Monday, August 1, 2016

Do The Hardest Things First

It has been just five days since the birth of my son and third child - Ewan Arthur Baird - and I don't have any deep insights or profound thoughts about childbirth to write about, except that it certainly is a sheer miracle!  More to come on this topic for sure:-)  Thanks for your prayers and support!

What I do have an insight about this morning is an idea that came to me earlier this week regarding the ability to tackle life's difficult projects.  If you ever have a long list of to impossible tasks do in one day, always take on the most challenging ones first.

Do The Hardest Things First

And the rest of the day will, by comparison, seem like a breeze.

The other morning, in the midst of the birth of our new son, I discovered what might be described as a bio-hazard spill in one of our bathrooms.  Raw sewage was quite literally piled so high in one toilet that it almost reached the top of the bowl.  After doing some basic reconnaissance intelligence gathering on the incident, I learned that another one of my children had continued to use the toilet whenever necessary, but had "forgotten" to flush it - for like 7 days.  The pile of sewage was too big to flush and would have to be hand delivered from the toilet to a garbage bag.  It was my first task of the day.  Nothing like the smell of "napalm poop" in the morning.  Ahead of me that day was a long list of other challenging assignments (a newsletter to script, sermon to write, a board meeting to prepare for).   But nothing compared to that first HazMat operation of the day, and everything was, as they say, downhill from there.

Do The Hardest Things First

I have a friend who is an elementary school principal in a very entitled neighborhood in Santa Barbara.  The parents of the kids who attend this school expect the very best for their progeny, even if their progeny have the very least to offer.  Parents regularly tell my friend, the principal, that they will "Sue the school if their kid's doesn't get a higher grade on an assignment," "File a complaint with the school board if their child doesn't win an award in a diorama competition," "Request an inter-district transfer if their daughter does not end up in the top 5% of their class".  My friend actually once got a death threat from an overzealous and irate parent.  It's a really hard job being a principal in this neighborhood.  Every Monday, my friend comes into his office to answer complaint phone calls from parents, that were left on the school answering machine from the weekend before.  There are usually a pile of 20 post-it notes on the desk.  My friend has asked his secretary to list the complaints in terms of the "most angry" parents at the top of the pile, and the "least angry" parents at the bottom of the pile.  As a way of beginning to deal with the torrent of negative energy coming his way, my friend has figured out a way to move through it.  Take the hardest phone call first, and the rest of the interactions will come easier.

Do The Hardest Things First

The late actor and equestrian star, Christopher Reeve, once told a reporter how he was able to move through each day, even though he was paralyzed from the neck-down because of a horseback riding accident.  Reeve said, "Each morning, I begin my day by having someone help me put my clothes on.  It is a painstaking and laborious process that seems to take forever.  After I am dressed I move my electric wheel-chair into the bathroom, and park it in front of the mirror.  Then, I cry for 20 minutes.  I cry every single day for 20 minutes.  This sucks, I tell myself.  This is horrible.  I hate this.  But then I always say three words after that; 'And Now Forward - And Now Forward'."  Reeve observed that after his regularly scheduled 20 minute morning cry, and saying those three words, the rest of what he had to face that day was doable and possible.

Do The Hardest Things First

The process of being born is another example of experiencing one of the hardest life experiences first, of dealing with one of the biggest challenges right at the beginning (I lied, maybe I do have some insights about child birth).  The process of coming into this world - of being born - is extremely traumatic.  To move from a nice, warm, safe, comforting and enclosed space into the bright lights, and grabbing hands of a surgery room or a birthing table, is, to use a cliche - a rude awakening.  From  the birth itself there is a torrent of challenging experiences - an umbilical cord is cut, shots are administered, blood is drawn, measurements are taken, if you are a boy a circumcision is performed.  All very hard things - right at the beginning.

Perhaps, in a way, when we do the hardest things first, we are able to learn something about ourselves.  Perhaps we are able to gain an inner confidence which carries us through the rest of the difficult tasks.  Perhaps we are able to take a measure of our own inner strength and fortitude.

The rest of life after that birthing process isn't exactly a cake walk.  There will be days when all of us have to clean-up biohazard with our barehands - but at least we will know deep down that we are capable of "handling" (no pun intended) life's toughest challenges.

All For Now,


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