolling. If it is no, then, no further reaction is needed. If in the rare, gray area, it is a maybe, then at the very least it is a no for now. No urgency. Just timeline choices.
Even now, I have unresolved responses…ASAPs looming. But, I am in the midst of learning something very valuable. I have to stop rushing, stop riding the urgent train to Anxietyville, and give things time to marinate, soak, and grow. Some things will be a NO. Some things will be an emphatic YES. Some things will be a delay. But, stamping urgent on situations that have no business falling under the urgent canopy, is not good for one’s mindset.
This morning, I read a small article about Shigeru Miyanoto. You probably don’t know who that is by name recognition. But, Mr. Miyanoto played a very significant role in my childhood and in yours, I’m sure. He is one of the lead designers for Nintendo. He is the inspiration behind Super Mario. We owe much thanks to Mr. Miyanoto. Saving the princess is still one of my major life accomplishments. Mr. Miyanoto was asked about the consumer’s frustration with wanting new games more frequently. They are impatient with development time.
He was quoted saying, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”
Today, let’s remember this: Daily life is busy enough and requires much of us without us implementing a false sense of urgency to things that simply require a choice. And, some things will actually work out better in the long run if we ease into them, rather than jump in with both feet. A lazy river will take you downstream eventually, but an angry ocean wave will beat you under the water where it is impossible to breath. Let’s meander a bit. Let’s float. Let’s ride the current. Let’s replace urgency with intentionality, focus, and simplicity. It seems silly that I have to tell myself that the world will not stop turning if I don’t do THIS thing or THAT thing right now…ASAP. It will turn. It will revolve. The sun will rise and it will set. The shift happens when we remember that in between the dawn and the dusk, life is happening and it should be savored and timelines unfolded with care. Let’s change the gear and take a slow ride rather than parading those hazard lights.
Being a person who obviously loves the written word, I in my most nerdy self, have a Thesaurus app on my phone. I am constantly drawn to synonyms and antonyms. I enjoy having options for how I want to say or write something. When I inevitably looked up the word, URGENT, on my app to view its antonyms, I was surprised, confused even, when one of the options was LIGHT. An opposite word for urgent is light. And, like lightning, it struck me with clarification. When I force non-urgent situations into a state of urgency, I am removing light from my life. I am casting a shadow where open light should flourish and sparkle. So, now I will be telling myself often when faced with an ASAP or with a self-inflicted urgent matter, that light opposes urgency.
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