Recently, an article in the newspaper that said, “Choose Three”, caught my eye. I was struck by the simple effectiveness of the action being suggested: “Decide on the three most important things to you in your life and then concentrate on them.” Thus, one could choose work, family and rest, or fitness, work and friends, and spend your energies on these and let the other things in your life slide, so that you avoid being overstressed and overstretched.
Where were all these suggestions when we were juggling a dozen things: work, children, friends, pets, entertainment (and by this I mean catering for parties for up to 40 people at a time), etc?
We just dove into each day, head first, and kept on until we were done — and woke up to a new day to do the same thing all over again.
What would I have chosen if I had the luxury of being able to pick three things and concentrate on those? Of course, it would be family first, but could I count pets and children and husband together as one unit, a single family, when each pulled me in opposite directions, making different and contrary — and very noisy — demands?
Work would surely be next on the list — and looking back, it seems that a good bit of it got done despite all the interruptions that came from that family. What’s more, those were also the years when I found and nurtured friendships sufficiently to keep them going three decades down the line.
What about the other things after those first three choices? Where did I find the time for all parties we hosted? Perhaps they got done because there was always at least one special friend there to bolster my spirits and help wash up and put away the dishes when the party was over.
Fitness, rest and “me” time, so much on everyone’s list nowadays, was not even thought about. But somehow, all that rushing around with work, family, friends and our “entertainment duties” did the trick and kept us fit without visits to a gym or hours with a personal trainer. As for “rest”, we didn’t give it a thought. We were just too tired at the end of the day for anything to awaken us once we had knocked off, and we got the six/seven/eight hours of undisturbed sleep we needed!
But that was all decades ago. What would be the Big Three Choices in my life as it is today?
Predictably, still family, work and friends — and I feel blessed that there is still one member of the family who hasn’t flown away, there is work on hand, and there are friends just a phone call away.
Thus buoyed, I set off with my spouse on my constitutional, an important part of my day, but midway through we disagree on our route and part ways. There goes “family”, I think. “Certainly doesn’t look like it is first among my choices today.”
A little while later when it is time to work, I am determined not to be distracted. “It’s easy,” I say. “You’ve done it before. Put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, one word at a time.” But somewhere around word fifty-five — or word five — I come to a grinding halt and another thought takes over and goes off at a tangent. My head tells me to concentrate and keep on. So I work on the new idea until that too peters out.
And just then, my heart conjures up a distant memory that I have to share. I reach for the phone ... and before I know it, it is lunchtime, then naptime, then teatime.
Make three choices, you say?
I’m lucky if I can accomplish just one thing a day.
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.