♫ I crucify myself every day and my heart is sick of being in chains… But I gotta have my suffering so that I can have my cross. I know a cat named Easter he says will you ever learn? You’re just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird. ♫
– Crucify, Tori Amos
“My heart hurts so bad because I don’t have time to do what I love,” she said.
“It’s a sad thing really. I feel like my soul is dying.”
“Well?” I asked. “What’s stopping you?”
“I have to clean my house.”
I listened for awhile as she laid out a systematic thought process on why one thing or another had to happen, and in what order, before she could allow herself to feed and nurture her own soul. Several times I offered an idea, some resource information, a different perspective, only to be shot down every time. Task, after task, after task she listed. And the way it sounded, it wouldn’t be weeks, but years before she would finally have time. Maybe.
It’s not a new conversation for me. I’ve had this exact kind of conversation, or better described – listening session, a multitude of times with people over the decades. Sometimes there seem to be good reasons and logic as to why one thing or another must wait. But most of the time, the logic is actually false and the reasons only excuses dressed up to look important.
“I can’t begin writing a book unless I learn how to write to a publisher first.”
“I can’t sell my house because my husband hasn’t replaced the shag carpet, so there’s no point in talking to an agent until he does.”
“I can’t spend time with my kids because I haven’t made enough money first.”
“I love to paint, but I can’t. Because the people at work stress me out, so when I come home I’m not in the mood. Why even try?”
“I can’t exercise because my boss gives me too much work to do. I know it’s hurting my health, but I’ll lose everything if I try to take time.”
“Who can afford to buy organic milk?” someone asks, with two bags of Doritos in their grocery basket.
“I’d like to take a class, but it’s too far away.”
“I know I need more sleep, but I can’t get everything done if I do.”
“The only way I’ll ever get to stop to breathe is if I win the lottery or something. Of course I don’t play. I’m not an idiot.”
“I’d love to do ______. But, you know, I’m a mom. So I can’t.”
And frozen in this false sense of logic, we decide there’s only one way things can work out and so we do nothing to act. We do nothing to better our selves or lives. We stay stuck in a rut that we (supposedly) hate.
How did we manage to lock our true selves away and set such bad priorities?
At no point will stuff be more important than your relationship with your kids. At no point will the dusting be more important than your soul. At no point does anyone have more control over your life than you do. And maybe if you ditch the Doritos, you can buy two gallons of organic milk, not just one. If you really want to.
WTF. WHY ARE YOU HERE?
I want my life to have meaning – how about you? There are many ways around and over and even through that mountain we see in our lives. And if we don’t put the real things that matter in life first, our lives will never seem fulfilling. We have to stop putting the meaningful stuff off and stop making excuses. Stop putting off our relationships. Stop ignoring our souls.
Our priorities should reflect what we value. Otherwise we become our own jailers.
It’s true – sometimes our choices are very, very limited. Sometimes “urgent” and “important” converge in a place that must take priority. But not all the time. And certainly not every day.
So how do we achieve better priorities? How do we – in the face of everything on our to-do lists – still fulfill the needs of our body and soul and live a life that’s more aligned with happiness and meaning? And grasp our highest potential?
Judith Manriquez, an inspirational coach I know, put it best:
“An hour a day: you first.”
Even in the face of the worst, that’s it. Simple really. Because without nourishing yourself, how can you ever expect to thrive? Without saving yourself, just how much will you really achieve. How can you ever be there for others if your own needs aren’t met? Just one hour out of your waking day – for once – set your priorities and feed your soul right.
Bad priorities are like the psychopathic Weeping Angels from Doctor Who.
They devour everything you might have been and use up the energy of your potential.
Take at look at what you say you want to do in life, compared with what you actually do.
If those are not in alignment, then somewhere you’re lying to yourself and the world. Your priorities are not what you think they are, or they are misplaced.
And worse yet – they’re stealing your life.