The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: to-do lists

Checklist with highlighterMake the most of your time. Enjoy what we have. It all goes by fast.

We hear this stuff a lot. All the time. Yet, it often seems to fall on deaf ears, even for the most well-intended of us. I mean, it’s hard not to get distracted in today’s world isn’t it? With a keyboard in front of us or a smartphone in the palm of our hands, we can easily check out what the rest of our friends, strangers, or the world is up to with a quick scroll that easily becomes a long scroll, a response to tap out, and a photo to capture this moment on a Tuesday afternoon we’d otherwise let pass by as we eat lunch.

Our followers need to see this funny meme. This photo of me will get enough likes to make me feel better about myself for another day or so.

Perhaps it’s that album we need to record, that book we need to finish writing, that piece of art that’s just not perfect but should be. Whatever it is, it hangs there, gnawing at us to come back to it, to finish it, to shut out the rest of the world and see this through so the rest of the world can share in our vision – our place in the fabric of culture sewn and secured for the rest of eternity.

Or we so often tell ourselves.

I certainly am not immune. Every time I put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or hold a finished book or creative product in my hands, I get caught up in a euphoria that this thing, right here, might outlast me. But time passes, swiftly, as we’re often reminded, and even those products we create, those stories we tell, that branding we curate, it all fades in time.

This winter, I was struck by an interview with Conan O’Brien that ran in the New York Times, with discussions of when his then-latest running late night series might come to a close.

Is this how you want to go out, with a show that gets smaller and smaller until it’s gone?

Maybe that’s O.K. I think you have more of a problem with that than I do. [Laughs.] At this point in my career, I could go out with a grand, 21-gun salute, and climb into a rocket and the entire Supreme Court walks out and they jointly press a button, I’m shot up into the air and there’s an explosion and it’s orange and it spells, “Good night and God love.” In this culture? Two years later, it’s going to be, who’s Conan? This is going to sound grim, but eventually, all our graves go unattended.

You’re right, that does sound grim.

Sorry. Calvin Coolidge was a pretty popular president. I’ve been to his grave in Vermont. It has the presidential seal on it. Nobody was there. And by the way, I’m the only late-night host that has been to Calvin Coolidge’s grave. I think that’s what separates me from the other hosts.

I had a great conversation with Albert Brooks once. When I met him for the first time, I was kind of stammering. I said, you make movies, they live on forever. I just do these late-night shows, they get lost, they’re never seen again and who cares? And he looked at me and he said, [Albert Brooks voice] “What are you talking about? None of it matters.” None of it matters? “No, that’s the secret. In 1940, people said Clark Gable is the face of the 20th Century. Who [expletive] thinks about Clark Gable? It doesn’t matter. You’ll be forgotten. I’ll be forgotten. We’ll all be forgotten.” It’s so funny because you’d think that would depress me. I was walking on air after that.

I remember reading initial reactions to this article online as people wondered if Conan was all right, if he was in a state of depression or deep sadness. When I read it, I saw a man with an incredibly healthy perspective that I felt I could learn something from.

That’s not me being against putting forth your creative energies. Please, by all means, do! I encourage everyone to find a creative outlet, whether you are a New York Times Best-Selling author, a professional Hollywood director/actor, or you’re working a steel mill and acting on the community theatre stage or sketching in a sketchbook by night. Find what brings you joy. Relish the happiness that being creative brings you.

What I’m saying, what it took me a long time to really, truly understand myself, is to not let it consume you. You can spend your entire life with that one focus, shutting out the rest of the world and people around you. You may hold it in your hands (and enjoy that moment, you should, you’ve earned it), but keep in mind, those hands will one day be gone.

By my very nature, I’m the type of person to constantly have juggling pins in the air, plates spinning, a multitude of projects that I’ve lined up, either professionally or just for myself that I want to get done, I want to cross off that list. So much so, that it can very easily slip from ‘i want to get this done’ to ‘I NEED to get this done,’ at the expense of the one thing none of us get extra of – our time. Time that can be spent with a loving partner, sharing laughs with friends, getting down on the floor or the grass and playing with children, looking to the world around you and savoring it for a few moments longer than you did the day before. The other stuff will get done. It will. But before you know it, so will each of us, so let’s enjoy it while we can.

I’m going to try making a better effort at it myself. Putting down the phone (where I’ve been keeping electronic lists as of late), fighting back the nagging urge to drop other things around me in order to just do something I can cross off. I need to get outside more, I need to get down on the floor more and actually play with the kids instead of watching them play while I work on other things. Things that can often wait.

