Monday, March 10, 2014

Taking a Break from the Banquet

Lately, I've been feeling a little like Agnes Gooch from Mame: "If life is a banquet, I stuffed myself." While I haven't stuffed myself quite like Agnes, I'm feeling that my life is more than a little overstuffed.

Every room in my house seems to bear evidence of one of the pursuits I'm...pursuing. Books and materials for my classes. A binder of music for the cabaret I'm rehearsing for. A stack of files on the topic of book promotion. A Kindle loaded not with a kick-back novel, but rather, The Scarlet Letter, which I'm reading along with my daughter (sort of). The music plan (and the music itself) for the contemporary choir at church.

Stop the madness! Or, at the very least, corral it!! While the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and its successes are helping me to take steps toward putting a dent in expendable clutter, I need something designed to reduce -- or at least control -- the clutter created by pursuits I've already said yes to.
I'm thinking a two-pronged approach is called for. The first step requires me to employ a key organizational concept -- finding homes for everything -- along with the corollary I taught my students: don't put it down, put it away. Those things must happen in that order because without a home, an item makes itself at home wherever it lands. And the clutter begins. I know how to do that, and now just need to make it happen.

The second prong is a lifestyle adjustment. I've always been the kind of person who is fascinated by a lot of things, and who pursues (too) many of them when the opportunity arises. I really enjoy all of the activities I'm involved in, but I'm beginning to feel as though there aren't enough hours in the day to fully enjoy any of them. In other words, there really can be too much of a good thing.

And so I need to make a change. In keeping with the spirit of simplicity that is part of Lent, I am imposing a moratorium on new activities between now and Easter. That's right. I am hereby publicly proclaiming my intention to say "no, thank you" to any new activities that require a commitment of more than one day/night until (at least) after April 20.

In fact, I'll go one better, and extend it to the end of April. Breakfast/lunch/dinner/coffee with friends? Safe. Single commitments that enrich my life by enriching my relationships. Plans for conferences and events that are already in the works? Sure. New committees/new projects/new groups? No, thank you.

But, but, but....what if it's something I really want to do?? Well, then, I'll just have to hope the opportunity is still available as of May 1, the first day I'll be considering new commitments. But for now, in addition to 40 bags of things I don't really need, what I am giving up for Lent is the knee-jerk response of saying "yes" to every exciting thing that crosses my path because, like Agnes Gooch, I've discovered that the new world (in my case, retirement) really is a banquet, and that it's altogether too easy to stuff oneself and be left with all the regrets that gluttony brings. And it's time to discover the truth in the sentiment that sometimes, a little bit goes a long way.

Wish me luck.


  1. Hahaha--my younger son was in MAME a couple of years ago (as her grand-nephew and in the ensemble earlier in the show) so I am very familiar with that song.
    I am so with you on the "find a home for things" part of the job here. One day this week I didn't worry about tossing or donating anything, but instead MOSTLY dealt with the 2 baskets and 1 grocery bag of homeless items that had collected in the living room. It felt good to get them out of there and back to where they belonged.

  2. And you know, in MAME, the alternative to stuffing yourself is starving to death, at least according to Auntie Mame!
    I think you've found a good balance there.
    I had to put my foot down similarly yesterday. It's almost Tech Week for the high-school play, and I organize dinner for 100 on 7 nights. I was asked to substitute-teach on 2 of those days. Had to say "sorry, I can't." There's no way I could do both and I'd already committed to dinner.

  3. Barb, I just found these comments as I got ready to schedule my next post. You're gonna love it!

    I'd forgotten Mame's line about "some poor suckers are starving to death." Definitely not me!!