“Take care of the golf balls first–the things that really matter.”

For awhile, I’ve been wanting to share a story with all of you, but I just didn’t know how. Many of you may have heard this before, but even so, it always makes me feel a little better. So, here it is.  

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A Jar of Mayo and Two Cups of Coffee

When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions–and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else–the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your  spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first–the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

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Have I really not posted in over a month?

That’s embarrassing and unacceptable, but I promise I haven’t just been sitting around twiddling my thumbs.

I wanted to share this story for awhile, but I also couldn’t decide if I wanted to add my two cents to the story. What could I see that hadn’t already been said, and  how could I say eloquently?

I don’t know if I’ve figured out the eloquent part, but I do have things to say.

I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the superficial things in our life-‘what am I going to do on my day off? ”I wish I could buy concerts tickets’.’ How should I get my hair done for the summer?’ You may laugh, but it’s probably because you’ve had some of these very same thoughts. When you think about it, we waste an incredible amount of our time worrying about the sand-the trivial things.

We worry about our job, our education, our homes. But even without these things, we would still be fine if we knew we still had our family, friends, passions, and health.

On March 2nd, our 8-year old golden retriever, Minnie Mouse, passed away. It was completely unexpected and we had next to no time to say good-bye. I was devastated. I cried, I sulked, I wallowed. I think it’s a natural response when you love someone (yes, I know she wasn’t a human) you love. Within a month, we’d gotten another golden retriever in our home-Luna Love-of-my-life-Good.

Going away to grad school, I feel like I’ve missed a lot. I knew I’d miss out on the last few years of our dogs’  lives, but I never expected it would come so soon. Now that we’ve lost one dog, and have gotten another, I feel like I’m sometimes missing out on our new puppy growing up.

If you haven’t guessed this already, I’m a worrier. I’m also very driven and perfectionistic in many aspects of my life. I want to do and get what’s best for me. I want to embrace every opportunity in my path, which often means I worry about the little things. I concern myself with the sand, when I should be worried about the golf balls.

When I found out about our dog, I was still at school. I had a class that evening and I actually contemplated staying for class because I couldn’t miss class in graduate school.  And that’s when it hit me-what’s one class going to matter in the scheme of things, when I could be home saying goodbye and being with my family?

So, I went home.

I forgot about the sand.

I took care of the golf balls first.