A short time ago I felt a deep seated resentment brewing. But it wasn’t toward a person. I had grown resentful of my to dos. Every morning, it seemed, I filled my journal carping about what needed to get done—and feeling shame about what hadn’t. How could I have frittered away so much time? Why did I sign up for that responsibility? When can I ever get some downtime for myself? The fretting went on like this for several weeks, page after page, as I spilt words of resentment in my journal. Even I was growing sick of my bellyaching.
It all came to sudden end when I read Ken Gire‘s delightful book Seeing What is Sacred. In it he quotes a short story from Ernest Thompson Seton‘s book, The Gospel of the Redman. The story, entitled “The Onion Seller” reads:
In a shady corner of the great market at Mexico City was an old Indian named Pota-lamo. He had twenty strings of onions hanging in front of him. An American from Chicago came up and said:
“How much for a string of onions?”
“Ten cents,” said Pota-lamo.
“How much for two strings?”
“Twenty cents,” was the reply.
“How much for three strings?”
“Thirty cents,” was the answer.
“Not much reduction in that,” said the American. “Would you take twenty-five cents?”
“No,” said the Indian.
“How much for your whole twenty strings?” said the American.
“I would not sell you my twenty strings,” replied the Indian.
“Why not?” said the American. “Aren’t you here to sell your onions?”
“No,” replied the Indian. “I am here to live my life. I love this market place. I love the crowds and the red serapes. I love the sunlight and the waving palmettos. I love to have Pedro and Luis come by and say: ‘Buenos dias’, and light cigarettes and talk about the babies and the crops. I love to see my friends. That is my life. For that I sit here all day and sell my twenty strings of onions. But if I sell all my onions to the customer, then is my day ended. I have lost my life that I love and that I will not do.”
Reading that story made me realize that my many to dos were, in fact, a blessing of onion strings. To wish them away would erase the creativity they inspire, the interactions I enjoy with others because of them, and the satisfaction of a day well spent working on them. Had I been granted my wish, had my to dos been instantly vanquished, perhaps something important in my life would have been lost too.
Encourage another reader with your comments: What ways have you found to keep a positive view about your workload?
Your admission of resentment toward The List is refreshing. I can so identify. The way I keep a positive attitude (when I choose to do so) is to remember I am blessed to have strength, mental resources, and opportunity to have a list in the first place. Many would give anything to have “a life” that demands they accomplish certain things. It’s an issue of gratitude, and a remembrance that we are put on the earth to work hard.
Right on Jean! Thanks for your incisive comment.