What's Important?

and... why?

This is the least embarrassing photo of our backyard I could take. Along with grass and weeds that are taller than our dogs, there are bits of detritus and random junk laying about. A place that once hosted evenings around a fire, with twinkly lights and hammocks, has become an unruly jungle. And while no one is happy about how the yard looks, its abandonment was a choice.

When I say it was by choice, that makes it sound like we decided it’s how we wanted the backyard to look this summer. But choices aren’t always like that. Sure, sometimes we make choices based on what we want — but often we must choose between which things we dislike the least. Even though our backyard has the potential to be a wonderful place to spend time, we had to choose between spending time maintaining the front yard or the back yard. And since the front yard would be an eyesore for our neighbors, we invested our time there; even though the front yard isn’t useful for anything other than separating our house from the road. Being kind to our neighbors was more important to us than having a backyard this summer.

The Least Crappy Crap

I’m currently on Day 18 of my Covid adventure. If that seems like longer than it should take, well, yeah. But the combination of my absurdly weak immune system along with Paxlovid Rebound means that 18 days in, I’m still testing very infectious. And while most of my symptoms have waned, I still feel like I just finished running a marathon every time I walk to the kitchen for a glass of water. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. My family managed to keep me covid-free through multiple family-wide infections, and catching it now means I’m partially protected by a vaccine, booster, and anti-viral medicines that didn’t exist when my wife (a teacher) first brought Covid home back in November 2020. My current situation is as ideal as it gets. But it’s meant a lot of time to think about what’s really important.

For example, I’m back at work now, since I’m able to work from home. But catching up on almost 3 weeks of work means I haven’t been able to do all the other things I’d rather be doing. There hasn’t been a new My Big Round World comic since late May, for instance. And while I’ve managed to squeak out a YouTube video, it was on the short side, and probably not quite as good as I’d have liked. Heck, even at work, some projects that are overdue have taken a back burner as I manage issues that have manifested in my absence. Basically, every day we need to decide which grass we’re gonna let grow long, and which things are most important to us and those we care about.

So What’s Most Important?

I was talking to a friend this morning (via video chat, again, Covid), and they’re having a very tough time at work. So much responsibility, and such unrealistic deadlines for getting things done. We tend to be sounding boards for each other, and so I got an unfiltered version of just how stressful work has been recently. Sometimes we have advice for each other, and sometimes we just listen. Today was a just listen day. But along with the frustrations about work overload, I also heard about adventures my friend had recently taken with their child. Silliness. A trip to the movies. Heartfelt talks about life. Board games.

Yes, I pointed out how very impressed I was that in the midst of work challenges, the importance of time with family was paramount. It’s so easy to let work take over time with our loved ones, but my friend didn’t let that happen. And I was floored.

My children are all adults now, and my wife is at least as busy as I am on most days. But it was a wake up call for me to really consider not only what’s important, but what is most important. Because it’s easy to cut out the unimportant things. I rarely watch television anymore, and I haven’t played a video game in years. But when all the things we do are important, we need to start assigning levels of value to even the vital things in our lives. And I wish I could tell you what should be most important for you, but I can’t. Those priorities are different for everyone, and to add insult to injury, the priorities shift on a regular basis.

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps

Unfortunately, some of the most important things in our lives can be the least pleasant. My day job is indirectly dependent on cryptocurrency (I’m a sysadmin managing servers, but for a crypto-based company). The current price drop means serious job insecurity, which means concerns about income, and health insurance, and bills, etc. With the world economy in upheaval, most people are in a similar situation. So while we decide what is important, and what is important-but-not-quite-as-important, it helps to find joy in the little things.

Maybe long-expired, vintage Kool-Aid isn’t your thing. But enjoying a glass of Rock-a-Dile Red out of an Ewok glass was a tiny ray of sunshine in an otherwise rough week for me. Perhaps for you it’s a Pop Tart. Or stopping to sniff a flower on the way to get your mail. It could be taking 30 seconds to get down on the floor and give your dog a two-handed belly rub.

My point is this: Don’t forget that YOU are important too. It can be easy to sacrifice time with our loved ones when we have lots of important work to do, but it’s even easier to short ourselves. And I get it. Really. But if you want to be the most effective you that you can be, sprinkling a bit of joy into your day will only make you better.

And telling you that was important enough for me to take the time to write this to you. So please, be kind to yourself. You’re worth it, and everyone you care for will benefit as well.

(I realize this newsletter is… different, but this month has been a bit different! If you want to see the few things I have been doing, my blog, my YouTube channel, and my Twitter feed are probably the best places to look for recent-ish stuff. Hopefully the next newsletter will have lots of cool new things to show you. Or maybe I’ll just mow the backyard and send you a photo!)

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