I read something today by Catholic priest Richard Rohr. If you haven’t read his work, I highly recommend it. I am not Catholic and perhaps I miss some of the points he is writing about but I find that he write from a very caring, very wise and also very practical human perspective. My reading today was an essay entitled “Do You Have A Little Time To Talk?” Father Rohr says:
“You’ve never seen a people with as little time as Westerners. Yet we have kitchens filled with time- and work-saving objects. Go to the poor Third World countries and ask, “Do you have a little time to talk?” “The rest of my life,” they’ll say, and sit down and share themselves with you for the afternoon.
We should have more time than anybody, but we don’t have any time at all. We’ve defined freedom falsely as an outer thing, in terms of time, space and options. Americans think they’re free if they have more options. In fact we’re paralyzed by them. With so many choices, we don’t have to surrender to any one of them. There’s always another door to open. We are pushed around by our options and kept busy fixing our time-saving appliances.”
That really resonates with me, because I find myself struggling many times to find the time and energy to connect with people who matter to me. Often my answer is “No, I don’t have a little time to talk. I don’t have the energy to talk.” I don’t think I’m worn out in the kitchen, but I do get worn out by the way I live my life, and I do sometimes feel that I am “pushed around by my options.” I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what decisions to make, what is the best choice, and how to provide the best path to security for myself and my family, a path that protects the lifestyle we currently have. Our culture can be really exhausting at times. With all of the demands to work hard, earn a living that allows us to afford the things we are taught to want, there isn’t always enough left over for the relationships that actually make our lives worth living.
Thinking about this, I am even more appreciative of all the friends and family who have taken time in their own busy lives to call, email, visit, and send packages. I am not happy about having broken my ankle or about having to go through all of this pain and inconvenience. I do, however, acknowledge that there have been many blessings for me in this situation. I have, first and foremost, been blessed with love and support from many people who were willing to make a little time to talk, and to do more than talk. I also feel blessed in having been forced into making my own time to talk. I have been able to write several letters to my pen pal, have phone conversations with friends I haven’t connected with in months, participate in my daughter’s play dates and daily routine (I can still do hair, even confined to the couch!) and connect over the internet via writing with many others. In being forced to be less busy, I have been blessed.
I’m not sure how to carry the blessings of these past few weeks forward into the future with me. I anticipate returning to work next week and I am both looking forward to it and anxious about how I will manage, since I will still be unable to put weight on my ankle and will need my scooter to get around. I suspect that without some deep thought and conscious effort I will be pulled fairly quickly back into the long hours and high stress that I confess is often self-imposed in my wish to be admired and appreciated. I think however, that if I allow that, I will be missing the point in some way. As I read again what Father Rohr wrote, I hear him saying that part of not having time is the choices we make, and I realize that I have the ability and responsibility to make wise choices about time. I don’t want to stay in a place where I often don’t have time to talk to a friend.