Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unfinished Business

We got to our house late yesterday after a day spent with family in Mobile.  I opened the car door and what greeted me was the unmistakable chorus of a zillion cicada's singing their song.    LOUD.    I have heard them for the past few evenings and their loud buzz is not like anything else I've heard in my life.     You can almost feel the vibrations in the air.   

As I walked up my sidewalk into the house, it occurred to me that even without the aid of a calendar, without seeing all the Back-to-School displays---with nothing else to guide me but that incessant buzzing noise in my neighborhood, I know the seasons are about to change.   Upon closer observation, there are other simple signs, as well.    

The leaves on the Virginia Creeper gracefully draped along the fence top of my back yard are showing signs that they are slowing down.  Their bright green foliage is starting to look a little weathered and leathery.    A few leaves here and there have even lost their summer color and have quietly moved into bright shades of red, yellow, orange and brown.    The squirrels that so eagerly attack our bird feeders for a quick snack or --- more likely --- a leisurely meal of sunflower seeds, are spending a lot more time digging and burying some of those seeds for a time later on in the winter when they will be in scarce supply.    Oh and yep, they take the "one for the storage hole, one for my mouth" method of stashing their winter food.   They never pass up the opportunity to eat some, bury some!  

The air starts to feel different as we move from July to August and then August begins to meld into September.    Even in the south, we have seasons and no doubt about it, fall is coming.     The thermometer still reads 90 degrees and by most measures, that qualifies as HOT.     What happens as we move past summer toward autumn is that the humidity begins to have mercy on us.   Instead of walking out into a wet blanket to start our day (or end a day of yard work), we find the air is cool and yes, almost sweet.    Especially if you have given your yard a haircut and the scent of freshly mowed grass lingers into the twilight.     It is a sign of what is coming and soon.    A nice way to herald the beginning of a new season.   

As I think on these things, I can't help but think of lots of thinkers and philosophers and poets who contemplated all of these signs long before I did.    They put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or dictated into a tape recorder to give their spin on what they thought of,  given what they have observed.    So with that thought, I will do the same.    My two cents for what they are worth.   

When we're young and not so indoctrinated with how the world/life works, we think time goes on forever.   Summer vacation from school is endless.   At least in June it is!   The years to be young and carefree have no limit.    Unless you have some tragic circumstance that snatches that bit of childhood fantasy from you, we live in that make believe world for a fairly long time.     Then we wake up and realize that time waits for no man.   No woman, either, for that matter.    It is fleeting, slippery and can be over without warning.     Indeed, it is an elusive, mysterious thing that we barely understand before our time is up and gone.   

My intent when I sat down to write this was not to be morose about all of this but to explain how thinking about something like time and its mysteries is a good thing.    It forces you to explain to yourself how you feel and what's keeping you awake at night, what haunts you and WHY.      

What I have discovered is that the brain is pretty good at evading these questions in the cold light of day.  I can find busy work, household chores and just plain frittering of time to escape an examination of my life and my issues.     But at night.   Oh, that is a different matter.   Maybe it's because I am a captive audience.   Captive to a brain that chooses at that time to creep into my consciousness and decide that it's a good time (midnight!!) to have a little chat.    

In any case, here is what happened a couple of nights ago.   Without much effort or prodding, my brain began to come up with lots of unfinished business.    Things I have on my To Do List and have had on it for a long time.    Some I have partially done, some are "in process" and others just sit there, staring at me.    Waiting.   A lot of them have to do with organization of our household business.    Records, important documents, that sort of thing all in one unit.   Not scattered about in various boxes, drawers and folders.   ONE place.   Then there are the things I have talked about doing such as writing down stories for my grandchildren.   They beg me to tell them about my childhood and I have told them many, many stories.    But a better solution, while I still have most of my faculties, would be to actually write it all down.   Then they'd have them long after I am not around to tell them.     And then there are the fun, crafty things that are in boxes, bags and on shelves, also waiting for me to get them completed.   Many of these are not odious, difficult tasks.    They just need to be done and get off the Unfinished Business List.

So why are they not done, since I have plenty of time on my hands these days, as a retired person?    My keen and discerning mind has come up with this notion:  I am still trapped back in the "life goes on forever, time is endless" mode.   But I know better.     I've had my own close encounters with death and it does give you a good slap in the face but unless you keep yourself in line, you will fall back into old ways of thinking and old ways of NOT doing.      Avoidance is easy to do.    It comes naturally to many of us.     Holding myself to accountability and responsibility is much harder.    

Thus:  my resolve to change my evil ways.   First is to recognize and acknowledge the behavior.   You can't fix what you don't admit, right?    Second, devise a plan that includes some accountability.    With this thought in mind, I have come to realize that I'd sleep better at night,  have less stress and anxiety (and yes, there is anxiety when you look at things with a critical eye!) and would get a lot more done if I'd just be willing to change things just a bit.   I don't need to change my whole persona. Just find new  and more productive ways of spending my time.  

As summer fades into fall, as the leaves begin to drop from the vine, I see some new choices for me to spend my time.    And that unfinished business list won't be so long and I'll feel better, too.     We all have unfinished business.  The question is what is it?    Do you need to make amends for something you did that you now acknowledge was wrong?     Are you avoiding talking heart to heart with a loved one or friend to tell him or her that you care about them, that you love them --- because if you do, it opens you up to a vulnerable place?   Do you have tasks and projects that lie dormant because you're too busy avoiding them to get them finished?    

Time is always on the move whether we admit it or not.  No machine or device that has been invented so far has been able to transport us back to an earlier point in our lives.    Movies, video tapes, photographs and 8 mm recordings do a great job of giving us the impression that we're there, but it's history we're viewing.   We're not there to make it all different.     The time to act is now.     In the present.   

 It's a sobering thought when you realize that there is a finiteness to our lives.    And you can let it make you sad and depressed or you can take it as the fact that it is and resolve to use your time wisely and with intention.     I've talked about living with intention before and I am reiterating it in this post. Pay attention and give some thought to how you spend those precious moments of your life.    It is a commodity that is sometimes in short supply, in others doled out generously.   Get that Unfinished List made and then start ticking the things off as you get them done.    You'll feel a whole lot better, with fewer regrets and angst and I think you might even get a better night's sleep.   

Happy  Trails,