I’ve heard about workaholics, people who let their work become their first, all-consuming priority. It’s impossible for me to imagine ever having that particular problem (don’t worry, I have lots of others). Since I was young, it’s always been very clear to me: the people in my life come first. Everything else comes second.
Within the category People, there is a hierarchy of
priorities, and it’s taken me a while (years) to work that out, but I’ve
finally got it. From the top down:
1. my husband
2. the rest of my family
3. my close friends
4. other friends
5. everyone else
(The big list of priorities continues:
9. whatever novel I'm reading
68. washing dishes
94. cleaning the toilet
It goes on, but it’s too long to list in its entirety here.)
My husband doesn’t take up much time. He works forty hours a week, and I have class only twelve of those hours, so that gives me a lot of extra hours. I’m home alone; I have freedom to read, to sing, to think. I talk to myself constantly. I’ll stand in the shower until the water runs cold, muttering, “Chesterton talked about that – where did I read that? It’s a good analogy, but does it apply in this case? Of course, all analogies are imperfect. Anyway, I need to make sure to tell Mom about that; she’ll like it.” I’m sure if people could hear me, they’d be completely bewildered.
My regular schedule allows plenty of time for meditation, for working out theories in my head, for opening blank Microsoft Word documents and writing, then erasing, five different introductory paragraphs for a weblog entry I never end up finishing. (You might not believe it, but it takes me a lot of effort to come up with a style this unpolished. Carelessness is not easy, people!) In a very real way, my writing is born of my solitude.
Have I mentioned that I have five siblings? Five siblings, two parents, one soon-to-be-brother-in-law, one husband. You do the math. Every holiday, that’s ten of us. Not ten for Christmas or Easter dinner, where we invite the guests over and the house is filled with craziness for a couple hours, but ten for the whole time. Ten for the baseline. Ten at the minimum, if no one else is visiting.
I love it. For me, it’s exactly the way family is supposed to be, bustling and a little out of control. There’s always someone to talk to, someone who wants a cup of tea when I want one, someone who will answer, “Yes!” when I yell, “Anyone want to play a game?” This weekend I got the chance to play computer games with Tommy, listen to Katie read a monologue she wrote (a very good one for a fourteen-year-old, I might add), tease George about his height, his girlfriend, and his long hair, and tell Maggie how beautiful she looked in her new Easter outfit. I was interacting with people constantly. It was bliss.
You don’t get to choose your family. Some people spend their whole lives trying to get away from the families into which they were born. I am incredibly blessed, because my family is exactly the one I would have chosen. In response to that blessing, I try to spend the time I have with them well. They were given to me, but I want to choose them too, and this means interacting with them and not spacing out into my alone-world.
It’s my choice: I will be there, or I will be writing. When I lived at home it was different, but now that I see my family relatively infrequently, I want to use every moment well, so when I am with them I will always choose to be there. It’s unfortunate that it leaves me no time to write, because I want to write, and I want to interact with all you Internet people whom I love so much, but you saw my list. These priorities aren’t changing.
This is my long-winded apology, my justification, for being absent from this world during the past week. I missed you all, I really did, but I’m happy about the way I spent my time. This is also a warning, I guess, for the future: when holidays roll around, I won’t be writing much. In the meantime, I’ll try to make up for it. It’s good to be back.