This week at a school banquet I heard parents of high school students lamenting their lack of solitude and down time in general. Several of them were parents of younger teens that have not quite reached the driving age. They are in the taxi cab stage of parenting for at least another year. I am sympathetic. I have been there.
As I thought about all of our constant busyness, a rather sobering thought occurred to me. We tend to make our worst decisions during times in life when there is little or no time for personal reflection. I am fully aware that I have made my worst judgment calls during times when I was stressed and facing an overwhelming schedule. Even the most basic decisions necessitate some quiet deliberation.
Several months ago I was juggling three or four major events that were facing me both professionally and personally. I recall driving down the interstate and thinking: “I need some time to process everything that is going on right now.” That thought turned out to profound. I have since started a habit of stopping in my tracks when life is especially intense and saying: “It is time to process.”
I have actually formed several new habits in light of this revelation. I thought I would share them here in hopes that they might be useful to someone else.
- I journal every morning. I simply jot down what is going on that day or perhaps what took place the previous day. I often write down some brief reflections regarding those events. For some reason this simple practice has turned out to be an important dimension of processing all of the chaos going on around me.
- I walk most days during my lunch hour. The exercise of course is beneficial, but the time to process what is going on in my life at the time at a much deeper level is even more important.
- I have several hideouts. I retreat to my hideouts when I need time to clear my head. It is usually entails something as simple as getting a vanilla coke and driving around for a bit. I am convinced that the time spent at my hideouts calms me sufficiently to prevent rash statements, foolish decisions, and other expressions of impulsivity that would be destructive.
Processing is an ongoing need. The need for such a discipline never ceases. It clears the mind, so that the spiritual disciplines like prayer and mediation can be more meaningful. I am fully aware that an unexamined life paves the way for poor decisions that lead to train wrecks. I honestly hope that my parental colleagues are able to carve out some time for processing. It is imperative.