The Art Of Leaving Things Undone

Photo credit: Jordan Whitt

The three of us ran like young gazelles. Leaping and bounding through tall grass into the welcoming woods beyond. With the school year over, the promise of summer was upon us. Warm nights, skinned knees, blue belly lizards and lunches in the tree house. We were three young friends in the neighborhood. Bonded by age, spirit and the joy of youthful living.

Each new day brought laughter and adventures. And our furry companions! There was Rosey and Clancy, matching and goofy Irish Setters who often escaped the neighbor’s backyard. There was Chrissy the German Shepherd and Ebony our dark poodle. There were cats too, but they were largely indifferent to our boyhood exploits. Typical cats.

Dad would come home as the sun was setting. In his suit, carrying his leather briefcase. How foreign to me his world of work, responsibilities and commitments was. It was not my time yet for adult constraints. My world was an open landscape of dreams, possibilities, play and carefree living. A time when I could sleep in, except for Saturday morning cartoons. Dad used to tell me, “Enjoy your summer. Too soon the other life will intrude.”

Fast forward forty one years. That ten is year old boy is now 51. His childhood buddies have long since moved on. Different paths led us apart. Sort of a benevolent drift. The “other life” my father alluded to has indeed intruded.

Adulthood has a way of doing that. It trims away your imagination first. Usually during adolescence, when we start to care less about fantasy and toys and childhood things. When we begin to worry about how we look and what others think. Before long there are relationships, careers and commitments.

We come home one day to our own children and realize that we are the ones in suits now. Carrying leather briefcases. Exploring open fields and imaginary worlds have become a blur. We turn to new forms of entertainment. Television. Alcohol. Social media. We fill out checklists and establish goals. Objectives. Lose weight. Clean out the attic. Do more. Get ahead.

I remember one Saturday my father sitting on the back patio with a glass of iced tea. There was a gentle breeze and he was leaning back with his eyes shut. I asked him, “What are you doing, Dad? I thought you were going to hack the weeds on the hillside today?” He smiled, looked at me and said, “I’m practicing the fine art of leaving things undone.”

Sometimes our souls are worn out. Too much hustle, work, competition and responsibility. Too much adulthood. Sometimes we just need to leave some things undone. Go run again in the open field. Hike deep into the woods and recapture that youthful spirit.

The art of leaving things undone is not about being irresponsible. It’s about taking some time, here and there, to reacquaint ourselves with our childhood. Learning to see the world, for a little while, through our ten year old eyes again. They say there comes a time to let go of childish things. But maybe there are times when we should hold fast to them? To regain our sanity, joy and hope.

If you’re feeling the weight of the world, go ahead and allow yourself this small indulgence. Clear your calendar occasionally and embrace the art of leaving things undone. All the commitments and urgent stuff will be there when you get back. Just relax, let go of it all and learn to be in the moment. There is much peace and calm there.

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(Post originally published here.)