Being Mastered by the Agenda

9 May

The unplanned moments.  The moments when you find yourself doing something not on the agenda. The moments when you think “this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now”. The moments when you prioritize building friendship over anything else. Hold onto those moments. They are rare, they are fleeting, and they matter.

If you had asked me on Sunday morning at 6 am how my day was going to look, I could have told you. I had the priorities, I had the list, I was going to get things done.

And I did. By 10:30 am, I had cleaned my bike, written three overseas letters and a grocery list, attacked the free weights for 25 minutes and the elliptical for 35, finished reading the Osama special edition Time Magazine, eaten breakfast and visited Trader Joes. Then a friend called and asked if I wanted to go running after church and to a family barbeque.  “This is crazy,” I thought. “I’ve already worked out for over an hour, walked a bunch of miles, I am about to entertain small children at church for an hour, I would need to pack a bag now with running gear and clothes to change into after I shower. And I had plans for today – I need new running shoes and…”

But the little voice in my head said “Choose this.”

So, after a snack of 3 animal crackers at Sunday School and a Clif bar on the T, I found myself at my friend’s house. I changed, I stretched, and I casually enquired how many miles she wanted to tackle (I assumed our usual 5-6).  “I want to run my first 10-miler” she announced.  Gulp.  Suddenly, my to do list seemed urgent and immediate. 10 miles on a Sunday at 2 in the afternoon after I’d already exercised plenty.  Yikes.  I was ready to wimp out.

But the little voice in my head said “Choose this.”

And it was perfect.  We ran at least 10 miles but it didn’t feel like it. We chatted and had a really intense deep conversation.  I felt the concerns and worries from the past few weeks fade away.  We ran into the Arboretum during Mother’s Day/Lilac Sunday.  We tackled the tallest hill in the park and as we reached the top, we found ourselves in the midst of a dance party (with accordion players).  As if it was planned just for us.  We ran on park paths, on city sidewalks, on one side of a busy highway. I stopped thinking about work and school, about my personal stresses, about my to do list that wouldn’t be fully checked off by Monday morning.  I thought about leaves and trees and as we crossed one busy street heading for the final hill leading home, I thought “I was supposed to be here right now doing this.”  And it felt important to make that connection.  To know that I had run the path I was supposed to run.

There’s nothing like the runner’s high after a good run.  A hot shower, a liter of cold water, fresh clothes – it felt great.  Hugs and kisses from her relatives, a fire pit, a grill stacked high with various cuts of meat – it was the perfect reward.  A gripping sports discussion with her brother. An intense discussion of family struggles.  The afternoon settling into the evening, the sky changing, the air growing colder. 

The to do list is not finished. There are now errands to squeeze into my work day. But I chose friendship and endurance and relaxation and new experiences.  And it felt right.  I mastered the agenda instead of letting it master me.

Don’t forget that the little choices matter. When you are gripped by a need to “choose this” – to stop the car at a park and let the kids play spontaneously, to attend an unplanned sporting event, to let the brunch guests linger all afternoon, to enjoy a long walk and an ice cream cone, to actually take a lunch break at work and breathe, to stop and pet a dog – don’t let a predetermined agenda be your master.

Master the agenda. Let it aid you in prioritizing and balancing your day and your tasks.  Don’t let it dictate to you how your day must unfold. It’s a guide, not a governor.

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2 Responses to “Being Mastered by the Agenda”

  1. Rita May 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Liz, I am encouraged by your conquering of the agenda. I love living life this way, but don’t do it nearly often enough. You inspire me!

  2. Susanna May 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    This is very good stuff, Liz.

    I felt the same way last week going for a photowalk.

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