“When do you leave?” I asked my young friend Donovan, a barista by day and performer by night.
“Hopefully soon. My roommate has to find a job before we can leave. It’s hard because I feel like my life is on hold.”
“Yeah I know that’s tough,” I said.
With the relationship we have I knew he’d welcome some advice.
“What I’ve found helps in this kind of situation is actively waiting. So, you know you’re going to be moving, which is a huge effort, but just because you don’t have a date doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing. Start cleaning out your closets—sort, pitch, organize. You know all that fun stuff. It will make the waiting go by so much faster.”
“You’re so right,” he said. “It makes perfect sense and I totally need to do that.”
I went on to tell him about a book I’d read called the “Now Habit” which examines why we procrastinate. As our conversation was finishing, I finally noticed the penny on the ground between us. We both laughed as I reached for it.
I left Donovan to go to my Mom’s. While at her place I was looking for something and happened to open a cupboard I don’t usually get in. It was filled with old glassware that was covered with dust. I stepped back and gasped. How has my neat freak Mother let this happen? I quickly shut the door not wanting her to see that I’d noticed when I remembered she can’t see the dust. With her cataracts, she insists she doesn’t have, the whole world looks hazy to her.
It brought to mind a conversation her doctor had with us about why she doesn’t notice the cataracts. “Your brain is tricking you,” he said. “It’s grown so used to the way you see things it doesn’t alert you to any difference.” It was an overly simple yet perfect explanation of the problem.
Finished with what I’d needed to do at her place I headed home. When I got to my kitchen, I emptied my pockets and found the Donovan penny from earlier. Setting it on the counter it whispered to me, now is your “NOW” moment too.
Like Donovan I’m waiting on time and like my Mother my brain has tricked me. While I can see the hidden piles around my house getting dusty, I foolishly believe “one day” I’ll have a chunk of time to conquer them. When you combine this fantasy-thinking with the large amount of storage space I have it’s a double whammy. Space I’ve learned is like a vacuum, it sucks it all in—and if you don’t fill it others will. My very sentimental parents and pack-rat children have done a good job at making sure every nook and cranny of my house is filled with something they care about that I don’t have the heart to say no to. It’s made me feel like I’m drowning in a sea filled with stuff.
Inspired by my conversation with Donovan I put what I’d planned for the next thirty minutes on hold and dug-in. I found a box and started filling it. While doing so I challenged myself to fill one box a day to give away, one file a day to pitch, and one note of gratitude to be sent—because let’s all be honest there’s somebody out there, we should thank for something we’ve most likely forgotten.
In the fifteen days since our conversation the weight loss has been inspiring. There’s room to turn around in my basement. I have empty shelves in my storage cabinets and enough paperclips to last a lifetime. The dresser in my guest room is empty—somebody could actually visit and unpack if they wanted to.
With every pound shed the ambient tension I’ve been living with has lessened. It’s been liberating to say the least and it’s also served as a great reminder that God does big things in small ways. I haven’t found 37,000 pennies at once. I’ve found them over the course of eleven years. Each penny reminding me that change starts with a single thought. Yes, God can move mountains but generally He moves in smaller more subtle ways.
The trick is looking for where your thinking might be a little off. My Mom certainly can’t help it that she has cataracts but her brain combined with a measure of pride has convinced her she doesn’t have a problem. At age 82 I’m not going to convince her of anything different. However, Donovan last we talked, he took my advice and has been cleaning out his closets—which for a drag queen like him could be quite fun. Me, I’m heading into 2019 determined to acknowledge that “one-day” is never coming. I never have big chunks of time to tackle big projects. The time is always NOW for me. So, what about you? What do you need to stop waiting for?