Don’t become all-obsessive, I beg you. Look around you, to the world, to the people, and enjoy every moment with them, on this earthly plane.

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tumbleweedThe silence is palpable as a tumbleweed spins across your path. This place seems like it’s been dead for quite some time. It’s nothing but a ghost town.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but I haven’t exactly been pounding out the pieces as of late, making this place a virtual deserted city.

I’ve meant to. Truly. I can’t tell you how many times the phrase “blog posts” or sometimes “blog posts!!!!” has been scrawled out on my daily planner, never to be crossed out, left out of the reindeer games of the day like poor little Rudolph. Even those four extra exclamation points haven’t been able to add extra time to the day, even if they have increased the amount of guilt for it.

I at first thought that the greatest challenge in having a second child would be remembering or re-learning how to care for a baby again. I was surprised to find that this came back pretty easily. What I hadn’t really understood was that the greatest challenge to a second child is juggling the care a baby needs alongside the growing needs of a three year old.

From the moment we wake around 5:30 or 5:45 (or earlier if the cats are feeling particularly saucy that morning), it feels like a whirlwind begins, feeding cats, showering, dressing, cleaning litter boxes, prepping lunches, waking kids, getting the little guy on the potty, dressing kids, out the door, a full workday, and then back again around 6 for the nightly responsibilities of dinner, bathtime, storytime, bedtime, and a little bit of playtime or family time squeezed in the moments between.

If both my wife and I are in the same room at the same time, that often means a divide and conquer strategy, with one of us handling the baby while the other plays with, talks with, keeps engaged, our three year old son.

And that has left very little time for much else. Yes, yes, I’ve heard the “just work on it when the kids are asleep” or “get up earlier” suggestions before, and I admit, it certainly was more doable with a growing little boy who eventually had a bedtime, and went to sleep. But with a new baby in the mix, his bedtime doesn’t mean free-time, just the two of us to handle the baby at once instead of the divide and conquer of earlier in the evening.

I truly don’t know how some folks do it, and to those of you who do, I commend you. I really, really do. Bravo. But I have to ask, how? How does one balance a full day of work, kid pickups and drop offs, home life and responsibilities, and still find the time to write and blog on such a regular basis? Are you all wearing chrono-belts that let you slow down the time-stream? Tell me your secrets!!!! 🙂

collar grabSorry. Didn’t mean to grab your collar like that. I got a little carried away.

It has, admittedly, been tough to find time to do anything.

That’s not bad. First, it won’t always be this way. Before we know it, that three year old boy will be a six year old boy, 12 year old boy, 18 year old boy, and off into adulthood. That little baby girl will shortly after be doing the same. There are moments where sure, we think to ourselves that we’d like the time to do things we want, but let’s be honest – it never outweighs what we don’t want – for this time to go by in a blink, for these moments to blow past us like a drag race.

No, no, no.

These are the times to savor, to enjoy, to live.

Having the memories written to reflect upon one day might be nice, but they’re only half a memory if they aren’t truly lived.

Yes, we all get down on ourselves for not always accomplishing the things on our to-do list, whether it be a room clean-up or repair around the house, or a blog post to be written.

But no, it’s not terrible, and I think we all need little reminders of that when we start to feel that we don’t always have the luxury of time we once had for such things.

It’s not bad. It just means that we’re too busy being parents and living life with our children to actually always write about it.

I’d rather take take the moments as fully as they can be than to forsake them or short change them for the sake of writing them down.


"Quit hoggin' the covers."

                “Quit hoggin’ the covers.”

Of all our three cats, nobody is the bundle of love that is our Jasper. While our other two have their moments of wanting some love, Jasper has been ever-consistent since the day he arrived and first curled into Meg’s lap and went to sleep on our front porch.

Just as early upon his arrival, shortly after we would call it a night, the sound of little paws could be heard hurrying up the stairs and leaping onto our bed, making his way over the cloud of sheets into the middle of the bed. He waits for us to lift the sheet or comforter so that he can tunnel in, turn around so his head sticks out at the head of the bed, and then plops down on one side, usually with a paw on Meg, and quickly dozes off.

