The Meaning of Excess
“I am a little concerned with the things you have been writing,” my husband commented today when he called me on his morning break. “I am concerned about your definition of ‘excess’.”
While he can be so funny and charming, Michael also has a sharp sense of logic and a view of the world that I only wished I could experience. When he says he has a concern, I try very hard to listen because what he says usually makes sense. And because I love and respect him.
“You keep talking about all the ‘excess stuff’ we have,” he continued. “but don’t forget, everyone lives in excess. If you have more than a roof over your head, a change of clothes, somewhere to sleep, and more food than you can eat in one day, you have excess. You can’t get rid of it. And if you try, you’re just going to end up giving away things you actually wanted to keep. And then we are going to have to spend money to get them back.”
He’s right. Mainly because he knows me. I am one of those black-and-white, all-or-nothin’, “Remember the Alamo!” types. I decide I’m gonna do something and I dive in head-first, without really checking to be sure I can swim in the pool. I expect water, but more often than not, I find myself swimming in pudding, when I discover the challenge I’m involved in is just too difficult for me (at the time). I am also one of those hyper-focused, insanely driven “For the Shire!” types who blocks out all distractions around me and zones in on the task at hand, forgetting to acknowledge anyone or anything around me. It can be bad when you forget a pot on the stove and supper is ruined. Or you leave your wallet at home. Or you forget to fill the tank.
The result? My home, online folders, iPhone, craft desk, video game library and desktop are full of unfinished projects, ideas that haven’t panned out, disorganized jumbles, and “when I have time to…”
The problem is, I will never have time. I never will have time to keep my home spotless, weigh 110 lbs, hand sew all our clothes, grow my organic produce, cross stitch a lovely wall hanging, read every attachment parenting book, hold down a part time or full time job, dress like a supermodel, be perfectly rested, knit all our Christmas gifts, scrub the floors with a toothbrush, and write the next great novel. I just won’t. My poor brain, body and soul can’t handle it all.
Here’s the thing, though. What I just described above? That’s excess too. It’s mental excess. It’s the excess of perfectionism and social influences that tell me I have to “do it all”. In truth, however, I don’t care to do it all. I don’t. I don’t care to do everything listed above. I would like to, don’t get me wrong, but there are other things that I have to shower and lavish my attentions on.
Remember my Priorities post a couple days ago? I listed the five things that are my priorities:
- Health and well being
- Financial freedom
- Our environment
All of the things I said above can be part of my priorities, but they cannot my priorities. If these things cannot be shared with or benefit my priorities in some way or another, then they are not helping me. What’s more, if they take away time I should be spending on my priorities, than they are dangerous. If I spend all my time working on my organic garden while my family sits around waiting for me to make them supper, where have I gotten us? Nowhere.
Excess is not just material things. Excess can also be how you focus your skills, time and money. If they hamper you or prevent you from paying attention to the things that are important, they are not going to contribute to your overall happiness.
I need to change my word. It isn’t excess I need to be rid of. It’s distractions. Things that distract me from my priorities. That is what my sweet, wise husband was saying — to not focus so much on my excess. Because I will never be completely rid of it. Instead, he wanted me to focus on the distractions. The things that I waste time on that keep me from my priorities. He doesn’t want this new path of minimalism I am striving towards to become another distraction. He’s afraid I wish crash and burn and get myself in trouble again.
I am trusting in myself and my focus on my priorities to keep me strong. If something is taking away from them, than it’s time to let it go.