Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
I meant to start the dishwasher, I really did. It was full of dishes Ð dirty ones.
Then the phone rang. You can't ignore the phone because if you do, the ringing continues. So I answered, and discovered my son needed a ride home from practice. I couldn't leave him in the lurch, so I left. Somewhere enroute to the garage, I forgot about the dishwasher.
I got home, went to put my coat away and came face to face with the laundry pile. Good news: the clothes were clean. Bad news: they needed folding. I would have disregarded the whole folding thing, but the laundry (clean as it was) rested atop a bed. My bed. Since I consider sleep a priority on a nightly basis, the unfolded laundry needed attention before nightfall. It couldn't wait long.
I finished the laundry and remembered the dishwasher.
For the second time in an hour, I meant to start the dishwasher. Then I heard the dog barking by the back door.
You don't want to make a dog wait if you can avoid it, especially when the dog in question hasn't been out since noon and is currently jumping up and down in a frenzied, I-have-to-go manner. Letting the dog out becomes a priority at that point.
Before the dog finished her business, the doorbell rang. The mailman stood on my front stoop holding a package. I love getting packages; reminds me of Christmas. Somewhere between the excitement of signing and unwrapping of the package (turned out to be a book), I forgot about the dog and the dishwasher.
Until I heard barking. Then I remembered about the dog. The dishwasher does not bark, so I did not recall the need to start the dishwasher right then.
What can I say? It was a busy day.
Which is exactly the problem with my life and society in general: our overabundance of busy. Some think it is good Ð a status symbol, even. I'm not convinced.
My mom did laundry on Mondays. That is what she did. She devoted Mondays to one task: cleaning clothes. Can you imagine this luxury? I'm guessing the answer is no. My mom was a hard-working, imaginative and resourceful woman. Her abilities to remove set-in stains surpass my fantasies. Well, they would, if I entertained fantasies about stain removal.
My mom did laundry on Mondays. She didn't feel the need to multi-task or fret about how busy she was. She just did the laundry.
I recently read something about the state of our current society. It said we are intent on giving our attention to tasks that are urgent, and in doing so, we are missing the tasks that are important.
Do you see the difference?
When you compare the two words: urgent and important, urgent sounds more ... well ... urgent. Emergencies Ð real ones involving blood or babies being born Ð are urgent. They must be attended to. No argument there.
Answering the phone, folding the laundry, letting the dog out and even starting the dishwasher can seem urgent. But, in the big picture, are they important? If I don't start the dishwasher today, what will the implications be tomorrow? In a year? In five years? Who's going to remember my dirty dishes?
On the flip side, if I don't tuck my 8-year-old into bed; if I don't tell my aging dad that I love him; if I don't show kindness to the person behind me in the check-out line, what will that mean in those same five years?
We live in a scattered society. We run from here to there and we struggle to keep up with all the urgent Ð albeit necessary Ð things in our lives. We do laundry during our spare moments because we are busy; we forget to start the dishwasher because the doorbell rings or the dog barks; we rush because we think we must. We have our blinders on and don't realize we have a choice.
My mom did laundry on Mondays. That was her chore for the day. It was an important task, but she didn't make it an urgent one. She was a smart woman who taught me much. Her lessons remain pertinent today because, while not necessarily urgent, their importance is uncontested.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I really do have to start the dishwasher.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication." E-mail her at
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