But I’m not teaching anymore and here it is, the end of May and here I am once again on the edge of too much. It might just be my normal after all those years of routine.
No one thing has brought me here. Day by day my calendar has more and more entries, each requiring my full attention at least for a certain amount of time. I try not to think about one thing while focusing on another. Between work, a couple of days with our Grandjoys, keeping in touch with aging parents, preparing for our busy dance performance season and regular everyday life, the feeling of too much is whispering to me. Not enough for me to change a thing, but the whisper reminds me to take notice.
This week we’ve been mourning the loss of my brother-in-law, Bill. Bill has struggled and suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade. His gentle, determined spirit served him well and humbled all of us who witnessed his, and my sister, Barb’s journey. It’s very hard to say goodbye to Bill. This disease was too much.
There has also been a trip to the cardiologist for Jim and while it’s a ‘regular’ visit, none of it feels all that regular when medications are adjusted, and we remember we are approaching the ten year mark since Jim’s heart attack.
When I lay it all before me, I recognize it could be anyone’s life. Different details perhaps, but we each have our too muchness. It’s all just regular life, which of course can feel like too much.
That’s exactly the feeling I had on Thursday. The weather was beautiful, and we decided to take the boys to the lake to play. We’d been there the day before and discovered that Andy is going to love the water as much as his big brother does. On that day we were expecting to play on the playground and then dip our toes into the lake, just to prove it was much too cold to swim yet. I should have remembered that Ben’s last day of swimming was October 26th, a day when it was about 10°C outside and the water was 9°C. So that is how we found ourselves at the beach, with no swimsuits or playthings, with Ben right in the water and Andy and I ‘walking’ along the shore in ankle deep ice water!
On Thursday we got smart and prepared fully for a beach day. Andy’s nap was going longer than normal so Ben and I headed off on foot, him on his strider and me towing the wagon filled with beach paraphernalia. A couple of hours later Jim and Andy arrived, driving over with the stroller, the dingy and some dry clothes, according to plan. While we were excellent planners in terms of all the stuff, our timing planning was definitely off. It was all just too much. Too much stuff, too much to fit in after a late nap, but also too late to change it once the promise had been made. Andy wouldn’t have cared, but Ben couldn’t wait to see if two brothers could fit in the dingy.
After a very short time at the beach with Andy and Jim, we knew we had to pack up to get home. As it was, we would be late, and we had just heard there was a major traffic delay between our house and theirs. And that is how it came to be that the best solution we could come up with to get all the people and stuff home was for me to push the stroller with Andy, while Ben used his strider to come along. When I type it, it seems so lovely. A gramma with her two grandsons coming home from a day at the beach.
I’ll adjust the focus for you. Andy was covered in sand and still in his swimsuit. We hadn’t dared take the few minutes to change him since Ben was finally dressed in dry clothes and ready to leave. If we’d changed Andy, we’d have had to start all over again convincing Ben this was a good idea. Andy’s hat was lost so he wore a much too big ball cap of Ben’s, down over his eyes.
Ben was fully clothed but just about a third of the way home he remembered his bike seat hurt him because it was too low, so he asked me to carry it. And the walk must have felt like a hundred miles to him. So, there we were, me pushing a stroller, carrying a bike, and convincing Ben it was just around the curve, knowing we were headed into bad traffic, we were late, and I likely would not make it to my dance class, when an older-than-me man approached. He had his pickleball racket and was in his gear for a good game. When he saw us, he gave us a big smile and said in his Italian accent, “Ah, a walk with family. There is nothing so precious.”
Now. Precious was not the adjective I might have chosen right then. Still, I smiled back and agreed with him. As we continued the truth of his words hit me. I had been thinking this was too much for that exact moment. And yet it really was not enough. I will not have enough time with these little boys. They will grow so fast and find their own friends and interests. I will long for another day just like that day.
The same goes for the other things in my life. Of course, I don’t want Jim to have to go to a cardiologist or for Bill to die, or for us to have to learn life without him. But it is not too much. It is the price of admission for a life filled with wonderful relationships, worthwhile and fulfilling work, interesting and rewarding hobbies, and precious family to enjoy. I think of some families in Texas this week who would give a lot to have ‘too much’ to carry for their kids. I think of so many friends who long for a chance for one more conversation with an aging parent, and others who wish for meaningful work. I remember how lucky we are to have such a difficult time saying goodbye to Bill; not everyone is blessed with such a brother-in-law.
I will remember the words of that man, likely a neighbour of mine, for a long time. Perhaps forever. I suspect I’ll use them (sometimes perhaps with sarcasm) when I do feel overwhelmed, to remind myself to be where I am, not ahead of myself in traffic or at a dance class that hasn’t yet begun. These moments in life are precious.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Precious time or too much?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to turn too much into precious time.