When I was young and in high school, I think that I put the “extra” in extracurricular activities. Anything that I could be part of and involved with, I embraced. I played sports, I did theater, I sang and played in musical groups, and I still managed to do well in all of my classes. I loved being involved in everything, it gave me the chance to get to know more people. I loved keeping busy and it wasn’t unusual for me to leave the house early in the morning and come home late at night. My parents were happy that I was occupying my time with healthy and productive things.
Through college, I realized that the schedule that I had once kept was not as feasible as it once had been. The academics grew harder and free time decreased. Still, I found a way to keep other activities outside of the classroom. After college, I got a job and worked on my first master’s degree in the evenings. The same busy schedule that I had kept during high school seemed to fill my plate again even while working.
Then something happened. I met a girl. We dated. We got married. The schedule needed to slow down a little bit, to go on Slim Fast, so to speak, and lose a little weight. I could not expect to stay married and stay busy, something would have to give.
Life became further complicated years later when we had a child. Then I started seminary. Then we had another child. Then we had another child. And just like that, it seemed that there were a lot of things that were vying for my time.
As I thought about this recently, I likened it to a pie. Once upon a time, I had that whole pie to myself. I didn’t share it with anyone. I could cut it up however I wanted to, there were little demands on how big the pieces needed to be, and there was a general freedom.
When I got married, I now had to share this pie with another person. I wasn’t the only one determining the size of the pieces that were cut. If I wanted to have a successful marriage, we both needed to weigh in on the size of the pieces in this pie. Demands went up, responsibilities increased, but the size of the pie remained the same.
When my kids came along, the number of people determining the size of the pie pieces increased, until one day, there were five of us who were determining how big the pieces, how much went where, and there were now five opinions as to whether or not the division of pieces was satisfactory or not. All this, and the size of the pie remained the same.
Time management. People make their living telling others how to successfully split up their “pies.” Books are written. Lectures are given. Still, people struggle to figure out just how to make it all fit together, to split things up in a way that makes everyone happy.
I guess that I wish someone had told me that the pie really never gets bigger, it just stays the same. It would have saved me a lot of frustration, not only my own, but my family’s as well. As much as we wish we could make the pie bigger, it just doesn’t happen. We try our best to pretend that it’s bigger than it is, we cut the pieces up the same way that we’ve always cut them and expect different results. Yet, it just doesn’t get any bigger.
This is a lesson that I am still in the process of learning. Funny thing is, by the time I begin to get a handle on it, my kids will probably be in college and I’ll be trying to figure out how to fill all that time that I had before so that I don’t start acting like a Lifetime movie or begin bawling at every Hallmark commercial that I see. By the time I begin to figure it out, it will change again.
Yup, this is the adventure that I’m on. So, I guess the best thing to do is stop pretending that it’s not an issue and just call it out for what it is, call out the elephant in the room. Maybe if we look at it together, realizing that the pie’s not getting any bigger, we’ll begin to appreciate it more, no matter what size it is. If nothing else, we’ll have fun trying to figure it out as we go. That, or we’ll go crazy trying.