Setting Priorities and Slowing Down


There is a weariness that we feel when feelings keep coming back, and we don’t have the energy or time to “stay” with them. Many of us can relate very well to this weariness. The weariness can have to do with much more than one single event or experience, but actually it is a feeling of being bone-tired when we spend so much of our time and energy distracting ourselves from feelings that we’d rather not experience. It’s so easy to structure our lives in ways that we are consumed with activities, commitments, obligations, and responsibilities.

When we hear ourselves or others say things like, “I’d like to, but I’m busy,” or “I wish I wasn’t so busy,” or “I don’t have any free time,” there is an implied assertion that the schedule (that is, my life) isn’t our own, and we are a victim of people, circumstances, or obligations that we have no control over. As if someone else is in charge of the appointments and activities on our calendar. As we gradually began to take responsibility for everything that we feel we “have to do” and recognized that we are the one who puts those things in our appointment book, we get to look at why we spend so much time filling our schedule to the point where we would so frequently feel rushed, overly busy, weary, at times exhausted, and resentful.

If we spend some time really looking inward at that incredibly important question that we can’t even see until we have accepted that we are the one who has chosen everything that we do, plan to do, or feel obliged to do, we will discover a number of competing commitments. The main competing commitment is a desire to occupy ourselves with so much stuff that there is no space, time, or energy to stay, for any length of time with feelings, thoughts, emotions, memories, or unpleasant or uncomfortable experiences of any kind.

If we find ourselves saying things like, “I’d like to,” and “I know that I should,” and “I would if I had the time, but I don’t, so I can’t,” that is a good enough justification to stay incomplete with things then we could be excused and let off the hook from having to experience the consequences of staying incomplete.

We can also take advantage of any opportunity that comes our way to let others know just how busy (that is, “important”) we are so that they can support our insistence that we’d really like to accept their offer or request, but we can’t. “I would, of course, if I could, but I can’t. You understand, don’t you?” And of course they do, and they know that we will give them the same courtesy whenever they need some extra validation for their justification to avoid whatever it is that they would rather not do, whether that be going out on a date or staying present with an uncomfortable feeling.

The system works really well, but there is a catch to it. There’s a small price that we pay for “proving” that we can’t when the real truth is that we don’t want to, and we won’t do it. And that is what we validate on an experiential level: a sense of powerlessness, inadequacy, scarcity, insufficiency, and unworthiness. And we lose a bit more trust in ourselves every time we do this. Other than that, it works fine.

Here’s a thought you might want to consider: If you can relate to or identify with any of this, consider how or why you set your life up the way you do, and what, if anything, you’re trying to accomplish, prove, or avoid by reinforcing the notion that you’re a victim of forces beyond your control. You could also tell yourself the truth about what it costs you to accumulate evidence that you “can,” when the truth might be closer to you don’t want to.

Consider what risks you might have to take should you ever decide that the cost of avoidance is greater than the benefit it provides. You might want to think about it — if you have time.

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Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW, married since 1972, are experts in the field of relationships and have published four successful books.

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Linda & Charlie Bloom

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW, married since 1972, are experts in the field of relationships and have published four successful books.