There was a time when time was a plenty. Farmers would sit and watch their crops grow. Neighbors would have you over for lemonade to talk for hours. Families would sit around the fire and tell stories while they stared at the stars. There were no 24 hour screens making noise and lights and sounds. Your after school activity was fishing at the creek and the highlight of the social calendar was the fair or a community BBQ.
Progress has come to our modern world and with it conveniences that save us time. (With good things like not having to wash our clothes on a rock.) But it has also created a million little things that now take up our time and vie for our attention. We have not one, but half a dozen social media apps and text messages that demand to be answered in seconds. There are hundreds of emails from advertisers, school pressures, and a thousand television stations on top of streaming a thousand more shows. Policies from the highest offices in the government are made in a split second with 140 characters. Our children now must have our advice on every decision they make, even when they are in a classroom with several teachers, with infinite search engines and books at their disposal.
We have so much coming in at us all the time just processing through it to see what is important and what is “junk” takes an enormous amount of time! It’s as though we are living a fight or flee situation from sun up to sun down. The tigers could come from anywhere, so we are constantly looking for them. Even way into the night, the screens flicker in our homes like the fires used to light up our nights.
With so much coming at us, we can get caught in the trap of reaction. Our priorities get messed up and we end up doing things we hate or don’t want to do. We can end up spending time with people we don’t like and neglecting the ones we do. We can end of stressed and overwhelmed within moments of waking up. All because of our instant need to react and respond.
A text comes in, we react and respond. An email comes at us, we react and respond. Our kid says “Now.” We react and respond. Our priorities in life have become who ever yells the loudest gets the first and most attention. We can become like automatic robots being pushed around by all that is coming at us, without even realizing we are no longer in control of our lives. The ping pong information world owns us and we never even saw it coming.
We can leave the people who mean the most to us behind as we pay so much attention to all the ping pongs coming our way.
Attention is love. It is a way of showing someone they matter in our lives. It is a way of saying “I am prioritizing you over someone/ something else.” It is what our children, our families, our spouses, our parents, and ourselves need most in this constant barrage that has become our lives. We are neglecting the people, places, and joys that we love the most. But we can take back control!
To stop this game of Ping Pong we must start with one action: STOP.
It’s back to school soon after a long holiday break. More than likely you are already inundated with lists and schedules and things you “Should” be at and things you “Must” do if you are to meet the expectation of every email and text from every random stranger.
What if you don’t?
What if you, right now, just stopped? Stop and take a look at the whole year as a whole. There will be things that come up that will need your attention. Your kids will get sick. Your mother -in-law will show up unannounced. But there are things you can stop too.
1. You can stop saying “Yes” immediately when someone asks you to volunteer or go somewhere or do something. Instead make a note and get back to them the next day when you have had a chance to see what time you actually do have.
2. You can stop responding to your child’s text within 10 seconds and instead let them learn patience and independence, and give them a moment to find their own answers to their test questions.
3. You can stop making breakfast and instead lay our bowls of cereal the night before, or if they are old enough, let them make their own and take that half an hour to go drink your coffee on the porch or in bed, alone and quiet.
4. You can stop prioritizing what other people think and start learning what it is you think, feel, and know. Get to know you again by watching how your body responds when someone asks you to do something. What makes you happy? What makes you dread? Pay attention. Get to know you! *Do the same for your kids. Giving them permission to say “No” is an important life skill that may save them from much pain in the years to come.
5. You can make a date night and a family night where NOTHING else happens. No work days, no school events, just time with the people you care about the most.
6. You can schedule in Free Play Time. A blank spot in the schedule where you can just breathe, take a nap, take a walk, drink a cup of coffee, or just chill with your family. Schedule in play time for your kids too! Undirected, no screen, free play time. See how this changes the moods of everyone in the family when they have that open time to just breathe!
You can do this. One thing, one step, one STOP. You can take back control of your life and the lives of those you love. Stopping the reaction and instant response to everything and take a pause to prioritize and your time can become yours again!
Here’s to less reaction and more relaxation in the year to come!
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