The other night, as Meg and Jasper slept, his purring next to me lulling me into a relaxed state of sleep myself, my mind began to wander. And it wandered to the realization that things won’t be like this forever. For a while if we’re lucky, yes, but not forever. Sadly, nothing is. It all began to hit me like an emotional avalanche at that point. Every night this amazing little kitty curls up like a child between us, giving us more unconditional love than probably any human is capable, and yet, how often do I stop to realize just how amazing that is? How often do I stop to appreciate it?

Let’s broaden the scope a bit beyond Jasper, because my realization was prompted by but in no means limited to his furry, lovable little self.

I’m often a victim of my own drive to do things, cornering myself into a routine and life made up of to-do lists, projects and whatever the next priority is. I don’t know what it stems from. Sometimes I think it’s because I have some (possibly irrational) obsession with creating, making things, doing things, leaving something behind (be it a website, a book, a blog, a comic, a film, or any other project I tend to be working on at the moment). Because of this, there is constantly a list of things to be scratched off my planner each day, or the dry erase board next to my desk.

But the side effect of this drive to constantly having many irons in the fire is that I literally live a life controlled by lists, motivated by crossing something off that list, completing a project and immediately looking to what the next project is.

And in the meantime, I’m never stopping to appreciate the life around me – the people, the places, the events, the emotions and yes, the cats like Jasper.

I often like to quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. “

And that seems to be exactly what’s happening. I’m 35 years old. It seems like I blinked and 18-34 were gone, already a lifetime ago. And yet, I’m still going at the same speed on a million different things as I have all those years past instead of stopping to realize and appreciate all the wonderful people around me – my wife, my son, my parents, my brother, our cats, our neighbors, our friends – and truly enjoy the time I have with these folks while it’s available. Because before I know it, the next 35 years will be by in a blink, and no amount of blog posts, comics written, films made, books published, will ever be able to make up for it.

This isn’t a blueprint for how I’m going to do it, because honestly, I’m not quite sure. But I’m hoping that, much like other issues, admitting to it and realizing that it’s a problem might be the place to start.


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A typical day’s to-do list

I live by lists, I admit it.

Every day, my planner is filled with a myriad of “to-dos” that I set out to try and accomplish, be they personal, work, phone calls, writing projects, blog posts, catching up on e-mail replies, or just things around the house. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment to be had when you cross something off your list and know that it’s done and complete and you don’t have to worry about it again, unless it’s a recurring task.

It’s a habit I got into back in high school, around 10th or 11th grade. An assignment from one of our teachers was to go out and buy a planner. The type didn’t matter, as long as it worked for you. Then, for the rest of the year (and the following year if you had that teacher, Mr. Hanley, again), you were to keep track of all your appointments, schedules, assignments and more. The purpose was to help us become better organized individuals before college. I can’t speak for anyone else in the class, but it definitely ended up working for me, and quickly became a habit that I carried over into college and then onward to the rest of my life.

In fact, at this point each year, I find myself doing the annual purchase of a new planner for the upcoming year. You don’t need anything expensive. While I’ve seen planners that are in the double digits, I frequently find mine at any $1 store. Another year, another 365 days of lists, of projects, of things to do.

Suddenly, though, I find things are changing a bit.

Sure, I’m still writing out my lists the night before of what I want to get done the following day or in the days ahead. Yes, I’m still typically piling as much into those lists as possible, as I always seem to have way too many things on the burner to handle at once. What has changed, though, is how much gets crossed off them.

What, in years past, would equate to me burning the midnight oil and running myself ragged to accomplish every single thing on the list, has dwindled. The lists are the same, but usually I average only a few things, some days only one, on those lists. A lot has happened in those times between then and now. I’ve graduated college, I’ve been in the same career field for more than five years, I’ve gotten married, and we’ve had our son. All life changing experiences that come with their own built-in responsibilities.

So it shouldn’t have come as so much of a surprise to me when the “crossed off” items on my lists were becoming so few each day. Initially, it would make me annoyed, some times a little depressed. “How is it I used to accomplish so much and now feel that I accomplish so little?!” I would think to myself. I would even try to cram as much as possible into the weekends because so much time, between work and home life was eaten up during the weekdays and weeknights.

I used to think when a weekend concluded and I hadn’t crossed everything off my to-do list that time had been wasted. Now, though, I realize it’s just more time spent with my wife and son, and that’s never a waste of time.

You only live once. Don’t get caught up in the to-dos of a list that won’t stand the test of time when you can be investing in the greatest commodity you have, your loved ones.



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