Back on 16th November the comic strip “Cathy,”written by Cathy Guisewite, was dealing with Cathy’s mother coming to help fix Thanksgiving dinner at Cathy and Irving’s house. Cathy immediately goes into a frenzy of kitchen cleaning. Irving chides her, and suggests she just tell her mother, “This is how I live!”
Cathy answers, “This isn’t how I live.”
Irving: “Honey, our kitchen always looks like this! It’s how you live!”
And Cathy answers with the line that most people can identify with: “It’s only how I’m living until I have time to live the way I actually live!”
(You can see the strip at http://news.yahoo.com/comics/cathy ; search on November 16.)
How many of us are living lives where we have to balance demands? We go to school, or we work (maybe at more than one job), or we have sick relatives to care for, or we have children to raise, or . . . ? So something gets left undone, or gets done only half as well as we’d like. We are living this way only until we have the time to live the way we actually want to live.
Other people can’t really tell us what is most important in our lives. Oh, they will tell you what you should do, but when it comes right down to it, it is a personal choice. Because if we live our lives trying to keep up with what everyone tells us (or with that parent tape playing in our heads), and it is not an agenda we agree with, at some point it will all fall apart. Even though we truly do not mean to, we will sabotage what we are doing, and we will fail, and then we won’t have pleased anyone, least of all ourselves.
If you find yourself in a balancing act, and it isn’t working, I suggest two things: 1) Make a list of what really is most important in your life, and rank it from most important to least. Then, 2) consider what affect time will have on these items. If you put something off for now, will it still be there for you to do later? Some things (like a novel) can possibly wait — other things (like children) go through a LOT of change in a short amount of time.
Keeping these things in mind, some of your choices may be easy. I’ve always felt it was more important to read a story to a child or grandchild than scrub the floors (which is why I’ve always had a rather messy house). But the child is going to benefit a lot more from those quiet times together than a spotless house. Other choices are more difficult, like when you have to work outside the home to provide a home and food for a child, and you can’t be there as much as you would like. Cheer up — studies suggest that it’s the quality of the time you spend with your child that counts, not necessarily the quantity.
The point is, only YOU can decide what is most important to focus on in your life. The key is to make a conscious decision (hence, those lists), and then stop beating yourself up over your choices. And the choice you make today may be changed if you realize it isn’t what you really want.
Or perhaps you are in the midst of a balancing act, and it is working for you. Bravo! Some people thrive on such a stimulating environment. One tiny suggestion: Be very aware of stress management. Pay attention to the signals your body is sending, and be ready to schedule a little down-time as needed.
Make conscious choices, and be open to change. Good luck with whatever you are balancing, and I wish you time to live the way you want to live!