Cutting Corners

by allisonkujiraoka

At home…

  • not moving all the furniture when I vacuum, or
  • not vacuuming
  • using a mix
  • dashing off a note to the teacher without having the Japanese proofread
  • spot cleaning, spot cleaning, spot cleaning

In relationship…

  • spouting an empty phrase–or worse, an unkind word–for the sake of conversation
  • labelling people, then being surprised when they act “out of character”
  • assuming “they will understand” when the promised correspondence is late, or never sent

In my soul…

  • holding back tears
  • suppressing feelings, good or bad

In my spirit…

  • offering prayers that cost me nothing
  • ingesting but not digesting sacred words
  • being a hearer but not a doer

I’ve been thinking about what it means to cut corners, and what kind of benefit or toll lies therein.   I look at the list above and a number of observations bubble to the surface.   Chief is that most of the items hinge on keeping up appearances while neglecting the inner life.  Although I consider myself a perfectionist, I am realizing more and more that I am a selective perfectionist.  When categorizing my cut corners on scrap paper, I made a separate column headed “At work,” but in the end that half of the page remained blank.  I’m sure there are myriad ways I could improve my job performance; however, right now I work so few hours that I take the time to focus on each lesson and get fully prepared.  Standing before a room of high school and college kids each week motivates me to be on the ball.  But this also ties into appearances…and a paycheck. 

I make decisions, whether conscious or automatic, on how I allocate my time and energies.  I think we all do.  Cutting corners for you may look very different from my list above.  We cut corners:  to what end, I wonder?  Theoretically I suppose we are in search of more time, more sleep, less pain, less hassle.  I don’t think every instance is bad.  If there is such a thing as a necessary evil, perhaps this is one example. 

Yet I call to mind nights when the body is tired but the mind is racing.  So much to remember, repeating it mentally so the recall is there upon waking.  What’s on the schedule for tomorrow?  What’s in the fridge and on the counter for breakfast?  And worries:  will she really understand why I still haven’t replied to that message?  Are the boys coughing because I haven’t swept and dusted their rooms?  A heaviness in the chest that cannot be treated with pharmaceuticals.  And I count the cost of cutting corners.  There are little dings here and there, in the heart, both the walls of the muscle that is pumping my lifeblood and the curvy metaphoric shape of the soul. 

I see that cutting corners is a way of being to get through the day, and in some cases guilt should slide away.  The teacher will make sense of my imperfect grammar and poor handwriting, or she will just call me.   I consult my list again and see a passivity, a lack of spiritual discipline, a laziness that numbs me but harms precious relationship.  And the questions morph into these:  What can I afford to keep?  What must I part with?  It is the opposite of slash-and-burn; it is a gathering in of resources.  Once I have an inventory, I can start reapportioning with wisdom.