Tuesday, October 16, 2012

About ten years ago, I had a falling out with one of my friends.

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."

My response?

"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.

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9 monkeys jumping on the bed:

  1. seashmore said...

    I completely agree with you about how the things/people we spend our time on/with reflect our priorities. Sometimes, though, it's not about running out of time but running out of energy. When this happens to me (because it does every year), I remember this quote I found from Elder Merril J. Bateman, about "laying hold on every good thing."
    He says:
    It does not mean laying hold on every good thing all at once....Also, the command to serve God “with all your heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2) should leave one exhausted at the end of life, not midway through the journey. The Lord expects us to pace ourselves, to “run and not be weary, and … walk and not faint” (D&C 89:20).

  2. Leslie said...

    I remember when you talked about this on your podcast that you did on the Mormon Channel. It really hit me then, and it has the same affect now.

    Thanks for the reminder that what I'm really saying when I tell someone "I didn't have time" or that "I am just too busy" what I am really saying is that it wasn't a priority.

    Sugar coating the reasons behind not doing a project, task, or even Visiting Teaching doesn't change the real meaning: It wasn't a priority.

    Food for thought for sure.

  3. 2busy said...

    This is a great lesson to learn, for all of us. Thanks for sharing in the hopes of helping at least one of us reprioritize.

  4. veronica said...

    True. It's all true. Crap! I'm a crummy friend. Forgive me?

  5. Nancy said...

    This is a really good point, at the same time, I have to admit, that I love love love my friends who absolutely know we love each other and care about each other, and would drop everything if they suddenly needed a listening ear . . .but still understand that that doesn't mean we have to talk on the phone every single week, have monthly lunch dates, do date nights, etc.

    What you said is true. It did smart a little as I realized I haven't always put friends first, at the same time, I think we all have different ideas of what "putting someone as a priority" entails. I absolutely don't expect my friends to call me weekly to show I'm a priority. (In fact, with 6 small children, I'd prefer they didn't!), but I have a few friends who I know need that , and so I give it. But I think that it is a little sad when a friend cuts you out because they aren't on the constant priority list. I think a good friend understands that they actually aren't always a priority. One of my closest highschool friends is like this. When we are busy and life is good, we are fine with our once a year girls' night. However, when she went through a divorce, we both understood that she needed to be higher priority then -- and she was. I just think it works both ways. We do certainly need to be aware of feelings and of how much people need for us to show we care. At the same time, man do I love a friend who can say, "I know you love me. I love you. And because of that, you don't need to keep me at number one on your list every day".

  6. Miranda said...

    Amen. Thank you for the reminder. I need to refocus on my priorities and what's important.

  7. DysFUNctional Mom said...

    I read this when you posted it but for some reason didn't comment.
    I've been thinking about this post ever since because of some people in my life who are clearly not making me a priority. It hurts.
    Anyway, I'm going to blog about it and link back to you, just thought I'd give you a heads-up and finally comment! ;-)

  8. devron said...

    I don't know you, but I check your blog often hoping you have shared a little bit of your (realness)amazingness. I don't like wordless Wednesday's because I want more words. Thank you for being that friend (even though we don't know each other) that you just enjoy being around!
    P.S. Did I mention I want more words! Do you think you could making blogging a greater priority?! ;)

  9. Laura said...

    dang it! why did i read this?! its what I needed to hear. I am a crappy friends and sometimes a crappy mom. I needed this to get a kick in the rear. I needed this so I can refocus my priorities...

    Thx for sharing!

    now... I am off to be a better more dedicated mother and friend :)