A Full Life
"There's a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza..."
Every time I hear the word "bucket," I think of that summer campfire song. It starts out as a silly ditty, but if you are a Type A personality like me, it turns into a nightmare as the hapless Henry can't seem to fix the bucket, water keeps running out, and I'm sure Liza has better things to do than tell Henry how to fix the damn bucket! In the meantime, there's no water! Whew!
But the metaphor of a leaky bucket has captivated me because until recently, mine had gone bone dry. I don't know if there was a hole in my bucket or if it was just evaporation, but the water has slowly disappeared over the past few years as I forgot all about keeping it full and focused instead on, well, I guess, how shiny my bucket appeared to everyone else.
It's something that can happen at any time, not just to busy adults who try to climb the corporate ladder while struggling with with mortgages and shuttling kids to soccer practice. I mourn for the empty buckets of those kids who run from soccer practice to music lessons to SAT prep class with a cell phone in one hand and a bag of fast food in the other. Adolescent hours spent in my room, playing the guitar, writing in my diary, listening to records, and basically staying away from my brother filled my bucket UP. And my most interesting friends did the same thing, only with comic books. All that time alone to ponder, reflect, and refresh kept our batteries charged and powered our imaginations to pursue some far-flung interests that created a rich, interesting youth-hood.
Since then, I've gone from drought to tsunami, depending on the status of my employment and relationships. The more time I have to myself, the fuller my bucket. The more I try to please everyone else, the more it is drained.
Here's how it happens:
- Take a long hot bath with a good magazine = Add one quart to the bucket
- Entertain a house full of uninvited, unexpected guests = Drain one half gallon
- Pursue your favorite hobby = Add one cup for every hour spent
- Late hours at the office to impress your boss = Drain one pint per evening
- Go to the beach with your family = Add a gallon per day
- Create a delicious, interesting meal = Add a quart
- Go out with friends to avoid hurting their feelings = Drain a quart
- Go to bed early with your favorite book = Add a pint
- Take 10 minutes to call someone because you feel guilty = Drain a pint
- Take 10 minutes to check in on a friend in need = Add a cup
And so on...
There is nothing LESS fun to be around than someone with a drained bucket. And it's even worse BEING that person. Eventually, if you don't want to keep running on empty, you gotta build yourself a very sensitive water meter that you trust to tell you the truth. When the meter says "full," you can operate at optimum performance and even do a little more -- for others, for the boss, for the kids. But when the meter starts to drop (you can't afford for it to go completely dry), you MUST listen and take the time to refill. Even if it means saying "no," turning off the phone, risking criticism, or appearing selfish (gasp!).
And if there's a hole that refuses to be patched and keeps on draining, get yourself a new bucket -- one that's big enough to hold your passions, your joy, and your heart's desire.
And let it overflow.