In the midst of crazy-busyness, it’s nearly impossible sometimes to visualize life without the crazy-busyness. I have to be somewhere by 8:00 every morning; I have to send all these emails; I have to follow up with all these people; before I follow up with all these people I have to remember to follow up with them; I have to coordinate this event; I have to attend that event; I have to look for new business; I have to prep for class; I have to grade papers.

The tasks pile up and I collect them like buttons: tiny clear ones with four holes, medium sized ones that are mostly black but sometimes brown or yellow or green, some with two holes and some with four, and a couple of over-sized buttons that make holding the little ones even more challenging. I carry around a handful of buttons with me everywhere I go. Soon I have to use both hands cupped together. Sometimes one or two buttons fall out because I can’t hold them all. So I start to toss them into a red bucket and carry the bucket around with me instead. The bucket is red because it’s impossible to ignore. And the buttons pile up, one on top of another, on top of another. Chink, chink, chink, buttons get tossed into the red bucket until the it’s nearly full and buttons teeter precariously on the edge of falling out.

So when friends and I have the conversation about slowing down, in my mind it sounds insurmountable — the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. Because the probability of my first developing an interest in the extreme sport of mountain climbing, then taking on the intense training required to scale a mountain measuring 29,029 feet above sea level, sticking with said training, and following through on the excursion by traveling to the Himalaya is, well, let’s just say it will never happen.

The point is that in the midst of a discussion on possible ways to incorporate slow into every day life, I sit there thinking about my red bucket of buttons. How pretty they all are. So colorful. So fun to look at all the different designs, and every once in a while I dig through the bucket and find a gem: it’s the perfect size, not too big and not too small, just larger than a quarter. It’s silver (my favorite) and matches nearly everything. It’s simple: round with four holes and a beveled rim, the inside edge of which is darker than the rest of the silver, giving it a bit of a worn look.

But if I linger with my favorite buttons for too long, then the bucket starts to overflow. There’s a brand new layer on the top — all the mini, clear ones, each a single email message waiting to be opened or needing to be sent. Most of the time, only one or two buttons fall over the bucket’s top edge, but not too long ago there seemed to be an endless stream of buttons cascading over, and everywhere I went I left a trail of buttons behind.

Slow down? How can I slow down when I am carrying around a red bucket of buttons? What will I do with all these buttons? I can’t just leave them in a pile on my bedroom floor. They need to be sorted, organized properly before I can stop thinking about them. I’ll shove one batch into my left pocket and another into my right. I can put more in Ziploc baggies and deal with them one bag at a time. Maybe envelopes is a better system.

Sigh. I will probably never get rid of all the buttons. Baggies, envelopes, whatever. Even if I sort what I have and get rid of a few batches, just as I’m passing off the envelope with all the mini clear buttons, another pile comes in.

So last weekend for three whole days I didn’t do anything about the pile of mini clear buttons. I let them pile up. Instead, I did things I actually want to spend time doing like read, take a nap, sleep in, read, drink wine, eat dinner with friends, buy fresh flowers, and read some more.

Do you know what happened to that pile of buttons I neglected for three whole days? Nothing. It was still there when I came back to it on day number four.

One thought on “Bucket o’ Buttons, OR On Slowing Down

  1. I've got the twin to your red bucket. Just punch a few holes–big ones–in the bottom. The buttons will fall out faster than they fall in, and you'll probably never notice. There are probably more things on our to-do lists than we really absolutely HAVE to do.

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