I cracked open my calendar one Sunday morning not too long ago to see what the following week had in store for us. I took one quick peek and then immediately shut it again in a fit of panic and anxiety. There were too many things on the list. There were too many places we had to be. There was one day where so much had to be accomplished that I ran out of room altogether to write things down. I needed a supplemental planner page for my to-do list. Instead of feeling compelled to take action, I felt completely overwhelmed. I sipped coffee and stared at the wall.
I don’t really consider us Busy People. We’re not the family with all of the sports and all of the extracurriculars and all of the clubs. Not yet anyway. Our kids are still pretty young. Why then are our days so maxed out? Why are they so stressful? Why are they scheduled down to the minute sometimes? Why am I regularly clearing out backpacks and dumping lunchboxes at 9:30 at night?
I don’t have an answer other than it’s just a tremendous amount of work managing the life of a family of five. There are an awful lot of details in the day to day feeding, clothing, housing and educating of three children. And, I handle most all of them.
So, in between doctor’s appointments and homework negotiations and birthday celebrations and volunteer responsibilities, I go for walks. I put miles and miles under my feet, climbing hills, navigating traffic and avoiding wildlife. I spend hours walking each week. Sometimes, I think about nothing. Sometimes, I think about everything all at once. Each and every time, I have to remind myself to look up. To take in the scenery and to take deep breaths. To stop looking down. At my feet. At my to-do list. At my phone.
Because when I look down, all I see is what still needs to be done. I see the dirty baseboards and dusty vent covers and crumb-covered kitchen floor. I see the endless piles of laundry in overflowing baskets and I see summer clothes where the winter clothes should be by now. I remember the sink that’s draining slow and the weird spot on the tile I keep meaning to scrub. I see all of the things that remain undone. But, when I look up on my long walks, I only see blue sky and white clouds stretching to the horizon.
When I look down, I see the hallway walls that still aren’t painted and the thousands of dollars we just spent fixing the furnace and the odd place where water is leaking from that one pipe in the basement but only when it rains. I see the closets that should be better organized and the garage that needs to be cleared out and the basement that is becoming a catch-all. I see all of the toys that should be sorted and the items that I still haven’t donated. But, when I look up, I see the leaves on the trees in all of their brilliant colors.
When I look down, I see the flu shots and the drippy noses and the coughs and the doctor’s visits and the medicine I must administer convincingly. I see the calls I have to make and the letter that I should have written. I see the emails and texts I haven’t answered and the bill I forgot to pay. I see the paperwork piling up on my desk and the school forms I haven’t returned. I see the books stacked on my nightstand that I haven’t even cracked open and I remember all of the things I was going to write about when I ran out of time. But, when I look up, I see the rolling hills and mountain valley that shelter our home. I see the sun set on another day.
When I remember to look up, I remember that all of those little details matter but they don’t matter, too. They are important but probably not as important as I think they are. When I look up from the details, I see Charlie riding his bike, Henry climbing a tree and Millie – literally – dancing to music only she can hear. And, those things are just as important as flu shots and math homework. When I look up, I prioritize time with family and friends and worry less about laundry and dishes and fixing dinner. When I look up, the stress and franticness of my day fades away.
We’re all struggling with the same lists, the same sense of urgency, the same endless errands and appointments. So, this weekend, I sincerely hope you have time to look up. After all, it’s finally fall. The leaves are exceptional, the view truly magnificent.