It’s a snowy day here in Idaho. We’ve had a mild winter, so this is the first real snow storm we’ve had this year. We’re expecting another wave to come through this evening, which means a few more inches of frozen precipitation, and people who know me in real life know that I am not a fan. It looks pretty, and I’m okay as long as I don’t have to drive in it. (And we have everything we need, so I’m happy to report I do not need to leave my house at all today.) I was all set for a cozy day inside. I had visions of myself sitting with a cup of tea, mocking the cold outside my window. I was going to write. I mean, sit down at the computer like a writer and write.
The problem with my plan was that this morning I couldn’t even see my computer, let alone sit down with it. I tend to be very cluttered. And the last few weeks I’ve accumulated stuff on my desk: the store circulars that I’m *definitely* going to look through, tax documents, last year’s planner (because yay me I’ve moved to this year’s planner), and receipts and lipstick from a hasty purse change. But it wasn’t just clutter on the desk. I also had a basket of clean laundry blocking access to my chair. And yesterday morning, while getting ready for work, I went on a shoe hunt that took way longer than it should have, and left me with half-pairs of not-the-shoes-I-wanted all over the floor. I wanted to sit down and write, but first I had to deal with the mess that was in my way.
And as I was getting a bag to collect the recyclable clutter, it occurred to me: “but first” is a pretty common theme in my life. I want to eat for health, “but first” I have to find the perfect meal plan, buy the groceries, eliminate the junk food. I want to exercise, “but first” I have to get new shoes, new equipment, join a gym. I want to be more organized, “but first…” How often have I allowed the “but firsts” to stop me from achieving a goal? How much of my perceived lack of discipline is just exhaustion or discouragement from facing all the tasks I have to do in order to be able to finally do what I want? Like my messy desk, they may be small items. But the volume of what needs to be done, coupled with my perfectionist tendencies, makes those little tasks seem overwhelming. To be honest, I was tempted to take my tea and a book that someone else finished writing and go sit in another room in the house. To enjoy the warmth inside and the look of the snow outside, to choose comfort, without facing those “but firsts.”
“But firsts” represent interruptions. They take my energy and my focus, and I have limited supplies of both. They take my time. They take my patience. More than those things, “but firsts” represent, for me, failure. Because at some point in the not-too-distant past I failed to deal with these things the way I should have. My delay this morning was entirely preventable, so I got to enjoy some guilt along with the delay in my plans.
Too often, my response to the “but firsts” has been to quietly close the door to the room and walk away. To let the overwhelming list win over my desire to achieve a goal. To choose comfort over change. However, my frequent choice to pursue my own comfort is often what creates a chaotic environment. And as I sorted through receipts and sermon notes (because sometimes I do want to keep those), I became aware that this is the kind of discipline I want. I want to be the kind of person that finds a balance between the comfortable and the necessary. I chose to do something that was not in any way fun so that I could actually, physically, make space to do the thing I intended to do. I put in an hour – recycling, throwing away, putting away – in order to gain some physical space and clarity of mind. I gained some growth as well, reinforcing for myself the power of choosing discipline.
So now that I have elbow room, I’m off to add some words to my current project. If you’re dealing with inclement weather this weekend, stay safe, warm, and dry! Let me know your thoughts, as well. It’s always good to know that my little rambling posts encourage you in some way!