Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!

I want to start off this post with an apology. When I started this blog, my intention was to be more authentic and real and to share that journey with you. Well, I haven’t done much sharing lately and for that, I’m sorry. Not that there hasn’t been anything to share. I just haven’t made it a priority to sit down and write…and that has been weighing on me. This might be hard for some to understand; it sounds strange even to me. But when something wants to be written, it will nag at me until I make the time to get it down on paper. So I’m back and I’m hoping to make this a regular gig again. Because, frankly, I have a lot to say and I love to write. And also, because I just can’t take the nagging inside my own head.

When I say, “Stop the world”, it’s not the world I’m actually talking about. It’s my world…the world I’ve created for myself. The world itself is moving along at its own pace with or without me; I have no control over that. What I do have control of is what my life looks like. The speed of my life is a direct result of the choices I make. I get to choose whether or not to put all my energy into things that don’t really matter to me. Or force myself to keep going when I’m tired. Or not make time for the people and things I enjoy. I tell myself “I have to”, but that’s not really true. Everything is a choice. I can choose to make the things that are important to me, a priority. Let’s just say, I haven’t been very good at that lately.

As a society we put so much more focus on doing than being. How much can we accomplish? What more can we cross off our ‘to do’ list? It’s almost a badge of honor to forego sleep in the quest to accomplish more. If you’re tired, don’t listen to your body and rest…that would be ridiculous! Just have another cup of coffee or an energy drink and you’ll be focused and productive for hours. Even our time off is filled with doing. What’s the first thing someone asks you on Monday morning? “What did you do this weekend?” So you rattle off all the things you checked off your list or the activities you participated in. I’ll admit I have never felt comfortable saying, “I just laid around all weekend and did nothing!”

As much as I say I want more time to just be, I often allow myself to get sucked into thinking I have to work more just to keep up. Every day I’m pushing myself to stay focused, stay on task. Get it all done and then some. Last week it occurred to me I couldn’t remember the last time I hung out with my friends. Or enjoyed time with my kids. Or watched TV because I wanted to, not just to veg out after a long and stressful day. It occurred to me I didn’t know what was going on in the world because I hadn’t watched or read the news in…well, I don’t know how long. I couldn’t recall the last time I meditated…something that, not so long ago, was a daily practice for me. You know it’s been a long time when you can’t remember how long it’s been. This is not how I want to live my life.

I recently finished a book I’d been reading for quite a while. I renewed it at the library the maximum number of times and it was still overdue when I turned it in. But I’m glad I finally finished it. The book is called, Unfinished Business: one man’s extraordinary year of trying to do the right things. It’s about a workaholic in his mid-fifties who suddenly lost his job and realized he’d become disconnected from all the people who matter in his life. So he took the next year to reconnect and make things right. More than tying up lose ends, he discovered how much these connections enhance his life. And reminds us all to stay focused on what’s really important.

Little by little, I’m learning to make choices not based on what I think I ‘should’ do, but by asking myself, “will this matter when I get to the end of my life?” And I’m finding that helps remind me what’s important when I start getting caught up in the madness of more, better, faster.  I also found some great advice on page 137 of Lee Kravitz’s Unfinished Business, “All of us are going to die—some sooner, some later. After you die, what would you like people to say about you? Your answer to that question should guide the way you live.” And while that statement really resonates with me, it’s still difficult advice to follow.

So I’m trying to have more balance…and I’m finding it’s not easy. Here’s the trick. In an environment where the expectation is very high, how can I do my job well without sacrificing the other things that matter to me? When my ‘to do’ list is long and the demands seem endless, how do I make time for meditation and writing and friends and fun? I don’t know the answer to that yet. Most days I feel like if I don’t remain hyper-vigilant at work, something is going to fall through the cracks. In this job, that’s not acceptable. So the only thing I can do is continue to bring myself back to center when I recognize I’ve gone off-course. And hope, each time I fall back into old patterns, I see it sooner than I did the last time.