Too Much to Do

3 03 2012

Raindrops on Green LeafDo you overcommit, thinking you can get everything done, then always feel as if you’re trapped under an avalanche of unfinished projects? Are you always racing toward deadlines, never finding time to enjoy life?

Maybe it’s time to slow down and ask yourself some challenging questions. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What do you hope to gain? And more importantly, what do you hope to give? Is what you’re doing really that important in the scheme of things?

Once when I was extremely stressed out, a friend asked me to describe how I felt. I told her it was as if I were at the center of a cogwheel. I had to keep spinning and spinning and spinning, or the universe would screech to a halt.

“Are you really that important?” she asked.

Of course, I had to laugh, but I did feel as if I didn’t stay in motion, I’d be responsible for the rest of the world’s ills. I did have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, but if something happened to me, others would step in and fill the gap. Yes, I’d be missed, but the world could function quite well without me.

Sometimes I think we place way too much importance on our role at work or in the family or even in the community. We think we’re the only ones who can do what we’re doing. Or we’re the only ones who can do it well. That’s a heavy burden to carry because we’re always aiming for perfection. And that means we can’t relax because–heaven forbid–something might turn out less than ideal.

Does it matter? You might think so at the moment. But place it in perspective: Who will remember you did this (or didn’t do it) five years from now? If the answer is no one, then maybe it isn’t as important as you think. What will be remembered five years from now? That you were too busy to have fun? To spend time with people you love? To laugh? To cherish the present moment?

I chose the blog picture for two reasons. One: The raindrops on the leaf are fleeting, but they’re vital to the plant’s survival. Water your life with fleeting moments that will nurture you deeply.

Two: How much time do you spend marveling at the little things in life? If you’re too busy to notice the way raindrops bead up on leaves following a spring rain, maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities. When was the last time you took a leisurely walk to enjoy nature? Not a power walk to lose weight or a run on a treadmill, but a meander through the woods? A gambol through the park? When was the last time you did something just for fun?

No excuses. No putting it off until you meet a deadline. No shirking your duty to the child inside calling you to come out and play. Just do it. It will feel as refreshing as that rain on the leaf. And you’ll go back to your to-do list with renewed vigor. Guaranteed.

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Why Do Artists Live Longer than Politicians?

30 11 2010

Recently, I’ve been working on an assignment that requires a series of bios of famous and semi-famous people from around the world throughout history, and I discovered something interesting. Almost invariably, the artists, composers, moviemakers, and writers lived well into their 90s; an amazing number even made it past 100. Many politicians, kings, and government leaders died young.  Of course, coups and assassinations cut some of their lives short, but even those who died of natural causes lived a much shorter time than those who were involved in the arts. Even during eras when living to 40 was considered normal, artists generally outlived their contemporaries by 20-30 years. When artists died young, it was often because they took their own lives, so it’s hard to know how long they would have lived, if they’d given themselves a chance.

So what it is about the arts that leads to longeviety? I’ve pondered this and wonder if it’s because artists approach life differently. Politicians often have driving needs to compete, to be first, to get to the top of the heap. Once there, they have additional stresses heaped on them. Artists spend their time creating more often than competing. That’s not to say there isn’t competition in the arts, but given a choice between winning or creating, most artists choose the latter.

I suspect, too, that artists’ angst and stress often get expressed through creative work, so although many artists struggle to make a living, they transform their problems into something outside themselves. When they lose themselves in their work, many of those stresses disappear, even if only temporarily.

Creativity may also give artists an edge in solving problems; they’re usually willing to think outside the box. And the act of creation is life-giving and energetic, so perhaps artists benefit internally as they share their gifts.  Art renews the mind and the spirit. So every day artists may be renewing themselves as they work.

But I think the real secret is the childlike wonder and unique approach to life that many artists have. Most keep their youthful and innocent eye as they age, so their internal age is much younger and more vibrant than their external age. Have you ever noticed that many artists have an aliveness and a sparkle to their eyes, their features? They think and speak excitedly about their next projects. Perhaps they’re less likely to give up on life because they have another project they’re just dying  to do. (or maybe not…perhaps it’s a project they’re just living to do.)