What I am thinking as I sit down to write this today is, “Ok, People…or Ok, me…this has got to be QUICK because instead of my usual million and two things to do, I have a million and eleven things to do today. And I have a sick kid. and I have a kid that gets out of school early today. and I have a very large and growing list of things that need to get done that never get done but items keep getting added to it…and I have a husband that is interrupting my thought process:) “Do we have any milk for my coffee?” No. the kids drank it all at breakfast. “Do we have any creamer?” No. That stuff is gross. “Is that soy milk any good?” No. It is vanilla and would taste like yuck in your coffee and it has been in there for …I don’t know…let’s just say it probably isn’t the freshest. But he just put the soy milk in there anyway. Old stuff doesn’t bother him. You should have seen how much food I threw out of his fridge and freezer and panty at his house after we got married.Scary.
Now is is an hour later… for real. So much for “quick”. My sick kid made his way to the kitchen…asked to see a doctor…we had a talk about how colds and flu and other viruses just have to run their course. I gave him some DayQuil and a bowl of Cream of Wheat..it took me ten minutes to make it and took him 30 seconds to eat three bites and say he was done and was going back to bed. I told him that he needs to be careful. He “burns the candle at both ends”. Too much to do…too many exhausting activities…too many balls in the air and things to keep up with…too little sleep and too much stress. And he is just a kid!
Sound familiar? Is that how your life is? How often are we asked, “How are you? What’s been going on?” And we answer, “Oh I’ve just been so busy!…” Then maybe we elaborate… and give the poor soul, who took the time from their busy day to ask, our entire life history including the latest on our ingrown toenail treatment and uncle Lester ‘s latest bout of gout and little Joey’s trouble with math.
The poor soul who asked about your life, and then heard about it, really meant to say, “Hi. There you are.” My Freshman Philosophy professor Phil Hamlin at the University of Tennessee told us one time that when people ask, HOW? they are really just acknowledging that they know and see the other person…so really “there you are” is what most people mean when they say, “How are you?”
For a lot of people I think that is true. Most people don’t truly want to stop, stand still and listen for an open-ended amount of time to the answer to “How?”
But some people do want to know how other people are. Some people aren’t rushing to do the scribbled list of thing on the ripped yellow legal pad page or the back of the gas bill envelope.
I have been talking recently about my pastors sermons on his book, “Fresh Air”. Many of us are stuck in a place (“the doldrums”) where there is no air…no breath…to propel out of our stuck/ helpless place or situation. We try to fake it; we put off dealing with it…to the point where we give up trying…until we either literally or figuratively die.
One reason we have no breath is because we live our life at such a hectic pace. “I’m so busy!” “I’m too busy!” “I have too much to do!” “There is just not enough hours in the day!” not enough hours in the day for what? For things that matter …like listening to the person who actually wants to – or needs to tell somebody how they are? What is our normal answer when we get asked, “How are you?” Have we wizened up to the fact that the asker really doesn’t want to know… they are only asking to be polite. Or have we enough knowledge of how busy other people are and how full of drama their lives are that we don’t want to burden them with ours? Or do we not want to have to be burdened by taking a minute from our day and answering?
I don’t know. All of the above depending on the day or time of day or who it is or where you are or what you are doing? Isn’t life about relationships? Are we fostering relationships…cultivating new or trying to strengthen existing relationships? Or are we too busy. Honestly, I do a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE job of nurturing my friendships or putting myself out there to develop new friendships. I am an old dog with terrible habits and no deep desire to learn new tricks. I do NOT call people or stop by for a visit or make a plan to go have coffee or take a walk or invite people to watch the game or have dinner. BUT I NEED TO, darn it! The painful truth is that besides being an old dog, I am an EXTROVERTED INTROVERT. I don’t know if that is a real label for a personality…but it describes me because when I am around people I have a wonderful time. I love to interact. If there is an occasion to be out and about…a party, a family get-togehter…a business function, I will almost always attend. At least if it is “required.” Things that are optional…the neighborhood cookie swap, the church women’s tea party, an art show and fundraiser…likely no. But maybe. Especially if somebody commits me to it or makes me go through guilt or better yet comes by and takes me. But mostly I am very content to not usually “do” the busy …and I am pretty good about saying “I can’t” or “no” instead of being the mom who says yes to everything…president of PTO…treasurer of Junior League…Secretary of Garden Club…girl scout leader…room mother…church youth dinner organizer…and then ironically is so busy doing everything for the community and the world they don’t have time and are too stressed for her own family. That is not me. Not anymore.
When we are exhausted by our crazy busy lifestyles we are actually less productive. We are more likely to be angry or frustrated when we are rushed and hurried…who usually bears the brunt of that frustration? In my past life…when I was way more stressed and busy spinning my wheels…it was my kids and my health that suffered.
When our life gets out of balance, and we are “burning the candle at both ends” we are also more likely to make bad decisions and choices…about what we eat, about how much we rest, about how fast we are driving, about taking medications that we wouldn’t need if we weren’t stressed out, sick from exhaustion, too tired to sleep or emotional wrecks. You get the picture.
Psalm 39:6 says, “Man is a phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain…” So, we are constantly in motion. Doing doing doing….can’t you hear the “Rawhide” song? “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling…keep those doggies rolling..move ’em on… head ’em up. Head ’em up move ’em on…”
Do all of the things that we do add to the value of our lives? Add to the joy in our lives or do we feel empty inside and ask, ” I worked so hard for… I did so much for…I spent so much time on…I sacrificed so much for…for what? Because all that I did, all of my “do’ ing did not fill me up. In fact it burned me out!”
My preacher rightly said, “Burnout comes from doing activities that have no purpose.” It isn’t a question of whether to do or not to do…it is a matter of being discerning because some activities replenish…restore life back to us. We don’t need to do more – we don’t need to have more…we need to find activities that have a purpose. Sitting here, looking up verses in the Bible, sharing great meaningful messages with you or songs or sayings or just musings is another of my One million and eleven things on my to do list…but I didn’t make it quick, and I’m glad because I have had my time with God…and reflecting…and I hope adding value to your day. I may not have called you on the phone, but I am calling you just the same. If you need a friendship I may not ask you “how are you?” But just know that I want to know. And I will stop and listen
The worst part of being so busy with all of our rushing around …and the noise noise noise noise…is that we can’t hear God.
At the top of my blog there is a quote. My favorite quote about peace. We can’t stop the chaos around us, but we can stop being a part of it.