Learning to Refocus | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Learning to Refocus

A month or so ago, I received a phone call that I have been thinking about ever since.  It was from another mom at the preschool wondering why she had to volunteer and do fund-raising.  I explained to her how our preschool is a cooperative preschool and relies on the parents to help out with many things to keep it running smoothly and to keep tuition costs low, as we get no money from the state.   She was a little bit worked up about the whole thing--I could tell because she was doing the same things that I do when I am having a conversation I am worked up about, like talking fast with a shaky voice--and kept insisting that she was much too busy to have to volunteer, and besides she brought snack and wasn't that enough?

During the course of our conversation, I found out that the reason she is so busy is because not only does she have her preschooler, she has a baby, too.  And that was it.   And even as I was trying to sympathize with her, I felt like screaming that not only do I have my preschooler, but I also have two other children, a part-time job, a church calling and a position on the preschool board and I still managed to volunteer for the fundraising activities, so surely she could find a few hours to do so herself.

But she couldn't, and she ended up buying out of the volunteer time.  Which is fine.  I don't buy out because I don't have the extra money, and I figure that what I do have is time.  So I volunteer.  And mostly, I don't mind helping out.  It makes me feel good and gives me a chance to know what's going on at school with my daughter, and even have a say in it.

But I haven't been able to get that conversation out of my head.  My reaction didn't sit well with me, although it has been tough to see just how many preschool parents are unwilling to help out and that it is the same people time and time again doing all of the work.  But that certainly doesn't make one parent better than the other, it just means we have different feelings about how we choose to spend our time and our money.

Shortly after this conversation (like the next day), was General Conference.  And President Uchtdorf spoke directly to me when he said,
Refocus on What Matters Most
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And I thought about how maybe the other mom from preschool was actually the one who had it right.  It's been a little more than a month now, and I think I have been fairly successful in refocusing my efforts where they must be.  There are still many, many things to do and many, many choices to be made and some must be done, much as I wish they didn't.  But there are plenty of other things that really can be left for another time, things that someone else can do right now and things that I don't even need in my life and I think that I am finally learning the difference.

For the rest of the month I want to literally focus (with my camera) on those things here on this blog.  Ironically, I don't know that I will find the time to do so, but I will certainly try.

PS  President Uchtdorf's talk is the one Stephanie is focusing on this week over at her General Conference Book Club.  

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  1. I love your thoughts like this one. I think there's a great quote like "the unexamined life is not worth living." Right? Too true.

  2. I get ya. When my little sister was barely starting her family with two little diaper-wearing sweethearts I was in the throes of teenagers and all that brings. She would call and tell me how overwhelmed she was, and how she was so sure she couldn't handle it. I would be in knots when we hung up. It has taken a long time to realize that "busy" is a relative feeling, and I can't know when someone is at their wit's end.

  3. Oh, yes! I sat down and started a post about this very talk the day after he gave it. Such wise words. One of these days I'll make the time to finish the post and put it up there. (How ironic is that, I'm asking myself?) or maybe it's because I have things in perspective that I haven't raced to put that up.

    Yeah, I'll tell myself that for now.

    (I always did the service hours too. And ran a business out of my house.) :)

  4. It reminds me of the old "80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people" saying...or "if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it". Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are already up and going?! I love Emily Watts analogy of motherhood being like a video game...how you start on one level and at first it is really hard, but then you get better and right when you master it you move up to a more advanced level and it is hard all over again. I think you have probably mastered 100 levels by now, Lara -- you are amazing!

  5. It seems weird that focusing on the basics requires such an effort, but then I re-read Elder Christofferson's talk last night and he quoted Joseph Smith saying that mortality is designed to require constant exertion. Oh. Okay.

  6. You know, a month ago I was released from my calling as the young women's president. It needed to happen. I was also teaching seminary and was feeling really stretched The joy of serving was completely sucked out. I just felt strained, all the time. So the change happened. I'm still teaching seminary (homestudy, once a week) but for the first time, in nearly ten years, I'm not in an auxiliary presidency. And it's amazing. I know there will be a time when I serve again, but the opportunity to repace myself, and refocus on my own personal discipleship has helped so much. And now, I find myself volunteering to teach a lesson in relief society when a teacher will be out of town, or happily agreeing to sub for the young women's leader one Sunday in December because my life is not SO CRAZY THAT I CAN'T BREATH.

    I guess the point is that sometimes refocusing our priorities may even mean changing the way we serve IN the church... we have the right to know, and to feel inspired as to what is best for us, and for our families. Across the board.

    Love your perspective Lara, as always. :)

  7. I loved this post and I think you are so right.... why is it so hard to focus on the simple things? I LOVED Elder Uchtdorf's talk... I'm trying to read it every Sunday evening to get my week started right.

    I heard a quote somehwhere?... "A spotless House is the sign of a wasted life." I like it because it makes me feel less guilty, but I also think it makes a great point. What really matters... our family and memories :) I've really cut down on my volunteering the last few years. I basically do my church calling and one afternoon a month at my girl's school and that is enough. I think they need a happy Mom who still has a bit of energy left for them when they get home :)

  8. I'm excited to see your pictures---you take beautiful ones:) And it'll be a good reminder to me to re-focus as well.

  9. Good thoughts. It's easy to loose focus at times. It what you do when you recognize that that counts.

  10. I really loved that talk. And I think that figuring these things out is a huge part of motherhood. I also think that, for each person, the problems that they have are pretty much the most they can handle at that point in time. All problems, no matter how big or small, tend to fill a room. I see how my capacity has grown as time has gone by and I am grateful. I remind myself of that when I feel impatient with people who don't have much to deal with in life yet still feel so put upon (it IS frustrating, so don't be too hard on yourself by how you reacted to her .. ) hugs!

  11. I really have to stop and re-think, when something like that happens. I have NO idea what's going on with them. I also need to give myself some slack when it literally isn't humanly possible to volunteer. However, in this instance I'd be extra mad... esp. since YOU are also volunteering.

    Anyway, just remember you haven't a clue what's going on at the other end of that phone. Or at the other end of her life.

    That's the only thing that keeps me from killing people, sometimes. :D

  12. You really are so busy, Lara. Now that Soccer & the play is over, we don't have too much going on. And I love it! But, I have a hard time saying no-I think Women do in general. But, I don't really think that pre-school lady was all that admirable. If it is a co-op pre-school, you pitch in. Period.

  13. I think I would have had an interior reaction just like yours. We are all busy. All of us. Stop making excuses!! I often have to remind myself that we are all called to different tasks and given different gifts.

  14. I can't remember exactly how our minister worded it, but he was talking about something similar - how some of us put a lot into volunteering in the kitchen or other things, and some may seem to do not as much - but that we all have our special gifts and strengths and while one might not seem to do as much as the other, God might be using them in other ways.

    It helped me. :)

  15. Great post. Someone asked me the other day how much easier my life must be with the kids practically grown. And it really isn't. There is always something else worthwhile to put my energy into. I think it's a matter of choices, choosing wisely and not creating chaos for ourselves.

  16. This speaks to me on so many levels—both as someone who has trouble recognizing the relativity of "the breaking point" (like when I'm finally at my breaking point, I can't stand hearing it when other people tell me that theirs is far further back along the line), and as someone who also needs to learn the lesson of refocusing. Excellent food for thought—and a good example of the patience I need to learn!

  17. You are one of the most gracious, thoughtful women. I marvel at you. I want to be more like you, Lara.