Imagine that I’ve invited you over for dinner. You walk in the door, and smell delicious aromas simmering on the stove. Eagerly you take your place at the table, and then you realize something is a little strange. While you can clearly see fresh food being prepared, in front of you sits leftovers from another day’s meal. Tupperware containers containing a little macaroni here, a few bites of chicken there…
Now imagine me telling you that you have to eat those leftovers before I can serve you the new, fresh food. Bummer, right?
This scenario sounds crazy, yet it’s a picture of how many of us live our lives each day, dragging around “leftovers” from previous moments instead of being able to fully immerse ourselves in the moment we’re in.
I’ll share an example from my own often chaotic life. Until recently, I had a very loose attitude about cleanup after meals, especially meals during the day when I am working from home. I’d eat breakfast and lunch, leaving a small mess each time, which I told myself I would clean up later when my work day was done. The driving force here was guilt about taking time away from more “productive” endeavors of my work, but it set me up to fail later in the day.
Come dinner time, which is generally busy with kids and homework and a challenge to be faithful about in the first place, I now had to clean up my leftover mess from the day, which bumped back my prep time (I won’t cook in a dirty space), which bumped back dinner time, which meant kids were cranky due to low blood sugar, which meant stress at the table, and so on.
The “leftover” mess happened because of a sincere desire to be productive in my work day. In the end, however, it mainly produced stress in my heart and in my home. And whatever work I did get done in the 5 or 10 minutes it would have taken me to clean the mess earlier, was probably not really that impressive anyway.
Dragging leftovers from one moment of your day inhibits your ability to be fully present in the next. And when we’re not fully present, we don’t feel fulfilled or at peace.
And it’s more than just dishes or other household tasks to consider. It’s those conversations you leave unfinished because something more important comes up. The not-quite-finished bits of “to-do’s” that get dragged to the next day for months because they don’t seem important enough on their own for your full attention. Or the funk you keep inside because you don’t think you have time to work on your issues…
As Annie Dillard says, “How we live our days is how we live our lives.” Completing each moment as we’re in it is the best way to live the balanced, complete lives we long for.
Even if the next moment has to wait…