This month, Susan Meier talks about finding balance between the things you want to do and the things you have to do...
Most of you know, my oldest son has epilepsy and can’t live on his own. Oh, he wants to…Sweet Lord, he wants to. But a big seizure the other night reminded him that there has to be somebody around to take care of him—enter mom.
I don’t just call 9-1-1 when he’s in trouble. I don’t just take him to doctor’s appointments and pharmacies for the meds he needs to stay alive. I drive him to church. (He doesn’t like to always go everywhere with his parents. So he goes to one service; we go to the next. LOL) I drive him to Starbucks for coffee – twice a day. Yes, buy stock in Starbucks, if you haven’t already. I’ve seen their lines.
But more than those obvious things, I also play Yahtzee and Wii golf with him when he’s bored. I listen when he talks. I hug him and sometimes rub his back at night, because, as I told my older sister, it once dawned on me that an adult who is single because they are sick doesn’t get touched a lot.
Imagine a life without touch, a world where no one cared enough about you to touch you…when I did, tears filled my eyes. If I didn’t have a husband who caught my hand or slapped my butt when I made a good golf shot (Luckily, that doesn’t happen often or we’d get kicked off the course) there’d be a hole in my heart. If I didn’t have kids or grandkids who hugged me hello and goodbye, the hole would be bigger.
I know there’s a hole in Michael’s heart. An emptiness that no one can fill.
So when I think “balance” (which is supposed to be the topic of this monthly column, btw) I don’t think of bubble baths and time for myself, though I love bubble baths and will fiercely protect my precious alone time…I think of Michael.
He balances his life by prioritizing. He must take meds. He must see a doctor regularly. He must get a good night’s sleep. He must spend time at the gym. He must live with someone. And in living with someone, he has chores. (Everybody should be responsible for at least their own corner of the house!) After that, he likes sports (loves sports). He loves walking around the neighborhood talking to and sometimes helping the older folks who live up the street. He loves food. (You might also want to buy stock in Taco Bell.) And he loves sappy movies.
So if you’re looking for balance, you might want to try the strategy of someone who is sick. First, do what you have to do. Then do what you want to do. Sometimes the ‘have tos’ outweigh the ‘want tos’ but here’s the deal. All those things you “have to do” come with rewards. Washing dishes is part of having a clean house. (I’m crazy, mad in love with having a clean house. Your level of joy over clean dishes may not equal mine.) Carting kids to sporting events nets exercised kids and well-rounded adults. Doing your day job should result in a paycheck.
‘Want tos’ are important but I sometimes think ‘have tos’ get a bad rap. Don’t think of them as drudgery as much as paying it forward. If you do everything you need to do now, your future self will have good kids, a good house and hopefully a bank account. And you’ll end up pretty darned happy.
Living with someone who needs me taught me that. It’s joy to see him as happy as he is most days and know he is that way because I take good care of him. Sure, he’s a ‘have to’ but love makes him a ‘want to’.
That’s what life is all about. Learning to find the joy in your ‘have tos’ not just your ‘want tos’.
Susan's latest book, The Boss's Fake Fiancee, is out now. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Are you good at prioritizing? Is it something you know you have to do but haven't quite got around to yet? Is saying no a problem for you? Tell us in the comments or use #WriteLifeBalance on Social Media to join the #PHS discussion on this subject.