As a creative, I am easily distractible. Anytime there’s a squirrel, I am captivated. It makes no difference if it’s a shiny new idea or a literal bushy-tailed creature.
You see, there’s a pair of grey squirrels (I’m calling them Laverne and Shirley) who have been playing on my driveway. The other day, from the time I sat down at my computer in the morning until I sent off my last email late in the afternoon, these two cuties spent their day running from the side of our mountain to the swing in our garden, back and forth, back and forth across our gravel driveway. They jumped up on logs, ran in circles, and looked like they were having the most wonderful time. (And yes, I may have sung “Squirrels Just Wanna to Have Fun” a few times while watching them.)
But the ding on my laptop would bring me back to reality. People were waiting on me. I had an article due, an over-stuffed email box that needed attention, and a chapter my editor was kind of patiently waiting on — and those were just the things at the top of my to-do list.
A lot of people relied on me to get my work done so they could get their work done, and I was falling further and further behind.
I’ve spent the last couple weeks telling myself the same things I always tell myself when I’m so far behind:
I work better under pressure.
If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done.
I’m more creative with a fast-approaching deadline . . .
But really? These are just the things I say to justify what has gotten me here — procrastination.
When work is hard, like writing, planning, and deciding, it feels better to work on easy things than to start to untangle the hard, the complicated, or anything requiring a decision.
In another bout of procrastination (because I truly am an expert), I went out to the swing in our garden to see why the squirrels were so interested. I got down on my hands and knees to get a better look. They had dug dozens and dozens of tiny holes in the ground.
I knew I should’ve been working, but suddenly, my life could not move forward without understanding the habits of a California grey squirrel.
It took me way too long (and a lot more distracted time Googling) to realize what looked like squirrel play time was actually our local squirrels prepping for winter. They were gathering nuts and seeds from all our trees and hiding them in holes for when the snow comes. These squirrels, long before they are in need, were storing their winter food.
Now, they are no longer running back and forth across my driveway. They are off doing other squirrel things. They did their work, in plenty of time. Every day, all day, those squirrels were working hard. They stored up what they will need, and they are ready to take care of those around them.
They recognized and respected the rhythm of their lives.
Did God send me squirrels to remind me about having a rhythm for my life?
I honestly came to believe the only way I could be productive was to be pressed up against a hard deadline. I would wait until the last minute and then overwork myself trying to deliver so no one would be mad at me.
I work hard to try to get ahead, but my natural instincts tempt me to do the fun stuff first and leave the hard stuff until last minute. I work well under pressure. And it’s not a problem — until it is.
While I get things done (because I am a people pleaser and don’t want anyone to think less of me), I end up not being a great human to live with. (You don’t need to ask my husband. You can take my word for it.)
Constantly scrambling right up to the deadline is such a shaming way to live. The only reason I’m working so hard, staying up late, and checking things off is fear. On one hand, I tell myself, “I’ve got to get this done so no one will be disappointed in me.” While on the other hand, I look out the window at Laverne and Shirley, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to just be a squirrel. Not a care in the world.”
God has established a rhythm. For you. For me. For the squirrels. Even for the ants.
Proverbs 6:6-8 (NIV) says:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
Despite having “no commander, no overseer or ruler,” this little creature — like the squirrels — is doing the right thing because they know it’s the right thing.
God has set out a rhythm for us — to plan, work, rest, worship, and connect. But when we’re constantly behind, we only focus on the work and all the other good things get ignored. Thank God He uses ants and squirrels to remind us of what is important! Our lives can be full of productivity and peace when we recognize and respect the rhythm God has set before us.