Sunday, October 25, 2015

tyranny of the urgent

I was driving to to meet my friend Barb for dinner at Green Sage.  And I had an epiphany.

This isn't a huge surprise.  Barb is one of those forever friends that combines intuitive listening skills with counselor level questions.  When Steve and I moved to Asheville  23 years ago, Barb and Vito were the first couple to invite us out.  I spent way too much time overthinking an uncomfortable, fussy outfit only to find Barb in jeans and a sweatshirt, looking perfect.  

Barb introduced me to Asheville's fine arts theatre,  where we would escape from real life to watch movies with subtitles and explore stories from around the world.  Barb was there when both my babies were born, encouraging and photographing.  During the hardest year of my life, Barb and Barbara Thomas met me regularly at The Chocolate Lounge for liquid truffles and group therapy.

And every time we have gotten together in those twenty-three years, Barb has asked me how I am.  I always seem to have the same answer.  "I'm good.  Just too busy.  Things will settle down when..."  and the current busyness is labeled.  -When I get done with this sermon series.  When the baby is sleeping through the night.  When the boys are in school.  When I finish my residency in Spartanburg and can be home.  When my Christmas shopping is all done.  When my patient load drops.  When I finish these classes.  When we get into the school year.  When. When.  When...

Twenty-three years of "If I can just get over THIS hump, then things will be good."

And here I am in the middle of another, extended crazy busy season.  The summer I had envisioned as my oasis, turned out to be hectic.  And I knew things would slow down once school started.  But it's been months of long days, of always being one step behind, of regretting saying yes to so many things, of isolating myself for survival, of juggling and rushing and hopping from one crisis to another.

Years ago I heard Jim Collins talk about the tyranny of the urgent. When we let urgent things crowd out every thing else.  When our lives are ruled by the loudest squeaks, the most recent phone call, the class I'm teaching in 5 minutes, the next doctor's appointment for my son.  Sometimes the tyranny can't be helped.  There will be busy seasons.  But when the busy seasons last for 30 years I have to be curious.  What is in me that can't say "no" to an opportunity for making money or furthering my education?  What is in me that feels important only when I am busy and in demand?  Am I insulating myself from calm and space for a subconscious reason?  And how will I answer any of these questions if I never have time to think about them?

So I met Barb at Green Sage.  We hugged and ordered and caught up.  She asked me how I was.  And I answered as honestly as I could.  "I'm busy.  Of course.  I have a problem with always being busy.  But I'm sure you knew that about 15 years before I had an epiphany about it on the way here.  And I don't know how to get off the treadmill.  That is how I am."

Our waiter stopped by with my coconut mocha and Barb's ginger carrot juice.  That bright orange juice could restart your heart.  So can a comforting friend. 

We are going to meet again soon!  After my board meeting. And the wedding I'm doing.  And Thanksgiving......


  1. "but when the busy seasons last for 30 years i have to be curious"-so understated and tongue in cheek, and really brings the challenge to the fore! I totally concur personally (genetic?) and could substitute a few other phrases for busy seasons;-O

  2. Those perceptive questions at the end of paragraph 7 are a possible great springboard (off the treadmill) in a "physician heal thyself" direction.

    "That bright orange juice could restart your heart. So can a comforting friend." Love your crafting of these beautiful sentences and thoughts.

  3. You ARE busy! But you are so good at what you do. And? You are SO loved. And so many are here for you when you find a minute to get off that treadmill that keeps you running!