Don’t leave your life unattended.
So I refuse to believe there is a parent alive who hasn’t committed the egregious crime of leaving their kids in the car for just a few minutes while they dash into the store. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that under certain circumstances, they are far safer in the car for a meager short while than they are being dragged by my rushing, distracted, caffeine deprived self into a grocery store. Whether you’ve had a kid tip the Gatorade display over on themselves or watched in horror as they’ve licked the handle of a shopping cart, one could make a strong and enviable argument about the virtues of leaving our precious wee ones locked safely in the family vehicle. As such, this picture that Greg took this last weekend got me both laughing out loud and smiling with amusement over just how insanely safe this “unattended” child actually is.
But it also got me wondering about just how rigorously we attend and defend certain parts of our life. Do we guard our life, our dreams, our hopes, our heart as intrepidly as this dog is watching over his boy? Or do we leave our life unattended, subject to influences and experiences we’d do well to guard against? Now I want to go on record and as adamantly as possible and assert that being guarded and guarding are two entirely different propositions. Being guarded with our life implies a fearful, withdrawn, wait and see approach to both people and possibilities. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who guard their lives with courage and fierce resolve. They guard their vision, ambition, values and priorities with passionate, unrelenting vigilance.
Let’s start with time. The “most valuable and perishable of all our possessions.” Do we have a focused and urgent awareness of how we are spending every single minute and moment of our precious time? Do we have a sentry at the door of our day – making sure it isn’t squandered on everything from video games, to mind numbing TV, to useless tasks that have no point or purpose? Do we walk into Home Depot with a list of everything we need from lumber to light bulbs or do we somewhat aimlessly wander the aisles wondering if there’s something we forgot. Do we get lost in the vortex of useless YouTube fail videos or are the videos we watch TED talks that bear the impact and ability to change our lives in some wonderful necessary way. Do you start your day…every day with a list? An on purpose, precise list of what you are determined to accomplish during the day. It can include everything from drafting an offer on a 100 unit apartment complex to tossing the ball in the backyard with your up and coming quarterback. I am married to the most dedicated list maker of all time. And every day I am quite literally astonished by what he manages to get done. If you don’t take adamant, unwavering control of your time you will be continuously frustrated by having squandered it. If you leave your time unattended, it will be stolen from you. Stolen by inefficient, unproductive, meaningless movement rather than purposeful accomplishments and intentional, life-giving moments.
Relationships. Are you leaving them unattended or are you continuously committed to and participating fully in the most important relationships in your life? how many times have we all been at a restaurant and seen a couple “having dinner together” but they both have their face in a phone the entire time and conversation between them doesn’t go beyond one showing the other their phone and saying “look at this.” How many couples lead nearly separate lives? Having little to no engagement in each other’s world. Often times, politely getting along without a shred of passion, emotion or enthusiasm for one another. Every single week Greg and I go out together (he gets all the credit for this). And it is essential, non-negotiable time for us both. We look forward to it, savor it and are ferociously protective of it. It is and will always be more important than anything else we do. Yet how many couples have I met that limply admit, “Yeah, we should be better about that.” Or even more lame excuses such as “we don’t have time, we don’t have the money, we don’t have a baby sitter…” Relationships are a commitment and by definition, commitments aren’t designed to be easy and fall effortlessly into our lap. Our effort is the proof of what matters. So, are you attending with focused commitment and attention to your relationship or leaving it to languish and wither from lack of devotion and want of true care? Aside from relationships with a spouse or significant other, are we vigorously attending to experiences and committed with up to our eyeballs involvement with our kids? Time to connect, engage and know who they are and what they are busy becoming. Do we attend to everything from their social circle to what goes into their lunch box? If we allow ourselves the errant belief that there is an aspect of the lives of those we love that doesn’t need our vigilance we are sadly and sorely mistaken. Speaking as the army brat I am, you can build the biggest wall and most impenetrable perimeter imaginable, but if we leave a gap in the gate unguarded and unprotected, we are asking to entertain an enemy. And that enemy is anything that takes away from the life we are meant to live and those we are made to love.
Your vision, your hopes, your dreams. Have you left them unattended? Have you allowed frustrations or failures to creep through the cracks of your resolve? Have you allowed somebody else’s shitty attitude or unasked for opinion to cause you to doubt your desires and your Purpose? The extraordinary takes unflagging, unflinching steadfastness. An astonishing life has never happened by accident. If we fail to attend to the pursuit of what we love and long for we will never earn the right to call it our own.
Are you attending to your health and well-being? Are you creating and crafting meaningful time pursing a passion, a hobby, a simple joy? Are you eating and living well or planning to microwave a Hot Pocket for dinner?
Are you attending to your spiritual life? There are few phrases that annoy me more than, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” This is code for, “I want to appear as enlightened, but don’t want to commit to actually DOING anything.” Spirituality, be it Christianity, Buddhism, or worshiping at the altar of Nature, spirituality is a PRACTICE and if you don’t attend to it, you won’t reap the benefits it always brings.
Bottom line: it’s everywhere. Every conversation you have, book your read, friend you spend time with, moment you share with your kids and love you invest in your spouse. Every meal you eat, walk you take, volunteer activity you engage in, dream you picture and passion you believe in. Left unattended nothing in your life will ever reach its potential. As I look back over this it could seem exhausting to exercise this kind of vigilance in all things. But for me, and my hope for you, is that the energy you put into protecting and pursuing everything you love, frees you from frustration, disappointment and heartache. And if we could choose a life that is positive, uplifting, accomplished and engaged, the energy that comes from those emotions is endless. Our lives and the people in them deserves our focused attention. And we deserve the joy and satisfaction of knowing that we didn’t just give a damn, we gave it our everything.