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September 24th, 2018
Think of the sort of times when we say “I have too much on my plate right now.”
We do not say this when we are sitting before a plate full of hot delicious food after a day of anticipation for a big celebratory feast, even though this is probably the only time when it’s practically true.
We say it when we are perhaps over committed in our activities and responsibilities.
Each person seems to have a particular capacity for how much they can have on their plate, figuratively speaking. But just as a person can stretch out their stomach by eating increasingly larger portions, the capacity for activity and achievement for a given person can change. We can fit more on our plate by becoming more efficient, using previously wasted time, realigning priorities, and so on and so forth.
In the figurative world of the phrase “I have too much on my plate,” what would it mean if you had little to nothing on your plate?
In the real world, this would probably mean poverty, malnutrition, lack of energy, and more generally a default setback for any endeavor a hungry person might want to undertake.
The physical, literal meaning actually translates well into the figurative world. It’s more rare to hear, but sometimes someone will say “I don’t have too much on my plate right now.” Such a person is usually entertaining a new task, a new project, a new endeavor.
There’s a counter-intuitive catch for the person who is fulfilling the mundane duties of job and home life but still feels a lack of zest, some boredom and generally tired in the in-between moments. It may not be that some restful vacation from the humdrum of life is needed. It may be that there’s not enough on the plate. Perhaps not enough diversity. Just as a well balanced diet requires a fairly large array of nutrients, some figurative nutrients might be missing from life. If the morning donut was swapped for ten minutes of breathing and meditation. If volunteer work was snuck in after work on a Tuesday. If a project got an hour a day before bed. If a book was read for two ten minute stretches throughout the day.
If we are feeling impoverished, perhaps it’s a bit like the person suffering from malnutrition with little to nothing on their plate. Perhaps we need to fill the plate up, until our life is piled high and bursting with activity.
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