Finding Presence in the Present Part 1

I’m busy. I mean really busy. There are more things on my plate now than when I was working full-time and the kids were little. It’s a different kind of busy, but no less real. I love what I’m doing, and I feel blessed to be doing it, so I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. But I am tired. Sometimes it feels like life is speeding by faster than light, and I worry… Am I paying attention? Am I present for my family and friends? At the end of the day, have I attended to the most important things?

Our culture reveres busy. We wear the title with martyr-like resignation, a twisted badge of honor. A friend of mine just wrote a blog post about her guilt over the hours she spends reading. Now, we both have to read for work – we write reviews and interview authors as part of our job. But still, she felt that curled on her couch reading, she was somehow not being productive enough. And even if she were reading for pleasure, why should this be something to hide?

We - and when I say we, I’m including myself - throw around words like balance and emotional health, but do we really mean them? When we see someone taking time for themselves, creating boundaries around their work and personal lives, or saying no to a new project, do we secretly judge them?

My husband and I are both type A personalities. We thrive when we feel productive, and we generally have a lot of energy. We’ve tried to instill a healthy work ethic in our kids, and model the sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. And now that they’re older, we’re able to see they’ve internalized these values as their own. But they may have a thing or two to teach us as well.

In high school, my second son took a full load of challenging courses and performed pretty well overall - but in our opinion, not always up to his academic potential. We had many conversations with him over the years about limiting his future choices, doing his very best, etc. etc. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like this, “I know school is important, and I’ve worked really hard at it. But there are only so many hours in the day, and I am not willing to give up my creative writing and my music, or completely sacrifice my social life to turn a B into an A in trigonometry. I do plenty of community service and I’m engaged in all my classes. That will have to be enough.”

This summer he is booked to perform nearly every weekend at comedy clubs, his guitar playing skills are outstanding, and his writing portfolio impressed the college admissions boards enough to admit him - early action - to his first choice school. I guess it was enough.

Maybe my kids are on to something. I’m still a believer in hard work, perseverance, overcoming challenges, and participating fully in life. When I commit to something, I endeavor to do my best. But, if I really value balance and good health, I have to give myself permission to do things that support attaining them. And maybe this means saying “no thank you” to my constant state of busyness.