Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Noble Art of Neglect

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

Lin Yutang

I confess that I have dust bunnies. The floorboards need cleaning. The Christmas decorations are still on the garage floor. The list of chores that are undone is pretty long, actually. I have priorities higher than housekeeping.

Today’s quote makes me feel great. I get to make choices about what’s non-essential today, using the welfare of others and myself as my guiding light.

Distractions pull me away from my priorities sometimes. I want to complete a task, but get waylaid by answering emails or cleaning a suddenly-too-dirty bathroom. Susan at Inappropriate Sue has a wonderful post called The Science of Distractions. You’ll love reading it. It totally distracted me from a job I had set out to do, and it was well worth the time.

Sometimes people interrupt me when I’m working. They call at inconvenient times or they have problems when I’d rather think about my own self. That’s when I have to choose what’s essential and what’s not. People usually win over work.

Phone calls from members of Alcoholics Anonymous take a lot of time each day. Occasionally, I’ll sigh when a newcomer phones to tell me about her issues. But I have to remember that if I want to keep what I have, such as serenity and sobriety, I have to give it away. It’s an essential.

Creativity is an essential too. There’s tremendous spiritual satisfaction in creating something, whether it’s a piece of furniture or a poem. We all need spiritual food.

I need to spend time with my family, to nurture those relationships. My older brother is coming to visit for a few days at exactly the most inconvenient time today. I have two more magazine articles to write. But they’re short, and I can stay up a little later. Family is important.

It’s a challenge when two essentials conflict. That’s when I ask for guidance and try to think outside the box for creative ways to take care the necessary stuff.

What are your essentials? What do you think of the noble art of leaving things undone?


My photo is of what I think is a piece of brain coral. It represents my brain on overload, because I have left all my writing assignments until deadline.


Karen said...

The older I get, the more I see how unimportant the nonessentials are - how very non essential they are. Things that used to demand my time or attention no longer hold me as they once did. I think GPS - God, people, self. If God and people are first, self is fine.

Kim A. said...

I am up earlier today and I am loving it! My essentials? Prayer, meditation, slogans, my relationships with husband and kids and pets. What do I leave undone? Housework usually...okay..probably :-D

I hope your visit goes smoothly..I have a brother too.


Brian Miller said...

great post. we do have to realise we can not do it all. if we dont take the time to figure out what is truly important to us we will waste a lot of time on way too many things. less is more.

Secretia said...

I have to leave a lot of stuff undone for half a week, then do it in a fury. There's no time otherwise.


Collette said...

I think it's a wonderful quote. I am always trying to get everything done at once. I have to learn that I can leave things undone & it's OK.

Sherry said...

I used to be a neat freak until my son was born. I wanted him to feel relaxed in his home. I still enjoy things in their place and feel less cluttered in my mind when they are.

I'm choosing the essential of my son's recovery over getting a full time job right my retirement money dwindles...but I know I have my priorities straight!

Have a wonderful day - hope you get everything done that is "essential"!

Marion said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile now, but have not yet left a comment. But I must say this morning, I had to leave a comment just to say thank you for the quote.

For weeks, I have tried to simplify...does the bathroom REALLY need cleaning? Or must I vacuum today...can't it wait?

The noble art of leaving things undone...I shall remember this the next time I am flooded with inconsequential chores. Thanks again...and I hope you have a really great day!

Magpie said...

I love reading what everyone said. It is all good advice and very insightful.

I used to be a slave to my housework...felt judged by the results or lack thereof. But, no more! I am getting more relaxed and accepting of myself and realizing what really is not important anymore and never should have been. I need those creative moments more and and words help with that. I still feel selfish sometimes finding time for me - but it's a necessity.

Realliveman said...

I like the the way The Tao addresses this very life conflict.

"Don't DO anything and things will not go undone"

Simply put: If you see it as a chore, it will be treated like one and fall by the wayside or end up being complained about.
"Doing" something invites stress and worry.

Instead, think of these things as part of your being here. They will get done becasue they have to.
Therefore, there is no "doing". There is only done.

Deep, I know. It took me a long while to understand this (many people who read that from the Tao do not understand it), but now I am able to organize my tasks and get them accomplished without effort. Without "doing"

Catherine said...

Love this post. My essentials are my husband, myself, creativity and healing. My mother raised me to keep things perfect on the outside even if you are a mess on the inside. My house is a mess, some days all I can do is wear pajamas and stay in bed, usually this makes me feel guilty, but sometimes I see what truly matters. That my insides and my relationships matter much more than how things appear.

Titanium said...

This is one of my favorite quotes... I have it on a magnet, right above my desk. It reminds me that refraining is also a discipline.

chitowngreg said...

I think you've got it right. We each have to answer "How Important is It?" for ourselves and set our own priorities. They may be different than anyone else's, but that why they're OUR priorities. If everything in our life is getting done, we're probably not doing enough!

Syd said...

These days, I am a firm believer in the slogans First Things First and How Important Is It. I don't have to do a million things at once. I can focus on getting a few simple things done that make me feel good and interested. I get what I can get done during a day. And hope that there is always tomorrow.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

To be honest, I basically go with the flow. Whatever comes to mind I do. If the dust bunnies grow to tumbleweeds, then so be it. It's all about how you feel and what you feel like doing.

Anonymous said...

Love the "Science of Distraction" link


TechnoBabe said...

Oh yeah, I can leave things undone and feel great about it. I spent so many years cleaning and cooking and washing and not any more. Done. Keep things sanitary and that's good enough. Being happy and doing things I like and having cuddle time with hubby and playing dominoes or scrabble with him is way more important.

Matty said...

What a unique twist to the idea of not doing things. I actually never looked at like that before. Sounds good......the next time my wife asks me why I didn't do something she requested, I'll just say that I was practicing the noble art of leaving things undone. Now let's see how well that goes over.

Judy Sheldon-Walker said...

Your blog uplifts and inspires. I have read several posts and only left two comments. Forgive me. It has been a long day at work and I am trying to research a topic for a new article. Wherever does the time go?

God bless!

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