Thursday, March 7, 2013
Quality Not Quantity
I am a multitasker. In all I do, I seek to be, in the words of Cake, "fast, and thorough, and sharp as a tack." Because I naturally want to do and know at maximum intensity, it's very easy for me to overload myself and realize it too late. Despite the lies the world tells us, it's not possible to do All The Things well. At some point, you end up doing a rushed patch job on everything and then feeling like a failure. Or freezing up and not doing Any of The Things.
I started this Lenten season with a loose plan to make more time for prayer and just being with God. The next day, I had a divine inspiration to make that easier for myself by instituting a curfew. No social media or internetting after 8 pm (with exceptions for family video chats or very quick tasks). I'd gotten into a bad habit of wasting away the evening in front of the TV with my laptop or phone, and while that's fine in moderation, it didn't make me feel good long-term. Three weeks in, the positive effects are noticeable. I didn't realize how badly I needed some silence, and space for my head and heart to breathe. When I'm home, which is most of the time, post-8 pm has become a mini Sabbath to me. With that one change, I stopped feeling pressure to scramble around accomplishing things until bedtime – proof that feeling overwhelmed may have contributed to my vegetating. Now I have a relaxed prayer and Bible time, not rushing through it to get to something else, and then I read or watch a specific show or even write. I'm always behind on Facebook updates now, and various home and craft projects sit unfinished. But after 8 pm, I don't have to worry about it, and it feels great.
Our world idolizes quantity. We honor those with the furthest reach of influence, the highest sales numbers, the most pounds lost, the most lives touched. We honor them even more if they reach those peaks quickly. These are the marks of success, even within the Christian community. But as much as I fight with myself to achieve quantity, I seem to be destined for a smaller, slower life of quality. Everything about my personality and experiences reflects this fact, and even my realization of it has been slow. I don't need to learn everything in life "the hard way" – that's something else entirely. But my progress is repetitive and incremental. I learn and grow in pieces, and quickly forget again. (Thanks be to God for being patient with me.) Everything worth having comes to me slowly. Some people launch blogs, and within six months, have hundreds of followers and are writing articles and books; I've had this blog for three years, most of my audience still consists of in-person friends, and I'm just starting to seriously work on submissions for other sites (let alone have them accepted). Some people go on crash diets and lose weight overnight; it took me a year to lose ten pounds, but I've kept it off and more. Some people are dating industriously before the ink on their divorce papers is dry; I'm still waiting to go on one date, because I won't - can't - go with just anyone. But God made me this way, so I guess He's being merciful to me, even if it makes me want to scream sometimes.
All that to say, I want to start purposefully giving everything its due time and attention. Not necessarily in the sense of less activity or not trying new things – it's something deeper. An anti-frantic policy, as Shauna Niequist says. Quality, not quantity. Whether I like it or not, it's a theme of my life, and it's time to start embracing it.