…by Julie Clark Robinson

“One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, how big my house was, or what kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little better, because I was important in the life of a child.”

–Forest Witcraft


           I had been feeling something ugly brewing for days – probably weeks – if I\’m to be honest. And by ugly, I don\’t mean the brownish/grayish sunken circles under my eyes, they\’re a given at this point. (My beloved Sephora catalog still waits for me in my reading pile. Inside, my favorite, miracle worker concealer, awaits my order.) This particular kind of ugliness starts in the pit of your stomach and ends up as a worried furrow on your brow, exposing every forehead wrinkle you\’ve ever had. Finally, as I hurriedly pulled the not-so-clean sheets over my bed and mentally went over all the things I unrealistically hoped to accomplish that day, the ugliness spewed out into a sentence that alarmed me – and finally brought some clarity.         

           “I\’m just too involved with my family.”           

           I stopped tugging at the sheets and realized the absurdity of that particular combination of words. “Too involved”…“with family.” Always one to be thrilled with creating an oxymoron, this one just seemed sad to me. Is helping my children get ready for their first day of elementary school too involved? Is Coaching my daughter\’s first cheerleading squad and doing a nightly load of grass-stained clothes from my son\’s football practice too involved? (Note to self, remember to buy stock in Gatorade. And Spray ‘n Wash.) Is finally living up to the promise of a walk to the world\’s most patient Black Lab too involved? And my husband doesn\’t even ask for any of my time at this point, he recognizes the bunched-up forehead and is steering clear.            

          Too involved? Surely not. But if I continue to beat myself up over the fact that I have a column to deliver, a database to create, a new book concept to put down on paper, an agent to seek and several email replies that need to go out, the one thing in my reeling mind that needed to go was the family. Not the people themselves, but everything they seem to require of me.            

          Don\’t worry, I heard it. The “DING DING DING” of the danger bells that always seem to peel at just the right moment before I go over the edge and lose all sense of priority. In fact, at the very moment that I realized how much more important it is, for me, to nurture this beloved family of mine than to seek the almighty by-line, I actually smiled. Right smack in the middle of a bedroom that needed to be dusted.            

          Suddenly I felt better than I had in weeks. One simple sentence that raced through my brain had freed me, for the time being, from the myriad of tasks that were plaguing my brain. Taking my kids for haircuts and new sneakers isn\’t a task, it\’s a privilege. Creating a database and replying to emails is a task.             

Sometimes we all just need a little reminder of the difference. 

Action Exercise:  If you\’re reading this, you\’ve already done your homework! Hopefully, this piece put you on the path to sorting out the differences between the privileges and the tasks in your life.