The Screams Of The Many

“The screams of the many outweigh the screams of the few… or the one.” (with all apologies to Mr. Spock and a great moment from Star Trek 2 – the Wrath of Mr. Rourke and Rich Corinthian Leather…)
(And if you get all of those references, you get bonus points AND a cookie.)
Let me update my personal timeline, so that this will have some context…
The temporary job is now history. For almost a month, I was running the board for WaY FM’s morning show, arriving at 5am or so, and leaving at 10am, M-F. And I liked it – a lot. It was sad to see it end quickly, but as I said from the beginning, you can’t be possessive about something that was never yours in the first place. And it never was. It taught me some interesting things about myself, gave me the amazing experience of riding the trike up Leonard Street at 4:30am, and earned me the nickname Skunk Boye at CU Radio.
Fortunately, I think the nickname died much faster than the odor from little skunky did.
My last day was May 20th, and after the morning shift, I went home, we loaded up the trikes, the dog, the luggage and the eldest niecelet, and headed to God’s front porch, da U.P. for a week.
Saturday the 21st, I turned 52. Tons of birthday wishes from friends near and far via Facebook, and most of the birthday broohah was lost in the festivities surrounding middle niecelet’s graduation.
The day we rode the trikes around Mackinac Island is worthy of its own entry, and so it shall have one…
The week away came at the exact right time, to break the routine and give me some time to be away and get over the fact that the gig ended. That little change helped ease me over any leftover sadness and let me move along.
Sort of. Which brings us to the quote at the beginning.
I do really well with externally applied structure. When there are deadlines and requirements, and I don’t have to decide or enforce them. Be told when to show up, what to do, and when to leave. No decisions, nothing to consider – just get going, do my thing, and leave.
But when I’m the one applying the structure? Not so much.
For normal (or more normal than me) humans, it’s a matter of making a list, deciding what happens when, executing the list, and day done. Make goals, plan how to accomplish goals, execute plan, cross off goals, smile and go to bed. Repeat. I can do that, in small amounts, for very short periods, sometimes, maybe. But usually, it looks more like this:
1) Get all inspired and motivated to get things accomplished, and decide that tomorrow is the day that I get moving on ______, _______, and, of course, _________.
2) Get out notebook/electronic device/3×5 cards/whatever other widget I’ve found that will be THE thing to finally help me to set and accomplish goals/lists/things.
3) Enthusiastically write down/type in/draw in crayon everything I’ve needed to get done in the last 24 years, including those afghans that I never knitted for family, totally cleaning our house to the point where we can actually find things like, oh, the living room for example, and, of course, do the dishes. Every day. Always. World without end, Amen.
4) Go to bed with a sense of anticipation, knowing that the next day will bring a new era of productivity and bliss.
And that’s where it all goes splat. Because the next morning, when I turn to whatever widget I’ve decided will change my life, I see the list and totally freeze. Everything on the list screams “ME! ME! Pick me first! I’m the MOST important! MEEEEE!!!” They all scream at the same time, each shouting for my undivided attention, each one important and (in my fuddled mind) deserving of my immediate time and work. They all seem to be equal, they all appear to be the one that needs to be done first, they all scream, and I have NO idea which one to get started with.
So I don’t. Do. Anything. All the goals, all the ideas, the plans get lost as I assume a fetal position somewhere in the corner and cover my ears. At least it’s a lot easier to assume a fetal position at my current weight. When I was 480, it hurt. A lot.
I understand the steps to getting things done – goals, plans, actions. I’ve looked at GTD, ZTD (Zen To Done), The 7 Habits Of Highly Marketable Systems (not to be snarky – it works for TONS of people, and I wish I was one of them), and other ways to move from a life of slothful stagnant existence to full glorious productivity. I know the basics. The disconnect comes in the execution…
Making goals? I have no shame in cheating on my own goals. I’ll tell myself that they’re more like guidelines and not rules. (which was one of my favorite lines from the Pirates movies)
Plans? I can make plans all day, and then feel no need to actually do any of them.
Actions? I’ll look at a list of steps, and have no idea which one to do first.
One problem is that I suffer from SBS – Spoiled Brat Syndrome. I never actually grew up and learned to impose structure upon myself. The older I get, the more I realized what a little brat I must have been growing up. There are many layers to this realization, many factors that balance things out a bit, but the fact remains that I have a lot of brat baggage still chained around my ankles.
Next problem – I excel at PIOATLM – Pulling It Off At The Last Minute. Give me a month to prepare to do a program at some event, and I’ll be putting it together at 10pm the night before. I’ll pull it off, and you’ll never know that all of my preparation was a panic session 12 hours ago.
Then cap it all off with what I’ve been talking about – how a list of things to do will all scream so loudly at me that I have no idea which one to start with, and you begin to see why my house looks like a dump… I mean, landfill. Why I have things that I promised to do for friends that have been uncompleted for YEARS. And why regret is a chain that I still carry around, after all the grace God has shown me over the last year.
OK – so in a nice world, this is the point where I would look at a fresh view of a verse in the Bible, engage a new truth and apply it to my specific situation. The issue would be resolved, hymns would be sung, and glory would shine all around.
Nope. Not this time. Life is sometimes messy and bewildering and it often disappoints. God never does, though. But we are left with questions and frustrations, without finding a nice neat answer that would make a great pithy saying for the changeable letter sign in front of the church. So it is.
I don’t know how to sort out the screams of the many, to take the list and make sense of it, to see which step should be next.
I don’t know how to take the strength of externally applied structure and make it work with internally applied structure.
I don’t know how to set goals, make plans, decide actions, and execute them.
I don’t know how to juggle. Even when there’s only one ball.
So this ends not with an answer, but a plea… not a resolution, but a prayer.
Father, You are calm out of confusion. Master, You are order out of chaos. Keeper, You set captives free. Sustainer, You balance all things.
I look at the raging storm and I see destruction – You see the necessary forces to bring about change. I look at the things to be done and I see no way through confusion – You see the path to clarity. I look at myself and see only regret and failure – You see your child, weak, hurting and needing Your guidance.
Father, silence the screams of the many. Give me a new vision of a new day – one thing at a time, in the path You lay ahead of me.
Give me this day what I need for this day – the path for this day. Not the whole roadmap, but today’s page. Sightblinder would keep me chained and overwhelmed with the tyranny of everything – set me free, Father. Help me to take the next step, only one, each where You have already placed it.
“Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom,
lead Thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead Thou me on.
Guide Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.”
William P. Rowlands

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