My close friends have twin boys. They are now adults and away at college. According to their family legend, my friend and his wife had their then eight-year old boys into all kinds of sports and extracurricular activities; too many commitments by anyone’s measure. It was piano one night, karate on two other nights, basketball practice, soccer practice and games on the weekend as well. During the boys’ grade school years, it was as though almost every single night of their family’s calendar was booked. Their lives marched to the beat of this drum until their world had become just one giant schedule of practices, games and performances.
One day, one of the boys stopped his parents dead in their tracks when he cried out in desperation, “Piano, basketball, soccer, school and karate — this family has no time to play!”
Do you ever marvel at how our kids and other young people are able to pierce our mental chatter with lighting rods of wisdom? At times, I’ve wondered about it but lately I’ve given up on the exercise. I am starting to wonder if I came here full of wisdom and knowledge and paradoxically, lost it as a result of my schooling. Since my final commencement, I have spent the balance of my years trying to recover what was perhaps mine at the very start. I am embracing the increasingly obvious fact that my children were not entrusted to me in order that I could teach them. On the contrary, my kids have been sent to teach me. With their simple words and deeds, they are breathing into my soul all of the messages that I long to again embrace and embody.
It took my becoming a father before I could legitimately qualify for an advanced placement course. My classroom is my family. The syllabus changes with each passing day but it is perfectly suited to stretch me and to help smooth the edges that previously would have had me pose inside my cheap disguise. My wife and kids’ grading scale thankfully involves a generous curve.
Like most everyone else, I can find it difficult to maintain a positive disposition while managing my growing list of commitments. Some days it feels as if a sand storm kicks up within my Franklin Planner or in my Outlook inbox, whisking away all the well laid plans for my day. Sudden spikes in demand for my time and attention can shake me and leave me wondering if the latest tempest will ever subside. My frenzied pace to keep up begins to gnaw at me from the inside out and plunges my “joy meter” to near zero. Sadly, the first things to get squeezed off of the list when the “fertilizer” hits the fan are often my most trusted sources of personal satisfaction. I must carefully control my attention and efforts, or joy and fun take flight during the crunch times.
During a recent homily, I was challenged to set 30 minutes aside each day for quiet prayer-time and reflection, except on the days when my schedule is jammed-packed. It is on those days when I must set aside 60 minutes in solitude to keep the right perspective so I can nurture inner peace and joy. Busyness can swallow us. It will leave us feeling hollowed out when we recognize that we have built in zero time for fun amidst our busy lives. Our resolve to this discipline will lead us to gain a valuable perspective and remind us to take time to play and remember what it is like to live in the moment !
It is important to set aside the time to grow back and play. Will you gift yourself and your family with protected time blocks during which you are completely unplugged and emptied of the stress and strain that comes with an over-booked schedule and your burgeoning list of to-do’s?
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!