I was recently watching one of my favorite shows, you know the kind you’ve already watched but it makes you laugh so you watch it again and again. On this particular episode, one of the main characters has to go take a driving test and he’s worried he’s not going to pass because the instructor will be paying too much attention to him. After quite a bit back and forth, his sister says something to the effect, “People don’t care like you think they care. They’re not really paying attention to you.” He adamantly disagrees with her but when he goes to take the test, he finds out that his sister’s words were prophetic. The instructor couldn’t care any less and he passes his driving test.
While this episode made me laugh, I also found it really sad. It’s sad to me that there is so much truth in it. And it’s sad that we are so caught up in our own worries, that it’s increasingly more difficult to be present with each other and care for one another. Several years ago, I learned a really tough lesson, one that I couldn’t do anything to fix. One that made me feel like I didn’t care for others. One that made me feel like I wasn’t paying attention to my friend.
I had been working full time for several years after obtaining my master’s degree, and I had a job that was very emotionally draining. I was doing my best to adjust to working full time, being a wife and mother and a good friend. I was having a hard time doing any of them well. So, I obviously thought the next best thing to do would be open a private practice as a side hustle. Afterall, the whole reason I got my master’s degree was to go into private practice. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.
I started building my private practice and continued to work my full-time job, and soon found that I had very little time for much outside of work, especially for friends. I had a dear friend who lived nearby, she suffered from a mental illness that kept her sick fairly often, so when we did connect it was usually sporadic. For several weeks, I had been feeling like I needed to set up a time we could go to breakfast or lunch, and I kept putting it off because I was so busy, and when I had a few minutes to myself, I just wanted to be by myself. I realize now that I was likely burned out and needed to do more than just be by myself, but at the time, I just attributed it to being a busy wife and mom. Several weeks went by where I could have reached out but didn’t and then one day my husband called me as I was on my way to the office for an evening of therapy appointments, and he told me that she had passed away earlier that day. Immediately, I was filled with guilt for not reaching out like I should have and now I would never have that opportunity again.
The next several weeks and months were difficult as I wrestled with the guilt of ignoring my gut and thinking I would have lots of opportunities to reach out to her. As I grieved the loss of my friend, I decided to make some changes to my busy schedule. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time with people who are special to me and have more regrets about not showing those around me how much I cared.
This month, I’m going to take a look at lessons that I’ve learned in my 40’s. This story is an example of one of the biggest lessons I learned-don’t be so busy or wrapped up in your own things that you lose sight of who and what is important.
Another change I made was to make sure to take the time to do some self-reflection. Often times, we are so busy that we don’t even have a minute to think, let alone take the time to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Self-reflection can be a bit overwhelming so here are 5 questions that I ask myself to make sure I’m focusing on the most important things:
How am I doing spiritually?
This is a good place to start for me personally because it allows me to check in and see if I’m changing and growing into a better person.
How am I doing with family?
If I notice I’m being short or frustrated with my family, it’s a good sign that I need to do something to be nicer, spend more time with particular family members.
How am I doing at work?
I have a tendency to work a lot even when I’m not in the office. For me, I need to make sure that I’m not working too much and making time for other things-especially creative things.
Am I putting others first?
It’s so easy to get caught up in my things and talk about my things. It’s a good reminder for me to stop and make sure those around me are doing okay.
How am I doing at taking care of myself?
I believe that taking care of myself is a gift I give to my family. I don’t particularly love going to annual doctor’s appointments, or having my blood work done every year, but I think I owe it to my family to take care of myself so I’m as healthy as possible.
I hope this list gives you a starting point for identifying the things that are most important to you, and a check in so that you don’t get so busy that you lose sight of what’s important. I want people to know that I am paying attention and that I care.
If you need help figuring out how to live with fewer regrets and you think counseling or life coaching could help, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling or life coaching. If you are looking for help with burn out, depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.