What incredible things in your life seem to get in the way of the most incredible things in your life?
What do you give up when you love everything you’re doing?
I sat on our bed and looked at my wife with serious and confused eyes and asked that question. My question to my wife came as a result of coming home late one night to a quiet house and a longing wife. These are both very pleasant things for a husband and father to come home to, but I had not seen my children all day. I left the house before they got up in the morning, and returned to them sleeping soundly in their beds.
So often we get overwhelmed by all of our day to day, monotonous tasks. Sometimes we feel compelled to do things we would rather not do but find ourselves “roped in” anyway. To that parent I would say and have said many times in counseling sessions, “simplify. Learn to say no and do the things that are most important. Give up some of the attempts to be everything to everyone.”
But… there are those few times in our lives when we are not overwhelmed by monotony, routine or unwanted demands but rather by all the wonderful and incredible opportunities that present themselves to us. It’s not that we are particularly distressed or “want out” of the things we do. It’s that all the things we have chosen to do have slowly worked the most important things out of our lives without us even knowing it. We are enjoying ourselves so much that we have not made time and devoted energy to the people and relationships that we love most.
Whether we are overwhelmed or just overbooked with pleasantries, we often need to stop and evaluate our priorities and organize our lives accordingly. We need to simplify.
The role that took me away.
I have always had a passion for singing and especially musical theatre and recently I had the opportunity to play the role of Mr. Hyde in a production. The transformation from mild mannered me, to ravenous Mr. Hyde was exciting and challenging. Performing draws me to it. In short, I love it!
Despite my love of the theatre, it is also a very time consuming passion. It takes practice and rehearsals that dip into evenings and weekends that stand as some of my only free time for connecting with my kids and wife. My kids adore watching stage productions and the end result of my shows have always been an amazing bonding experience. After the show my kids can’t stop talking about it for days and their excited faces light up while each of my three boys try to talk over the other to tell Mom and Dad their favorite parts. That part feels great!
The part that challenges priorities is the four weeks before a production, when I leave the house for work before the sun rises and come home after it sets. When you wake up one morning and realize you haven’t seen your children, other than standing over their sleeping bodies at night, for days or even weeks, that doesn’t feel great. You realize that the best of your life is not getting your best. They are getting what’s left over at the end of each long day.
Over this same period of time that all of this was going through my head, I was asked multiple times by people in the community, “Are you trying out for Les Miserables?” I was torn. Les Miserables is the first musical play I ever attended and the story and music are one of the most beautiful I’ve heard on stage. I’ve always wanted to play the part of Jean Valjean!
This would definitely be my greatest role yet!
The choice to do the show would require 3 more months of coming home to sleeping children and a worn out and longing wife.
What was I to do? One morning I was reading and came across the following quote that helped me to make my difficult decision.
“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them.” (Good, Better, Best. Elder Dallin H. Oaks)
I realized while reading this quote that Jean Valjean was not my greatest role.
My greatest role is that of Husband and Father!
I wanted so badly to share my vocal talents on stage but I wanted to sing my children to sleep more.
I wanted to enjoy the excitement of being someone else on stage but I wanted to play dress-ups and have imaginary journeys with my kids more.
I wanted to feel the exhilaration of the audience’s applause but I wanted to see my 18 month old daughter clap her hands as I act silly in our living room more.
I wanted to share the beautiful story of Les Miserables with the community but I wanted to share Curious George and Magic School Bus stories with my children more.
I wanted to hear the loud laughter of the crowd but I wanted to hear the heavenly giggles of my wife and kids more.
I wanted to play the incredible, famous role of Jean Valjean but I wanted to play the role of Husband and Dad more.
I’ve learned that sometimes we have to simplify, even when we love everything that we are doing. There are good things and then there are better things. It’s important to stop and prioritize and then schedule our lives accordingly. Those decisions to cut things from our lives can be difficult but they are rewarding. They lay the foundation for the most important relationships in our lives.
For all the things that we give up, we gain a hundred fold as we prioritize our time and energy and give it to the things that matter most.
Question: How do you balance your personal interests with family life and simplify when necessary?
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