Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Matters Most

I did something Thursday night I haven't done since I was a teenager, and that was a long time ago. I slept for eleven hours straight. My life has been highly stressful the past few years; I've lost to death my father, two siblings, a brother-in-law, and three sisters-in-law. During this period of time, a son-in-law was also severely wounded in Iraq. Added to that were a daughter's, a sister-in-law's, a brother-in-law's, and a cousin's successful battles with cancer. Through most of this time I attempted to keep up my house, my gardens, a Primary class, two days of service at the temple, my writing, and reviewing along with all of the other things we women, wives, mothers, and grandmothers try to do. I constantly nagged myself to work harder, move faster, get more done. All while battling a crippling bout of tendonitis in one knee. I've always been guilty of over scheduling and trying to do everything. The final straw seemed to be accepting an assignment to clean the temple between 9:30 and 12:30 the night between my two temple days last week. It's an assignment I really do enjoy, but by the time I finished my shift Thursday, my mind felt numb and I was barely functioning. I fell asleep around eight thirty and didn't awaken until after seven thirty Friday morning. Since then I've been thinking a lot about President Dieter Uchtdorf's conference talk on things that matter most.

These words stuck in my mind: "When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be . . . If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made life difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."

Illnesses and deaths come unexpectedly, but most other "obligations" can be rescheduled or skipped if we have enough sense to do it. A counselor in my ward's bishopric realized how stressed I felt and had me released from teaching Primary a few months ago. Of necessity I backed off from my previous writing level--hence no book out this year. Cleaning the temple is an important and satisfying experience, so I went even though I was already over tired. I enjoy the comments people make about our yard and gardens and I enjoy gardening. It has bothered me greatly to see grass and weeds marring the beauty of my flowers, so I pushed my knee beyond what it could tolerate. Now there are many gardening tasks I cannot do. I've always been a little "house proud" and with many family members staying with us for short and long visits during cancer treatments and visits to family members in cancer specialty hospitals near us, but far from their homes, I attempted to keep our house spotless and clean sheets on the beds in our spare rooms. Now my knee thoroughly objects when I try to vacuum. My failure to live up to my goals and standards, the times I didn't spend with my children and grandchildren, the ball games and school programs I missed, the book I didn't get ready for publication, all left me feeling guilty. Clearly I'm one of those who didn't stick to the basics President Uchtdorf referred to in his talk.

It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Over-scheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.

It's a hard lesson, but I think I, and most other people, need to learn to let go of some things. We need to decide what is the most basic essentials and let lesser time consumers go. President Uchtdorf listed four important areas which he considers most important in our busy, cluttered lives. First he suggests we "turn to Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most." His list is comprised of four areas he considers vital, beginning with our relationship with God. Second is our families. Third is our relationship with our fellowman. And the fourth, but not necessarily the least important, is our relationship with ourselves.

May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God's creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally.

I'm going to take President Uchtdorf's challenge to simplify my life and to focus on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship. I've picked one thing from one of the four basics he suggested and plan to concentrate on letting it improve my life. I could have picked many goals, but if I choose too many, I won't accomplish any of them well. I plan to keep the basics firmly in mind as challenges come my way and learn to separate what is truly important from those things that don't really matter or can be done at another time. I hope others will accept his challenge too. Pick just one area where you can improve and decide on one specific thing you can do to simplify and improve your life. Then do it. I plan to.


Kristie said...

You are amazing to do so much. And here I am thinking about just cleaning the living room. Thank you for the reminder to just enjoy the day.
You have survived a lot, and you will survive anything and everything.
I love your books! Thanks for all you do.

violettes said...

Thank you for this post. It made me teary as I have been trying to fully move in to a new house and area, acclimate my children, figure out the dynamics of a new ward and serve in two callings, get involved in my children's schools and athletics, and deal with a major health crisis. I feel myself moving in slow motion but stressing about getting things done before my weeks/months of surgery and other procedures begin. I will re-read Pres. Uchtdorf's talk tomorrow as a Sunday gift to myself.