Here’s a glimpse into the life of a person with severe/moderate ME. At the moment, I am in a period of remission (yay!), which means I feel quite well, but I need still to spend most of the day lying down, and ration my time carefully. (Relapse means lying down and no people contact: not so fun).
I have self-imposed rules in order to manage my illness and conserve my energy, and for me at the moment this means:
– 3 rest times per day
– one hour blogging per week
– 3 ‘people things’ a week
A ‘people thing’ can mean a friend round in the evening for a chat, or a Skype conversation or a phone call. I am allowed three of those per week. Last week, I made a list of important people in my life, whom I love and want to make sure I see or hear from on a regular basis- and there were 24 people on the list.
I did the maths: 24 people into three slots per week = 8 weeks fully booked.
That means I can only see or speak to the people who are most important in my life once every two months. Assuming I don’t have another relapse (which is not a safe assumption), I can only see or speak to my closest friends and family six times a year. What about those I want to speak to more often than once every 2 months? And what about the other people who weren’t on the ‘regular’ list, but who it would be nice to see once every year?
I stared at my lists and my diary, and quietly freaked out.
I just couldn’t find a way of making it work. I know that Jesus said that entering the kingdom of God was like a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle, but I’m pretty sure that if he’d seen the list of people I wanted to see and the slots available in my diary, he would have used that as an illustration instead.
I did what all rational people do in such situations: I pretended it wasn’t a problem and lay on my sofa and watched Gilmore Girls repeats. For three days.
Finally, I chatted with my spiritual director about it, and these were the things I realised:
- Everyone has this problem. If we are the kind of person who wants to do many things, there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to. Even if I were healthy, that would still be true of me. It has always been true of me. Life gets in the way of our dreams – eating, sleeping, washing, working. Pretty much everyone has the problem of too many things, not enough time.
- It is a spiritual discipline to say no, as well as yes. In The Artist’s Rule, Christine Valters Paintner talks about your ‘sacred yes’ and your ‘sacred no’. The loudest demands are not always the most important demands. We have to use our ‘sacred no’ in order to do what is best. Or, as my friend Tara says, “say no to things so you can find your ‘hell, yeah!’” Over many years, we forget we can say no occasionally to the people who need us, or who ask for us, or even the people who we’d really like to be with. Jesus said no: he often took himself off to a lonely place, ignoring the pleas of the crowds, and even separated himself occasionally from the disciples he loved.
- We need to listen to God for what is most important depending on the season we’re in. Depending on the season, our priorities will be different at different times, and wherever possible, our diaries should serve to our priorities, not the other way around. One of my friends has a very limited social life, because she chooses to home-school her children. She finds it hard, but reminds herself it is a season, and she wants to appreciate her children while they are young.
- Voxer and social media can be life-savers or time-drainers. They are a great way of touching base with a lot of people. They can also be a massive waste of time (after you’ve spent half an hour discovering how much you can remember about Friends, and what kind of Disney princess you would be, you probably don’t need to do an additional questionnaire to find out whether you would be better suited to Brad Pitt or George Clooney*). We need to use these tools wisely.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV
I am compromising, and I am cancelling, and I am diary-juggling (the latter should be recognised as a bona fide circus skill).
I am picking up the list and my diary again, and teetering forward slowly, but trying to do it consciously, prayerfully, saying no to some wonderful people in order that I can be a better friend to some other wonderful people.
I am trying to remind myself that saying no now doesn’t mean saying no forever, and saying yes now doesn’t mean saying yes forever. I also remind myself that in saying no, I am saying yes to unseen things, like time for healing, time for creative space.
I am praying through Ecclesiastes and asking myself questions like,
‘which things need to be torn down in my life at the moment, and which things need to be built up?’
what in my life needs to be uprooted, before I can plant?
I have stumbled into October without really knowing where September went, but I am holding my diary and lists together with pleas for God’s Spirit for guidance, and I am trusting that there is a time for everything.
“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV
Read the whole chapter at Bible Gateway.
*Tricky, but probably GC, on balance.
[tweetit]”It is a spiritual discipline to say no, as well as yes.” – @Tanya_Marlow – A time to diarise, a time to freak out: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“This month, organising my diary has been like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube.” – @Tanya_Marlow on Ecclesiastes 3 [/tweetit]
[tweetit]”I did what all rational ppl do in such situations: I pretended it wasn’t a problem & watched Gilmore Girls repeats” [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“Say no to things so you can find your ‘hell, yeah!’” @t_owens in @tanya_Marlow’s new post on Ecclesiastes 3: [/tweetit]
Over to you:
- What and who do you need to say no to, in order that you can find your ‘hell, yeah!’ (- Tara Owens)?
- How do you use social media to keep in touch with people? How could you use it more effectively?