Sunday, July 28, 2013

What have you turned off?

I have just finished reading David Sedaris' new book 'Let's explore Diabetes with Owls'.  I had heard a few stories from this book live when he toured in 2011.  It may sound weird to pay to hear someone read stories to you, but David has such a dry wit and distinct voice it really is a pleasure to listen to the author speak.  I guess you can tell I'm a bit of a fan girl.

One story 'Laugh Kookaburra' is, not surprisingly by the title, based on a visit to Melbourne.  There is a particularly interesting passage that had me thinking:
"Pat was driving, and as we passed the turnoff for a shopping center she invited us to picture a four-burner stove.  
“Gas or electric?” Hugh asked, and she said that it didn’t matter.
This was not a real stove but a symbolic one, used to prove a point at a management seminar she’d once attended. “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two."
Re-reading this reminded me of a conversation I'd had recently with a friend.  We were talking about how busy our lives were and the unfortunate consequences of this.  Working full time and studying Uni part time leaves me with little spare head space.  I lamented that without social networking sites I'd never be in contact with friends - unless of course I stumbled across them as part of my day.  Thinking deeper, I guess I've 'turned off' my family a bit too.  Over the last 5 years of study I haven't had a lot of time to go visit my folks - which is made harder by the fact they're over an hours drive away.  There's no 'popping round', it's more like a day trip.  Thank goodness for phones. But I also know this means I didn't see my Dad a lot in the last few years of his life.

The other burner that's off is my health.  Struggling with a big study load last semester I was reading most nights and weekends.  Sure, I passed my subject (and passed really well), but I have become so sedentary and put on a bit of weight.  Also, when semester finished I caught a virus and was sick for 2 weeks.  I know I've had a lot on my plate in the last 12 months and I'm prone to keep pushing myself.  That is, until my body or brain  decides otherwise.  Sometimes you just need to live in your pajamas for a while and watch 3 seasons of Game of Thrones between doctors visits.

In all honesty, I don't like the fact that many of my burners are off.  I hate it.  It makes me feel like a crappy friend, as I haven't kept in touch with people that I'd really like to. There's nothing worse than feeling like a bit of a failure in this department.  So - if any of my friends are reading this, and I haven't seen you in a while, please know I think about you often.  And I know I need to look at getting fit (well, fitter), as that would make me feel better about myself.  

My only consolation is that many of my friends feel the same.  Juggling everything is something we all struggle with.  I am amazed by some people who seem to cram so much into life, and do it effortlessly.  I truly am in awe of them.  But I think most of us compromise our life experience in some way.  Do we look after everyone else at the expense of ourselves?  Do we strive to excel at work and end up with little to go home to?  Is it possible to have all 4 burners blazing?

Right now I'm looking forward to completing my degree at the end of this year.  Then dear friends, perhaps I can settle for a slow sizzle in all areas of my life. If not, you're welcome to visit with a packet of fire starters in your hand!  

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