You ever have one of those dreams where you can’t get anywhere? You walk, but you don’t move. You’re trying to catch your plane, but you keep getting stopped on your way to the gate. You get hopelessly lost on streets you know well. That was a recent Sunday for me.
I had come to the realization that my dog, Charlie, his training was stalled. He needed more challenge from his surroundings. For instance, he knew to stay in place when I directed him to, but we’d mostly done this in my apartment. How hard is it to stay in place when nothing is going on? (He would basically just fall asleep.) In order for him to learn impulse control and to prioritize my direction, he needed more tempting distractions.
So a few Sundays ago, on Mother’s day (my precious day off), I drove from here to there trying to find a good spot for Charlie to work. We drove by Mozart’s Coffee to sit on the lake, but oh god the parking! We went to Central Market, but I couldn’t take Charlie into the store and get a coffee, and it was too hot to leave him in the car. Oh wait! P. Terry’s has a drive through! We got a drink and a burger. BUT the outdoor dining area, it’s like spending Sunday in a parking lot. No, that's not acceptable. This went on and on and on. By the time we settled on the back lawn at Central Market again, burger in my hand, we’d had a real tour of the area businesses.
Once there, we tried to do some obedience work, but the place was crowded with families, and, you know, Charlie's really cute. People kept approaching us wanting to touch the fluffy dog. I felt bad saying, “no I’m sorry, he’s training” in such a festive family atmosphere. I'd cave in every time. Everyone looked so happy. I mean, not me, I wasn’t happy. I felt sort of hollow, and aimless, and tired out. The whole outing was a bust. We finally went home. I lost a precious Sunday running around, but my intentions never got out the door.
So, what the heck was I doing? Why didn’t I just park somewhere and get it done? Was my wandering making me any happier? Did it move us any closer to our goal? What would Sunday evening had felt like if we’d, to paraphrase Nike, just parked somewhere, anywhere, and just DONE IT?
I used to have days like this when I lived in New York. I called it “day chasing.” I worked so much, sometimes a month or more straight, that when I got a day off I would dart here and there in a frenzy. I’d run around, trying to create all the experiences I’d locked in my imagination over the month. At day’s end, I’d spent a lot of money and had no good memories of the day.
I’m sure there are deeper issues here, or perhaps it’s just good old fashioned immaturity, but my shallow takeaway is that I was trying to have too many days in one afternoon. I wanted to train Charlie. I wanted to sit somewhere fun. I wanted a cup of coffee. I wanted a burger. I wanted a moment of success. I wanted a taste of the holiday. I wanted to move toward a goal. I wanted to have the day off.
Choosing what day to have and discarding the other possibilities is so hard for me. But the lesson I’ve learned - am learning - is that to do something, to do one good thing, is worth infinitely more than all the things I could be doing. You can only have one good day at a time. It’s only one good prioritized thing at a time that guarantees the “ahhhh”at the end of the day. "Potential" days are nice in the planning stage, but they have a pretty short shelf life. They mutate from being options to being lead balloons if decisions aren’t made in a reasonable time. Grab the one idea for today, and let go of all those other balloons.