This past week was winter break. It was also a week filled with record breaking low temperatures and periodic snow “events”. As a result, we found ourselves spending way more time than usual cocooned in the warmth of our home by the fire. In other words, we were mellow. Over the week an interesting thing happened. As the days went by and I had more time than usual to be quiet I started to become aware of things that I hadn’t noticed. I realized how much of our daily lives were spent running from one place to the next as we went through each day full of activities. From the moment we get up in the early morning we are busy getting ready for school and work, then to the bus stop and then drive quickly from there to get to work on time. Work is non stop busy as it is for so many people and then it is race from work to get to the bus stop on time. THEN begins the next part of the day – the after school timeframe – in the space of a few short hours there is homework to be done, dinner to be made, eaten and cleared and often a sport or club or other activity to be attended. All this while being mindful of the importance of getting to bed at a time that allows for a solid night’s rest. Our family schedule is actually mild compared to many people I know.
As I was organizing and updating my contacts I realized how many truly special and treasured people I am fortunate to have in my life. As I went through the names thinking of each one it occurred to me that many of the conversations I have with each of them are actually very similar. Does this sound familiar to anyone?…..
“Hi, it’s so great to talk to you! How are you? What have you been up to?”
“Oh same crazy! I swear my life is insane! We just are constantly running around. Last night we didn’t get home until 10 and then still had to finish homework!
“I know, it’s the same thing here – we are gone every weekend with the travel team.”
“Listen, we REALLY have to get together and catch up! Let’s definitely contact each other and set a date”
“Absolutely! Let me check the scheduling calendar on the fridge and see what might work – maybe next month – I’ll text you”
The details may differ but the sentiment is the same. Good friends who certainly love and miss each other but basically their contact with each other is to speak about how they are too busy to get together. I remember growing up as a child and while my parents were certainly busy as they raised our family they regularly got together with their friends. Most of the time these gatherings were not to go to big events or formal dinners but rather a group of friends who got together at each other’s homes for a casual dinner and to sit and talk and share their lives. I watched how they all participated in each other’s lives. If someone needed help or support there were always people available to assist. Their regular, ongoing contact with each other allowed them to truly SHARE in each other’s daily lives. My parents and their friends are in their 80s now and still are connected. Their shared life journey is precious to all of them.
Life has taken on a much more frantic pace since our parents’ generation. Technology has us “connected” all the time yet in many ways we are actually more disconnected. We communicate in sound bites of texts rather than long conversations. There is a pressure to “succeed” and often that is a belief that in order to do well in life it is important to start building a resume from infancy. Winning and accomplishments are regularly posted to show how productive we are being. Children are encouraged to participate in sports, the arts and other types of clubs and activities – not because it is something they are necessarily passionate about but because it is seen as an entry to scholarships or acceptances to the “right” colleges or other forms of achievement. At some point there seems to have been a shift and many times people seem to wear their frantic and overwhelming schedules like a badge of honor.
This week’s slower pace gave me a wonderful gift of becoming aware of how when I fill my days with nonstop activities I miss out on so much in my life experience. By not running at high speed through each day I felt more creative, peaceful, aware and definitely more engaged with people I interacted with. I didn’t feel like I was “falling behind” – in fact in many ways I found myself more productive and completing projects that had been on my “to do” list for months but I could never get to because I was always running.
The culmination for me was on Saturday night when we got together with friends that we have known for years. They live no more than 15 minutes from us and yet it had been so long since we had actually made time to get together it was the first time they were meeting our 10 year old son! We had a wonderful, relaxed, fun evening and it was the perfect period to the sentence of my week. All the mini Ah-Ha’s I had been having during the week came together on Saturday when I realized that I can make a choice to not follow the belief that the more crazy busy my life the better. Instead I am going to choose carefully what I fill my schedule with and be sure to leave empty spaces throughout for “recharging”. Most importantly however, I am going to change the habit of having conversations that talk about how “busy” we are and let’s “try” to get together and create a new habit making the time to see my friends and experience the joy of truly sharing in each others’ lives.
I’m no longer seeking the badge of honor for living the express track life and now I’m seeking the badge honor for living the truly engaged life! Care to join me????