Just yesterday I scrolled over this image on Facebook.
(Image source: images.google.com)
At the outset, it seemed absolutely true. Putting simply, what keeps us busy are the things that we perceive to be the most important. The trouble is, it seems too simple. Let’s take an example. If right now I was to put ‘Catch up with your best friend’ on my to-do list (well I won’t have to literally write it, but let’s say I am talking about my mental to-do list); it won’t be flagged as high priority. I will think that I should do it on the upcoming weekend and it will happen sometime in the next 5. But if right this second she texts and says ‘hey Sau, got a minute?’, I will have the next two hours for her, if that’s what she needs. Then where does she appear on my priority list? Our ‘counting on each other to always be there, even if we don’t talk to each other for months’ is exactly what makes us best friends.
I suspect the issue is that of people perceiving prioritization as something negative. Well, I don’t blame them. One likes lists if we are on the top, or if we are obsessive compulsive about having lists. But it seems inevitable that a list have things on top and others not so much. Some things will always seem more important than others. And each person can have a different judgement about what’s important. I don’t think anybody escapes this process, no one.
A few weeks ago I was catching up with a cousin I care deeply about and would place in the category of being ‘right here for as long as you need me.’ We hadn’t talked in months and last she knew I was going through a difficult phase in life. In an attempt to hide my guilt for not having contacted her for a long time, I told her, “I was busy just as she must have been and that’s what caused the gap in communication.” But reflecting on it the second I uttered those words, I felt like I had spoken the truth. We are all occupied by the many things that surround us and need to be taken care of regularly. And then at this point I would accept that my priority isn’t always keeping in touch with old friends and family. It is often taking up extra tasks upon myself and indulging in long working hours. I will go several extra miles for people who are immediately around me; physically, emotionally, professionally, but maybe not for someone who is not so much.
And once again, we are back to the same point. Why is my way of prioritization held to be inferior? In my understanding, the larger scheme of thing dictates that we keep moving closer to and further from people ALL THE TIME. Some steady rocks stay put through life and that’s who I call ‘mine’. The rest, become the memories I cherish and always wish well for. So why the accusation of ‘you never call!’? If the person doesn’t call either, I can say the same, but I don’t. Even better, when a near and dear does call, I appreciate the gesture, thank them for it, apologize for not having done so myself and never ask, ‘hey, why did you call?’
Looking around, I find that I am not alone in this. Many people feel the need to explain their priorities to those who have learnt the art of keeping in touch. Don’t get me wrong, its wonderful that they can do it and I admire them for that. Just that, I don’t think our priorities are misplaced or wrong; they are just different. This is definitely the most obvious explanation behind this issue causing me anxiety. All of us are not the same and we often have a difficulty understanding the viewpoint of another if it is vastly different from our own. All those I call friends and family, I hope would understand this and respect it, just as I would do it for them. If I don’t call, doesn’t mean I don’t care.
However, there is another hate-to-accept-it explanation. Yesterday was my little brother’s birthday. I usually love birthdays and if it’s a loved one’s birthday, I am thrilled. But I did nothing for him. No special celebration, no gift, not even a gesture that would count. I may not be geographically close but that shouldn’t have made a difference. I’m feeling guilty and that’s the other explanation. When I realize (or am made to realize) that I missed something or made a mistake, I might use the veil of ‘was too busy’ to reduce my guilt. When something is on my mind but doesn’t make it to the higher ranks in the list, I do wonder if I was really too busy or just ignorant. When I have been thinking about a friend for a few days and he messages before I get to it, or when an important task remains incomplete because too many other tasks took precedence, I hate it. Very often I can’t decide on my own priorities and realize that I screwed up. But even in those situations, ‘I was very busy’ is just a fact of the matter, and not an excuse. Something taking a low priority on the list is just representative of my perceived importance, and not open for judgement.