My children never cease to amaze and amuse me with the reasons they come up with for why something can’t be done. Actual excuses proffered me include:
“I can’t make my bed until the dryer is done.” (Not because we were waiting on clean sheets, but because the wool dryer balls “sounded like Jumanji.”)
“I’m waiting to clean off the counter until the plants are gone from the windowsill.” (That may not happen for a few weeks…)
“I’m going to brush my teeth after I finish my tea. But I just started the water to boil, so I might as well finish this chapter anyway.”
Some of the more far-fetched explanations are easy to dismiss with a roll of the eyes. Yet how often do I find myself making excuses for my actions or inactions based on similarly convoluted reasoning, if a bit more cleverly contrived?
“I’ll get to that mending when I have some free time. I know it’s important, but there are so many other urgent things vying for my attention.”
“I’ll write that letter after I catch up on my other projects. I need a bit more time to mull over it anyway.”
“I’ll make time to brew tea every morning, read my Bible, and have a quiet time of reflection when the kids are older. Right now, things are just too hectic. It must not be a quiet season of life for me.”
Excuses often serve as a decoy for wrestling with the true matter at hand. Perhaps it’s harder for me to spot because my adult reasoning powers are more subtle at coming up with credible-sounding excuses, or perhaps it’s just the situational blindness of my own mind avoiding hard questions, but I don’t always find it as easy to recognize when I’m making lame excuses and sometimes have to work hard to probe for underlying motivations.
In reality, if I simply can’t find the time to devote to a project (say, mending), even if I feel that it’s important, then I have to question my commitment to that priority. How important can it actually be if I cannot make the time to do it over a sustained period of time? Do I really think it’s that important to sew up a few clothes, or do I actually want to seize the opportunity to model a moral lesson to my children about the value of hard work, resourcefulness, and valuing our possessions? Or am I striving to live up to some immutable ideal simply because I have it in my head that I am not a Wasteful Person?
Am I avoiding writing that letter because I need more time to think it through, or am I just procrastinating? Or am I being an unreasonable perfectionist, unwilling to start the venture unless I’m confident I can devote enough time to craft the perfect missive? Or do I simply like the idea of writing letters far better than the practice?
Do I really not have enough free time in my day to sit for five minutes while the tea kettle boils, and then another five minutes while the tea steeps? Hmm, then how do I manage to check my email multiple times a day—does that also happen in shorter-than-five-minute increments?
To put it plainly, do I really want to be the sort of person who sips tea, reads books in a leisurely fashion, and writes letters in pretty handwriting, or do I merely want to day-dream about doing it, eat cookies, and pretend I’m that kind of person, if only circumstances would allow? Because, if I really, really wanted to do something else…then wouldn’t I be doing it?
These are the probing questions I would love to answer, if only I had the time, but right now I should go make some chocolate chip cookies. For my family, because they love cookies, and I love my family.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Rose Focht.