Tuesday, October 16, 2012
It was nothing exotic -- there was no fighting, no yelling or even hurt feelings involved -- we merely "grew apart".
This friend and I had met at a local scrap-booking store and we hit it off fantastically. She worked there and I would arrange to go to the midnight scraps she hosted because I knew it would be a night of laughter and release. We had a great friendship and I really liked this person.
She lived several towns away from where I was living at the time, and because of that, moving the friendship to "the next level" required work. I was young and inexperienced in the art of friendship making (and keeping).
This friend invited me over to her home. A lot.
And at first, I went. A lot.
And then slowly, I started finding excuses as to why I couldn't make our scheduled play dates. I really liked this person, but it was work and frankly I was lazy. And selfish. Candidly, I didn't even realize that I was pulling away until she started calling me asking me why I wasn't returning her phone calls anymore or not coming to our Midnight Scraps anymore.
I started giving her the standard excuses: "I'm super busy and I've got no time for myself anymore. My family, kids, church calling and job are sucking me dry. I'm just barely hanging on here."
And that was true.
I was in the RS Presidency at the time, I was working 30 hours a week at Schmoles. I was busy. My marriage was running a little rough, my kids were being kids and I felt like I was drowning. My natural instinct was to cut out things that were work, or took too much effort.
In doing that, I cut out a person who was my advocate. My biggest cheerleader. My friend.
A year or so later I got a letter in the mail from her telling me how sad, hurt and angry she had been with me. She didn't understand what she had done to ruin our friendship or why I had cut her out of my life. She understood that people can change and grow -- not be "compatible" any more -- and if that had been the case, she wished I would have just told her. She explained that she had spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out what she had done wrong. She missed our friendship and couldn't understand what was wrong with her and why I wouldn't be her friend any longer."
"No! No! No! That's not the case at all! I do like you (which I truly did! She is a wonderful person and a blast to be around) I've just been so crazy busy that I haven't had time for anything or anyone. It's not you, it's me! You are a wonderful person and I do consider you my friend. I've just had no time."
And there they were: The time excuse. The too busy excuse. The family is sucking me dry excuse. The job is taking all my time excuse. The excuses.
We've all used those phrases a million and one times. But, really? All they are is an excuse. An easier way for us to say "You weren't a priority to me."
Think on that for a second while I tell you another story.
I had another friend who called me recently to tell me that she was feeling bad about our friendship. When I started offering her my standard "I've been super, crazy busy! I hardly have time to think! My kids are being emotional vampires and I am working like crazy!"
She listened nicely to me, and then said: "What you are really saying is that I am not a priority to you. Because Elisa we all have the same amount of time in the day, and we find the time to accomplish the tasks, or be with the people who are Priorities. I am not one of your priorities."
I was stunned.
How could she say that? Of course she was a priority, and when she called me on it and characterized our lack of interaction so boldly, it hurt. A lot.
However, she was right.
She hadn't been a priority.
When we say we "haven't had time" or "I've been crazy busy with X, Y and Z" what we are really saying is it wasn't a priority to me.
I say it to people all the time when they quiz me about how I am able to be involved with all the things I am. They essentially are giving me a compulsult -- a compliment that was really intended as an insult -- when they say they have "no idea how you find the time to be involved with all the things you're involved with. They can barely keep up on the laundry!"
My response is always the same: "You find the time to do the things that are important to you. If it's important enough to you, you will find the time to do it. It becomes a priority."
Priorities. That's really what all those excuses are about. They just weren't a priority.
People change and grow. Friendships change and grow. However, if you are a true friend, we make time for one another. We find the time for the things that are important to us: Our families and our friends should be priorities. People should be priorities.
Think about that the next time you find yourself responding with the standard "I didn't have time to get it done" response. What you are really saying is that task, that request, that person wasn't a priority.
Every time I have found myself saying "I didn't have time . . . " I have thought to myself "what I am really saying is it's not a priority to me." When I phrase it like that, it sounds selfish. That simple change in phraseology causes me to stop and evaluate the situation and circumstances. More often than not, I am the one that has the priorities out of whack. I need re-focusing.
I should never be too busy for my family or my friends. If that is the case, then I have some adjustment to do. In the final analysis, all I have when I leave this life are the relationships I have made and nurtured. And that nurturing takes work, effort and time.
And time? That is something we all have plenty of . . . if it's a priority.