You Have to Know What’s Important and What’s Unimportant, for You.*

April 20, 2010

I always wanted to do movies—great ones. But having fun means a lot to me. I don’t want to turn eighty and go, “I should have.”
• Jenna Elfman, quoted in “Jenna Elfman Takes Life by the Throat,” by Jeanie Pyilh, May 1998,
Mademoiselle, p. 157

I just sent an email canceling a Friday meeting and I feel good about it. I probably ought to feel a little bit guilty. I was going to present on the topic of work/life balance, “It’s a Juggle Out There,” something I definitely need to think about, since I almost always overimagine what I’ll be able to accomplish. I’d call this failing overestimation, but I don’t estimate. If I did, I’d probably realize the impossibility of my goals. Instead, I imagine, fantasize, and often delude myself into thinking that I really can do it all—regardless of what needs doing.

When the planning committee met, we decided that everyone who was juggling competing meetings would appreciate hearing that they had one less obligation to shoehorn into their lives. Instead, we encouraged them to view the cancelation as a gift of time, an hour and a half to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do that would relax, refresh, and rejuvenate them.

I’m inviting you to do the same thing. In March 1999, Jenna Elfman told Us Magazine, “If someone said, ‘Write a sentence about your life,’ I’d write, ‘I want to go outside and play.’” If I had to write a sentence about my life, I’d write, “I’m never bored and I wish I had endless time to pursue all my interests and take long walks and go to the movies and lollygag and write poetry and make art and bake cookies and be silly and thrift shop and  read and connect with everyone I love and that’s not all, but it’s enough for one sentence!”

What sentence would you write about your life?

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to
all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

• Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne (1995, Trustees of the Pooh Property)

* Thanks to David Harold Fink for the title quotation.


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