I belong to several circles that meet regularly. Many of the group members are, more or less, “retired.” Even those who are fully retired find that they are busier than ever. I’ve had the privilege of sharing history with most of them for over 40 years and I notice they show no sign of kicking back and dabbling in the garden or sauntering the golf course at a leisurely pace, although I must admit that most of them do have gardens and tackle them with enormous gusto and commitment.
The people in my group can be described as super-active. They seem to be more active now than they were when they were working full time. For example, they are closely following political news and sending information back and forth over Facebook. They are joining grassroots political groups. They’re marching and setting up marches for different political and social justice causes. They’re pursuing their spiritual practices with the intensity of new seekers in their 20s. Most are committed meditators and practice daily. They can be described as “life-long learners.” They’re teaching adult classes at local colleges and are participating as active grandparents. They’re often asked to join Boards of Directors for various groups and organizations and often say yes to the causes that are precious to them.
Whew! Just going down this list leaves me a bit breathless. My friends are making grand and small contributions to the betterment of life in a myriad of ways. They are doing all this as they find ways to get around the wear and tear of aging bodies: knee replacements, hip replacements, shoulder replacements. They just keep going in the face of the daily storms of life.
Making a mutual date in which to meet with my friends is a challenge of the first degree. I’m confident that I’m not just describing one group, my group. I’m also describing circles of citizens, young and old whose lives reflect their values. They are not spectators to this unfolding drama called Life; they are on the field scoring goals.
Several years ago I interviewed Yvonne Tally author of Breaking Up with Busy. She talks about the traps and solutions of overbooking and undersleeping in our lives.
In preparing for the sit-down with Yvonne, I was keenly aware of the creeping and unnoticed pace with which busyness was taking hold in my life. It can be compared to placing a frog in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly. The frog will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
I know that is not a pleasant analogy but it aptly applies to my life. I’ve been slowly, slowly saying “yes” to many activities that I hold dear. Tally says, “Our preoccupied mindset lets busyness settle into our lives like an overbearing backseat driver; it’s always a little bit out of view, but you know it’s there because it never stops directing what you do, even though you’re (in theory, anyway) in the driver’s seat.”
One of the ways I’ve discovered to help me extricate myself from the blanket of busyness in which I’ve wrapped myself, is to take a moment and revisit what I most value in my life. And over and over and again I find that friendship is right up there at the top of the list. Since the interview with Yvonne Tally, I’ve been reminded that I have to consciously make the decision to take time for my friendships. So, when an invitation comes in, I’m planning on pausing and remembering what is truly important in my life and make sure that my decision about the invitation reflects how much I value friendship.
What do you most value? How are you making it a priority in your life? Have you put yourself in your own calendar?
-Justine Willis Toms