To Do or Not To Do?

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Sometimes I realize how much  baggage I carried with me.

Besides the 12 suitcases, stroller, bike trailer and in utero stowaway we brought over.

To-do lists, goals, purpose, objectives, outcome measures, effectiveness, maximizing, multi-tasking, efficiency.

Those mystical qualities that are touted in NY Bestsellers Non Fiction, self help books on clearance at Barnes and Noble, TV shows, Reader’s Digest.

Vocabulary made commonplace by pop psychologists, counselors, Oprah, senior executives, life coaches, work-from-home-moms, overnight successes.

And when we-the lay public– get a little closer to that asymptomatic curve (the one we never quite approach) -we pat ourselves on the back.

[If one is a woman]…we get excited and make more lists, cross things off, even start a fresh list, while reading a book to the kids, stirring the pasta noodles, nursing the baby, and checking email on the small electronic device.

Or, perhaps we are driving in to work talking on the phone (hands free, of course), while putting on eyeliner, eating a donut, and taking advantage of the car-charger function on the breast pump thus generating gallons of fresh milk for tomorrow’s feedings.

We think our life is on cruise control.

Absolute organization and relative predictability for most events.

Then we (or this case, I), move to China.

I’m slowly losing that baggage, one shoulder strap at a time.

I spend 2 hours hunting down curtain rods, bargaining for them, and waiting for the shopkeeper to get them from another part of the market (or another city…).

I go to 3 different counters in the local pharmacy to pick out, pay for and get a red-stamped receipt, and pick up the 15 cent tube of antibiotic ointment.  5 people wait on me.

While there, 3 more customers ask if the baby is a boy or a girl, how old she is, what country I’m from, and how long I have lived in China, and say how good my rudimentary Chinese is.

I watch the road repaving project begin.  The backhoe comes through and hacks up a nice row of cracked asphalt 1/3 of the road’s width, which is followed by 15 men with shovels creating regularly spaced piles of bite size pieces of asphalt, which is followed by 15 other men with tree-branch brooms sweeping the small debris into the piles.  I’m not sure what happened after that.

Drivers who take 5 minutes to make a U turn.  On the sidewalk.  While I’m try to pedal past on my Giant 1-speed.

That’s all nice and well.

For a multitasking fiend like myself who has often prized efficiency as a desirable virtue, it’s been hard.

I have to remind myself to not be critical of my host culture.

After all, they’ve also survived for thousands of years, and there are some lessons for me to learn about other ways to get a job done.

Even if I think my way would be quicker, more efficient, etc.

So many times I have to stop and remind myself it’s not always about the arrival, it’s about the journey.

I’m often fooled into thinking my value comes from Doing.

Rather, the most important things in life are about Being.

Because here, most things I can’t Do very well, or at all.

And the circumstances change so frequently that what I could Do last week, is impossible this week.

But I can Be.  Those qualities are not dependent on my surroundings.

A wife.  A mother.  A friend.

A reflection of my Creator.  A beacon toward the source of life, toward God.

An ambassador for justice, mercy, truth.

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3 responses »

  1. You take me back over and over. We used to refer to life there as “TCW” – The Chinese Way! You’re right though, all our efficient systems here seldom bring more value or fullness to our lives. Thanks for the reminder. Love seeing the pictures of your little ones and hearing about your family’s adventures. Know we continue to lift you up.

  2. what a beautiful, thoughful post. please tell B that we (his former patients and I) still chat about him, nearly daily. Keep it out there!

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