I bought new pants a few months ago. I admit, I have a little crush on the purple pair. I’m pretty sure they are the first purple trousers I have owned since I was six.
The thing that surprises me, though, is what I keep forgetting about them.
All the new pants have three buttons and a zipper. No kidding; I almost have to plan an extra minute for trips to the little girls’ room. I haven’t really seen evidence that the overkill of zipper/buttons/Fort Knox at my waist makes them stay up any better, but I try to be committed to doing things thoroughly, so button-button-button-zip I go.
At least I think I go button-button-button-zip. For someone who has been wearing pants for many a year now, I am surprised at the number of times I have missed one of those steps. It catches me unaware every time. Back to the meeting room in my office I go and as I smooth my shirt I realize the zipper is wild and free. As I step into a restroom in a Beijing train station I discover only two buttons are through their holes. And it’s not always the same button that is unharnessed. They take turns. After several months of “undone” surprises, I finally conceded that I need to look in the mirror every time before I depart the house or restroom. I am [pick one] old, inept, distracted, fumble-fingered, tactile-challenged, button-averted, zipper-zombied enough that I clearly need a visual cue to make sure I am fully dressed.
Then it dawned on me: this isn’t much different than the rest of my life. I live a life and do a job that my brain thinks it knows well enough to handle from memory. It tells me that I can be on autopilot; just show up, type in a password, open the fridge, open my Bible, start the car, start a conversation, grab the groceries, grab the passport, whatever, and I think I should be good to go. The truth is, I need reminders constantly. And it isn’t just reminders about my next trip, what to pack for which country, to put the mail on hold, to pick up a prescription, or to take my pocket knife off my key chain before I get to the airport.
I need reminders about what matters to me. What my priorities are and who I want to be and how I want to live. I need prompts. I need aphorisms and calendars and friends and quiet and light and pain. I want to be smarter than all those things. I want to not need them. It may not be everyone’s prideful hang-up, but it’s certainly mine. I think I should remember by rote that I want to be intentional about:
- what I put in my mouth because what I choose to eat will affect more than my passing emotions
- managing the time I spend on social media because it influences my attitude and my heart
- starting my day reflecting and meditating on what is really true of God, life, me, and others, instead of television news because one sustains me and the other drains me
- laying down my perfectionism to pick up thoroughness instead, which means a project (and maybe a blog post or two) can actually get completed and not just mulled and planned to death and non-existence
Potholes like these aren’t unique to my daily, monthly, or yearly wanderings, but I want to be smarter than these bumps and dips in the road. I want to efficiently choose not to need reminders; I want to remember because I ought to remember and that’s that. Reminders seem weak, and I want to be smarter than weakness. I want to out-logic everything, including need and weakness.
But what happens when I work to eliminate my weakness, to weed it out with my best efforts and make efficiency my highest value? Part Two of this post tells you that part of the story …