If you haven’t heard the story about the rocks in the jar, you only need to know that the big rocks go in first, or you can’t put in the pebbles & sand. And that the big rocks are what we value most. For most of us, that’s family, friends, our interests.
My husband — now that we have a bigger jar, as it were (retirement lends itself to the BEST metaphors!) — are thinking about rocks. Think of us as geologists, in a way: trying to figure out which rocks are which, and which are most valuable. Certainly our family is high.
So is financial security, of course. And right now, we’re trying to figure out how those two will intersect, as my elder son, my daughter-in-law, and their weeks-old son plan to move across the continent. My younger son will stay in Portland, where I suspect he will remain for a long time. We’re still in Oklahoma, smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, so far as our sons are concerned.
Apparent digression (that connects, I promise): I came out to Oregon to see my new grandson. But also to see my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my BFF (who lives about 90 minutes from Portland, in the cheese capitol of America — Tillamook). It’s not cheap to fly anywhere if you start in Tulsa. And if my family & BFF aren’t all conveniently located in one-stop flight tickets, it becomes even more expensive… Here’s where the budgets come in.
I will do without a lot to see my sons and DIL and grandson. Folks expect that, and we budget for those kinds of ‘rocks.’ There’s space in both the life jar and the budget jar. It’s harder for some folks to understand that I also will budget to see my BFF. And it’s not because she’s my only girlfriend: I have three amazing sisters, two wonderful sister-in-laws, and other dear friends who live closer. But none of them is Pat. So we have to budget $$ for me to see Pat. AT LEAST a couple of times a year!
Because friendships need ‘feeding.’ They need tea, and watching dumb movies together, and sitting in the front yard ruining your dinner w/ good Tillamook cheese and grapes. They need sufficient time for there to be ‘quality’ time. And you have to make sure that happens.
Years ago, the project I was working on was talking about planning a classroom syllabus, or schedule. And we said something that has stayed with me since: if your class schedule doesn’t show it, you don’t really value it. You say you value writing? we’d ask them. Does it show up in your daily schedule? Because if it doesn’t, you don’t. You only pay it lip service.
There’s a lot of ‘lip service’ paid out in the world today, especially in terms of what our real values are. If you say you care about others, and you do nothing concrete to help them? It’s lip service. And going to a Friday/ Saturday/ or Sunday ‘service’ is just lip service. Where are your $$ going? Where does your time go? And your words — do they reflect those values?
Lately, with this transformative gift of time to think, I’ve been thinking about rocks. Wondering what it is I want to fill my next 15 years with. Because my mother had Alzheimer’s, and my father senile dementia, I know my jar may be a bit smaller than others. Or maybe it just may crack earlier?
Whatever the image you choose, I’m thinking hard about what I will spend my time, $$, and energy doing. What my core values are. My perfect husband, my incredible family. My best friends. Healthy living so I can enjoy them longer — and fully. Writing is another rock, although certainly not as large a one as friends & family. I heard the Buddhist poet Jane Hirschfield say that she gave up poetry — gave up writing — when she entered the Buddhist monastery where she spent several years. She said she didn’t know if she’d ever write again, and that was okay. Some days, watching my grandson stretch his arms out to the world, or a Western blue jay circle me warily, or the drifting play of sunlight over grass, I understand. Writing is not a big rock. These others? Oh yeah.
So in my journal, I’m going to make a pie chart w/ my aquarelles. Bright colours. And then I’m going to draw a jar, putting brightly coloured rocks inside. Rocks with words written on them, like the one in my garden that says breathe. Maybe I’ll even start with that one…