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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Tyranny of the Urgent

My mind is a blank canvas. There is MUCH stirring inside but the dam is clogged and it can’t find a way out. The ‘tyranny of the urgent’ has overtaken my life. Priorities have simply become a ‘to do’ list. I move with urgency from one task to the next. And suddenly I realize I’ve traded the ‘good’ for the ‘best.’

I can’t identify any one thing in particular. It’s just a LOT of little things all wrapped up into one ball of tangled yarn. I feel like I’ve become the cat’s toy, batted around to and fro, only to become MORE of a tangled mess. As I write I’ve been awake an hour (since 4a} and after helping Mom, could’ve garnered another hour of sleep before getting up for my day. But my brain finally started thinking about being able to write, so write I do…with the cat playing with my leg and only the light of the laptop filling the room. The rest of the house sleeps. Even the cat with kidney disease sleeps peacefully.

Change and stress are inevitable in life. In a lot of ways they are what make life…well…LIFE! They challenge, they stress, they stretch…and they teach. We learn what we are ‘made of’ when a mountain of adversity blocks our paths…you know…the ones WE so carefully plan and orchestrate…and if we’re being ‘nice’ we might even ask God what He thinks…but then we balk when He has other plans.

So what is stressing and challenging me? Just life.

A cat with recently diagnosed kidney disease so nursing her back to as good a level of health as will be possible. There are complications from some meds right now where she can’t walk so we carry her to different places and put food and water next to her bed but still offer it to her at regular intervals, give fluids once a day, take her outside and sit on the ramp with her and let her enjoy the warmth of the sun and the freshness of the air with all the spring scents awakening.

Work is crazy with staff absences and growth so new staff are playing hide & seek and slowly being found. Bringing in a new machine but having to prep the computer inventory system for products, reports, projection spreadsheets, etc. – while filling in for staff absences. And possibly bringing on a new line of product as well. All the while being back up for the staff absences.

Home is…home. Bro is involved in his AA meetings so he is in and out a lot between that and a full time job. I work overtime every week so except for 2 nights a week we have become ‘ships passing in the night.’ Keeping up with regular household responsibilities, caring for Mom, being involved with church…..

A friend is moving end of the month. While we want to keep in touch it is still an adjustment and one that will bring some tears as the calendar turns each day this month. Once we get past the adjustment it will be better, but that weighs on the heart as well.

And as you can tell just from that short list, somewhere ‘I’ got lost. ‘I’ got swallowed. ‘I’ became the last thing on the ‘to do list’ which never gets done…so it just gets ‘copy and pasted’ to the next to do list…only to suffer the same fate again. And sadly, everyone around is so caught up with their ‘stuff’ that they, too, don’t see it. Until – unless – I say something. That’s not a slam on anyone…we’re all busy…and it’s not their responsibility to take care of me. But I miss the time to just sit and talk about our days, instead of walking through the door hearing my name being called for something, sometimes literally before I have a chance to put down my armload of stuff. I love being depended on. I just fear being taken for granted. Unassumingly…unintentionally…but still there.

So it is up to me to break the cycle. It is up to me to take care of me, find out what I need to do for me…to change the order of the ‘to do’ list and put me at the top. Because it is true…if I don’t take care of me no one else will…because it’s not their responsibility.

So I get out my chalk and start drawing boundaries again. Time to redraw the lines so to speak. Time to meet the needs of others…while meeting my own, not at the expense of my own. No one put me in this spot. No one forced any of this on me. I am in my situation because of choices I have made. Good and bad. And now it is my responsibility to change it. One step at a time. Start with something small and build on it. And if others balk at it – accuse me of being self-centered and shirking responsibility or being too busy to take care of stuff at home – it is my responsibility to not take that on, to talk to myself and tell myself the truth. And the truth of the matter is that Sue will be numb on the inside if she doesn’t change something on the outside, and if Sue goes numb, there will be nothing to give out of love…it will only be given out of obligation. And that’s not love. That’s duty.

Christ says to do all things in love. I want to be about His teachings. Even my morning time to read the Word and pray has been crowded out by the morning ‘to do list’ complicated by a sick cat.

Long ago I made a covenant with the Lord and it was simply this: “I will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to be totally committed to You.” I have failed to keep that covenant over the last couple weeks. Yes, what I am doing is ‘good stuff’ and loving, but if I do it at the expense of me, if I do it out of obligation and not love…it becomes ‘good stuff for the wrong reason’ and that becomes poison and an open door to bitterness. And that’s a cancer I don’t want to let start grow. The ‘tyranny of the urgent’ quickly leads to a takeover. And at that point I’m a hostage to it.

That may mean some really hard conversations. And tension as a result. It may mean saying ‘no’ more often when habit starts forming ‘yes’ on my lips before I even know it. It may mean listening more to my heart and the churn in my stomach more than the words being spoken. And it may mean shutting the door and turning on the computer and letting the thoughts in my head and the book trying to be written make their way to the keyboard. And most of all…it means slowing down and holding mutiny against the tyranny trying to run my life.

And now….I’m starting that mutiny. At 5:47am on May 2, 2015, let it be known that since I was getting up in 15 minutes anyway, I’m going to make some coffee and enjoy sitting quietly in the darkness for a few more minutes….because the house is quiet and I can. And I like that!

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