I started a list of things I had to do over thirty years ago. In the first few naïve years I kept expecting to get to the point where everything was crossed off the list and accomplished and there would be nothing to do. Then I would be free like a kid in playing in summer. Each day lasting more than seven do now. The years went by, but the list never went away. Until I realized it never would.
I think the day of reckoning was when I bought a house and talked to my new neighbor who was 92 years old at the time. He said that he had lived in his house for sixty years and that it still needed work even though he had kept at it all this time. (He shared this old agenda item as well. He told me of the time his car was parked in the yard and he went on vacation. When he came back the neighbor had built a stonewall so he could not get the car out. I asked him what he did with the car and he said it was still there, buried six feet down.)
Life is 90% maintenance, or so I estimate without having to endure another dreadful study. Here is what yesterday was like: Bills to pay, a sick relative to visit, raspberries to pick before they mold, e-mails to answer, vines to pull before they choke the lilacs, the lawn to mow, shopping for dinner, ultimate frisbee to play, time with my girlfriend researching a weekend adventure we are conjuring up, dishes to wash, time for yoga and meditation, a little reading, write for this blog, try to find a publisher for my 2 self published books (uggh), and strategize with my daughter about a job possibility for her. These were just the major items. All this while I am on summer vacation. The agenda wasnt finished. There was plenty left that I could have done if I had more time. Then I got up the next morning and the toilet was nonstop running and my plans for the day was trumped by the plans for the toilet repair. So it will be tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.
This is the life. Some people call it freedom. And I know, compared to most, that I have it easy. It is my challenge to do what is at hand and remember that it is not the things to get done so much as how I feel while doing it. Pacing, moderation, balance, mental peace, minimizing needs, meaningful work, and knowing that the doing is the life are what matters. Freedom from the agenda is a fantasy and probably not all that great if it could be achieved anyway. Probably my last breath will be no different from all the rest.
Alan Watts, an American philosopher and practitioner of Zen, wrote about his time living at a monastery in Japan. Each day the monks would do physical labor and Alan would find ways to do the work faster and more efficiently. He would tell his ideas to the Zen master and then the next day nothing would change. Finally, he went to the master and asked him why he disregarded all his ideas. He was told that the labor wasnt about trying to get more work done faster. The positive effect physical labor had on grounding the monks was the point. Outcomes be damned.