“The world is full of people who have stopped listening to themselves
or have listened only to their neighbors to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are they should be living for.” ~Joseph Campbell
Exhausted from the activities of holidays, many of us come to January with a resolve to take control of our time, to slow down, and not have so many activities pulling at us. It isn’t January anymore — it’s almost May. The days come quickly, and in what seems to be the blink of an eye, the calendar has flipped two or three months since the last time we really gave our goals much thought. When we, as Campbell suggests, stop listening to ourselves, we might find that our time is no longer our own. When we listen only to our well-meaning neighbors in our community, home, or work, our priorities can be lost, our time misused, and before we know it we will find ourselves feeling again the exhaustion that should only accompany December.
The items we said we would take care of in the yard before spring cannot be done with any effectiveness because we waited too late, the sweater needing repairs is still in the ‘to be mended’ stack and is now too warm to wear until next winter rolls around. Brackets busted during basketball season have given way to hopes for a Stanley Cup in hockey, and baseball is in full swing. I don’t give much time to those last two activities, but I’d really love to see more live performances of music and theater, and I’d like to have more dinners with friends — things I enjoy. Time is limited. Do you even know which activities you actually enjoy?
I think it’s great that parents provide opportunities for kids to discover what might interest them, but I wonder if the childhoods full of lessons and practices aren’t setting children up for activity overload as adults. When does a person get to decide what they want to do, what they value? I’ve arrived at two very important truths in my quest for enjoying life.
1) It is never too late to learn to say “No.”
When someone asks if you’d like to help with a project, you have a choice. Really, you do! If it sounds like something you’d enjoy, find out what the time requirements are, then decide if you still are excited about it — knowing what you’ll have to commit. If you’re still enthusiastic, say “Yes,” but if you already are feeling like you don’t want to give that much of yourself or your time, use that shorter word, “No.” You could even say “No, thank you,” but you really don’t have to say anything else.
You see, this is where they reel you in if you offer a reason or justification for your “no.” “No, I’m just too busy,” ends up with a promise that it won’t take that much of your time. Before you know it, you are signed up and dreading every meeting and responsibility that comes with the project. Be choosy — it’s your time and often your money that is involved.
2) It is okay to change what we value and enjoy along the way.
The second part of the truths I’ve learned is that what I valued at 20 isn’t what I most value now, even if they are still noble causes. People must be allowed to change, to evolve. Being married to someone who has allowed me to move through life the way I have is a great gift. Maybe saving the world was important to you a few years ago, while changes you’ve recently encountered find you wanting simply to save yourself and valued relationships today.
In a world full of people ready to tell us what we ought to value, it’s time to listen to our own voices.