Lately, my brain is tired. Even at night, when I lay down to sleep, it’s working, churning, computing. If it was making a sound, I suspect it would be like that of a CD going round and round—cha-chink, cha-chink, cha-chink—unable to be read by the CD player.
I’m a fan of lists, but even my lists have lists these days. I’m trying to move through my days at a slower pace because the after-school scheduling is really taking its toll.
Perhaps this is a common problem at this time of year. I’ve spent more time lately trying to schedule appointments than actually keeping them! Case in point: one of my piano students is a multi-talented girl involved in a variety of sports all year long. Because my daughter, too, participates in sports, I offer some flexibility to my piano students, with the understanding that I occasionally will ask it of them. It’s an arrangement that usually works.
Enter soccer season, an animal even more complicated and time-consuming than volleyball, basketball, and track. But, with an exam looming in June, my student needs to still be at lessons, despite her four-nights-a-week soccer commitments. It took several emails and a phone call or two to solve this.
Then there was a potential new piano student, part of another very busy family. Again, email after email was exchanged, just to find a time for an interview.
We live in a world absolutely brimming with opportunities. Add to that our everyday responsibilities like work, grocery shopping, and childcare, and we are, at times, completely over-loaded. It’s hard to say no—there’s so many good things to be part of.
Because I believe in the arts, I’m a member of the Mountain View Arts Society and a contributing member of the Mountain View Arts Festival committee. I’m also volunteering to help organize the Festival’s Opening Reception. Because my children attend Olds Koinonia Christian School, I’m also deeply invested there, serving on the Board and, right now, on another subcommittee associated with this Board.
I believe the value of music, so I teach piano and give my time to the Olds and District Music Teachers Association. I value the written word so I write and edit. I value my children’s skills and needs, so I support them in sports and social events and schoolwork. My eldest daughter is graduating from high school this year, so there was time set aside for hair-styling and the purchase of jewelry and a dress. She wanted to see the world, so we helped her live in Japan. She desires to go to university, so we are filling in paperwork and hatching plans.
We want to spend time as a family and show our exchange student more of our province, so we are camping and taking a trip to West Edmonton Mall and Banff, and even some fun as simple as a walk downtown to K&W for a milkshake.
All these things are important. And because I’m the type of person who likes to do things well, sometimes I get caught up in them and they, in a sense, take over my life.
Years ago, when I was a preschool teacher’s assistant, I spoke with the grandmother of one of my students, who was also the caregiver/guardian of her many grandkids. When I asked her if she was available to do something, she threw up her hands in a gesture of surrender and said, “My time is not my own.”
Sometimes I feel the same way. But that statement is really a cop-out, almost martyr-like. Time, like anything precious, needs to be managed. I’m not calling for rigid plans with no flexibility—that’s just a recipe for crazy-making. But, seriously, what are we doing with time? Perhaps we should ask ourselves which of those valuable things are non-essentials? Perhaps we need to consider saying “no” or “not now” to some of them?
I remember seeing a beautiful picture with a woman dressed in pink holding pink flowers, and the caption, a quote from Oprah, read “You can have it all, just not all at once.”
This has always stayed with me. Good advice, especially to women. We want to be there with our kids, not missing a single tear, or game, or parent-teacher interview, all while simultaneously earning income, working on our marriages, volunteering, and managing every other detail that goes into a making a family work. I myself have made every effort in this, but it’s an impossible goal to execute perfectly, one that just makes us feel guilty when we can’t meet it. I’ve had to give it up. The ideal, I mean. I forgive myself when I drop a ball or two, when I forget to pick up cat food or double-book myself with two appointments in the same time slot.
More than my words, I’m aware that those who I most want to positively influence (ie. my kids) are watching my actions. I can say I value a life-style of peace and fulfillment, but what am I modeling? Over the last few years, we cut back on extra-curricular activities—now that my children are nearly grown, I sometimes wonder if that was the right choice. But then I consider the facts: they’ve had their taste of dance, horse-back riding, gymnastics, choir, and piano. Are they experts? No? Could I have re-enrolled them? Yes. Can they continue in these areas later in life, should they choose to do so? Yes.
Instead of enrolling them in extra-curricular activities, Richard and I have given them opportunities to visit large portions of mainland United States and even Hawaii. They have chunks of unstructured time to relax, hang out with friends, be creative (write, design, draw, compose music). We spend evenings and weekends together, and almost always share supper at the kitchen table. We make holidays out of sports tournaments. I’m usually home when they leave in the morning for school and when they return at the end of the day.
I’ve also modeled what it looks like to follow your dreams, by writing regularly and teaching music and volunteering in places that align with my personal values.
Saying no to a few things enables us to say yes to what really matters to us. In our Have It All Now world, this takes courage. But the rewards are exponential.