The other day, after an inspection on a home I have listed that ran late which made me double late picking up my kids from a soccer game and driving them to dance class, all the while praying for inspiration for a dinner menu my husband and kids would actually all like and then realizing I’d forgotten to pick up my dress at the dry cleaner for an important dinner on Saturday, I realized I can’t keep doing this much longer this way. Then I remembered reading a column of yours years ago about having no time and decided to write. Could you remind me of some of the things you said? I’m tired all the time. I try to be organized but life seems to conspire against my best plans. It feels like I’m on a treadmill going nowhere. Even though I love being a real estate agent and love my husband and kids and feel lucky to have such a good life, I’m too tired anymore to enjoy it. I can’t seem to catch my breath. Help! T.
Dear T –
First of all, please, sit down, put your head between your knees and take some slow, deep breaths. Phew! Just reading your note made me dizzy. It appears that you are a victim of not only the loss of a day to rest in our culture but also the loss of any time to merely think.
You are not alone. That column first appeared in 2002, believe it or not, and a large number of readers responded. Their symptoms were a lot like yours. Ever since we entered a 24/7-open-all-night-and-day environment, the world changed, and there seems to be no doubt the cost is definitely more than the gain. Then, with the insertion of the internet, email and texts into our daily lives, we moved beyond “instant everything” to life in nanoseconds, and that’s left us responding to demands without time for thought, for contemplation, even for breathing.
All with good reason. Consider the difference in our lives in just sixty years. In the early 50’s, stores and shops were open five days a week, usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. Sunday was a universal day of rest and worship, devoted to leisure and family. Lawns, if not cut during the week, were cut Saturday morning, and neighborhoods were filled with the smell of fresh-mowed grass and the sounds of children playing safely within blocks of their homes. On Sunday morning, the entire neighborhood was quiet and hushed as families slept late, dressed for church, read the Sunday papers, or prepared meals for family or friends who would arrive later in the day for food and conversation. There was time devoted to rest, to think, to pray, to discuss, or to sleep. Children were taught manners; to say thank you, excuse me, ma’am and please. It was a time of what I’ve labeled “character ethics.” Deals were made on a handshake and one’s word was a badge of honor. All that is gone. After the “personality ethics” of the 80’s, we’ve been floating in and out of “survival and then situational ethics” since the early 90’s as the rhythms around us have sped up and the noise has increased to a level so horrendous we often don’t hear it at all anymore.
Today, we can buy almost anything we want or need anytime of day or night. Construction goes on round the clock and there never seems to be enough time to sit down, savor a cup of coffee, and watch hawks float over the trees.
Our children enter a world that pulsates with loud music and harsh noises and whose rhythm presses them ever forward into routines that would exhaust an Olympian. Supposedly necessary in order to compete for success, the resultant stress is robbing them of their unstructured playtime, the very oxygen of childhood. It pushes them to race from task to another with their packed schedules, heavy backpacks, cell phones and wireless gadgetry, unaware of an alternate way of being because they’ve never tasted, seen or felt it.
You can change all that – for them and for yourself. It won’t be easy. Bucking the tide never is. You can give them and yourself your lives back in a different framework. As with everything, you may have reached a point where the price you’re paying isn’t worth the price you’re paying. I call it breakpoint.
Here are a few things you might consider. First, take time to give thought to what’s missing from your life.
Then, sit down with your family, tell them how you feel, and listen to how they feel, too. They may surprise you. And even if they don’t, you don’t have to give up what you need in order to chauffeur them. Next, create a value sheet for each of you. With only twenty-four hours each day that can be filled, you must decide what you value most and then start by scheduling those things first. If rest and quiet, peace and serenity are valued more than shopping at the mall or taking every lesson known to mankind, then choices will get made accordingly with compromises from each of you.
I have no solution for silencing the chaos around us. And I can’t change our 24/7 mentality. But I can control how I choose to participate. So can you.
The Inner Bottom Line syndicated column is found nationally on www.examiner.com. You can submit your questions and ethical dilemmas or book consulting appointments and private and group coaching sessions with Olive here.
Olive Gallagher is a life coach, ethicist, national speaker and columnist, and OR real estate broker.
Hard cover, Kindle and audio versions of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are available on amazon.com.