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March 23, 2019

The Back Burner Conundrum

The Back-Burner Conundrum

Ending a day with everything done would be nice, but how often does it happen? The reality is that many “to do’s” end up on the back burner. It would be nice if we could stick to a “prioritized” day, but the unexpected often slips in, sometimes offering no choice but to heed to it, disrupting priorities. But, through abundant conditioning, we have all learned to be quite good jugglers, and like a chameleon, adapt to change quite well. When things don’t go our way, we have a convenient option at our disposal, a cubbyhole in our mind affectionately known as the “back burner.”

The back burner works remarkably well, as we all know, of course. It is no doubt the most wonderful appliance modern man has for dealing with conflicting schedules and responsibilities. I know I would die without it or been dead long ago. However, like any appliance, it can be misused and lose its utility. This misuse primarily happens when we put several important responsibilities on the back burner and carelessly give them the same due date. When that date comes, we short circuit, the front burner can’t fit all we got cooking, and we become frantic and stressed.

Sometimes, I suppose, when we feel overwhelmed and don’t know which way to turn, we should try “off.” Isn’t this what we do when a “real” appliance short circuits? Are there not times when preserving our own sanity is more important than anything else? If we put too much on our menu, are we beyond forgiveness? When all our efforts to have worthy goals and establish priorities runs amuck, are there not times when we can say a very well principled, “f**k it,” shrug our shoulders, and turn off all burners?

There will be consequences, of course. Opportunities may close, friendships strained, and so forth, but maybe there was too much on our plate to begin with and a forced culling was in order. Hopefully it will lead to a simplification of our lives, and we will be a little wiser and more careful. The back burner is, after all, our “spot,” there to catch us if we fall, but that doesn’t mean we should plan to fall. A sure sign we are headed for trouble is when we find ourselves overusing our back burner.

It is human to be overly ambitious, if we are ambitious at all. We are either achievers and driven, or in a garage somewhere. Life puts us in the driver’s seat, thankfully, and most of us put the pedal to the metal to fulfil our hopes and dreams. As we race about juggling our affairs, prioritizing them as best we can, we might squeak through, but sometimes tasks pile up like a Los Angeles freeway. Our schedules, deadlines, appointments, are after all at the mercy of conditions that are impossible to anticipate.

If life were predictable, would we enjoy it? Is it not the randomness of its flow that makes it exciting? If we like what is predictable, we can stay in the garage. But, we don’t. We get out in the world and take our chances. We get into trouble, however, when we forget it is a game, and that we cannot anticipate how others are playing their hand. It is OK to lose, though sometimes we forget that, and when we do, stress, depression, and anxiety follow. If everyone was unwilling to be a “loser,” how could there be any winners?” After all, is there no truth in the saying, “It is not about whether you win or lose, but how you play the game?”

Life does not always deal us a “full house,” and when it is a miserable hand we are dealt, we must play it as best way we can. A poor hand played well is as respectable as a good hand played well and will keep us in the game. Sometimes there is not much more we can do but hang in there as best we can and wait for the dealer to change!

We never know what is in store for us and there is no point trying. What we can do is have worthwhile goals, stand on our own two feet and not step on anyone’s toes. Most importantly, we must keep the faith, in ourselves and the process. It is difficult to believe in ourselves if we don’t believe in what we are doing, so our own sense of self worth will be reflected the worthiness of our ambitions. Hopefully we treasure ourselves.

What need be done doesn’t always get done, however hard we try. Ambitions, after all, carelessly disregard our limitations. This carelessness in turn undermines our intentions, which in turn leads to the back-burner conundrum. What do we do now? Do we juggle the pots around? Do we turn the stove off? If we try to juggle the pots around, none of the dishes may be palatable. If we turn the stove off, are we acting responsibly? With no viable options, struggling to move forward is absurd and will only make matters worse than they already are.

I suppose we have all experienced the back-burner conundrum at some point in our lives, where the only option is the “off switch.” But at least if we use it, we can turn it “on” again.



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