Recently I had a conversation with my friend Gail about how I make time to do all of the things I do and how I choose what to make my priorities.
Three influences came to mind:
1. My fabulous therapist Rachel used to say to me, Be careful where you put your focus. Where you send your energy and attention, that’s what your life will become.
2. My friend Colleen, a nutritional counselor, says that she encourages her clients to focus more on adding lots of good things in, rather than on depriving themselves of all unhealthy foods. To me, this is brilliance at its best. As I’ve focused on eating a lot more vegetables and healthy food, many of my cravings for unhealthy foods have diminished or disappeared.
I have an example of how this works. From something that happened to me. Today.
I left the house without fueling myself with a good snack (having to borrow a car, going over the lunch hour, and not thinking ahead were factors.) The errands took much longer than I expected and I got hungry. I was in a rush and needed to get home to meet Dylan’s bus. So, what did I do? I ate a Happy Meal. A rare exception for me, since I recognize how generally crappy it makes me feel to eat that kind of food. This never would have happened if I had packed some nuts or had a sandwich before I left the house. I left a big gaping space for a poor choice while rushing around not paying attention to what my body actually needed. This wisdom also seems to apply to other areas of my life.
(At least I didn’t get the Special Value Meal Super Sized. So, in one sense I am congratulating myself.)
3. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Phillipians 4 verse 8 Something I committed to memory as a child. What powerful words!
A few years ago it was quite a revelation to me that I didn’t have to stock my life with obligations, running myself ragged. I was driven mostly by fulfilling other people’s expectations and needs so that I would feel loved and accepted.
Rachel pointed out that I could choose to make my life about joy and ease. At the time I was thinking, Really? I could do that? I have a choice about how I live my life?
As I have become more aware of what gives me authentic joy and energy, I have made more room for those things and those people. A natural result has been that there is less room for negativity and sadness. The irony is that there is also more space for generosity and more energy to care for others. Though I was trying to do these things before, I was doing it from such a place of scarcity that it was not joyful for me, nor for the people I loved.
I don’t want to give the impression that everything and everyone in my life has to be continuously sunny. Or even feeling good. It’s more about listening and caring and being present rather than going on autopilot. It’s about guarding what is true and right about who I was created to be…using my gifts and embracing those of others. Acknowledging actual needs and desires rather than perceived ones.
So, now I go out of my way to schedule time and make space for people and experiences that will encourage me to develop my spirit, give and receive love, and affirm a more balanced approach to my life: Friendship, family, faith, art, beauty, community, health, generosity, meaningful work, caring, authenticity…these and more deserve my focus.
Soon, there’ll be no room here for anything else. (No vacancies!) And I’m grateful.