I called my Nanna today. It’s the first time I’ve talked with her in months and the only time in years I’ve called her voluntarily. That is, usually my Mom waits until I’m visiting her, then she dials Nanna up and hands me the phone.
Actually, today was only semi-voluntarily since my Mom left a message on my voice mail this morning “reminding” me it was Grandpa’s birthday. Mom’s good like that, I’m not. You see, my Grandpa doesn’t know he’s 92 today. Hell, he doesn’t even know it’s Wednesday. So this was my Mom’s way of asking me to reach out to my Nanna who cares for him even though she’s half-blind, walks with the aid of cane, and is no spring chicken herself at 89.
The World Spins at Different Speeds
Don’t consider me an ass, at least not a complete ass. My relationship with my grandparents has never been close. We live on opposite coasts and I haven’t seen them in at least five years. Those are not excuses. They are facts. But regardless of the details, they’re my kin and I need to do more.
Back to the conversation. After inquiring into Grandpa’s state (not good) and hers (looking up with the weather getting better), I nearly wept when she said, “Honey, you’ve just made my day!” The tears welling up were of shame, not joy. Here was this woman who had been with her husband for seventy-three years (73!). She’s house-bound with a grown child, rarely getting out and never getting to just relax. The world revolves slowly in a very tight circle for her.
Conversely, I’m constantly racing around in my hyper-kinetic professional world. There’s always another e-mail coming in and another phone call going out. There are flights to catch, dinners to enjoy, and friends to meet at the first tee. And I don’t have two minutes in all that to stop and call my Nanna? How did I let that happen?
How Mattering Matters
It was so easy to sit and talk with her on this voluntary basis. Maybe not having the phone thrust into my face took the heat off the moment. But, just as I was settling into a nice conversation, my poor Nanna lobbed “You’re Aunty Carol is a lifesaver to me.” over the fence! Now I felt like a true heel. Aunt Carol lives a scant three miles away compared to my three thousand. She’s the one who’s really shouldering the burden. And you don’t even want to know when the last time I talked to her was.
Though my Mom flies back to New England regulary to help her, Carol’s definitely been the leader and care provider to both my Nanna and Grandpa these last few years. I’m sure it’s arduous, but I rest comfortable knowing that at least my Nanna routinely tells her how grateful she is for the assistance. (For those of you wondering why they’re not in assisted care, read the part about 73 years above. There’s a whole article on commitment in that one number.)
Making the Call
A good friend of mine truly believes that people don’t change, at least not much. The weight of the evidence is on his side I’m afraid. My slant on change is that it occurs when a simple trifecta occurs: Think, Feel, Do.
Most people Think about making a change. They gather all the intellectual reasons together and make a reasoned decision that change is good. And that’s where the effort to change usually ends.
The Feel part of change is much more significant. It’s where the motivation is generated that effects change. In today’s example, the motivation to make a change did not come from the shame I felt at being the hero of the day over my Aunt Carol’s tireless efforts. The motivation came from how easy it was to just voluntarily chat with my Nanna for a couple of minutes on the phone. It was just so easy!
Now for the Do part. How do you make it happen on a “regular” basis? You could make it a routine. For example, my sister calls our Dad every Thursday afternoon. It’s a routine. That doesn’t work so well with my traveling all the time. However, I’m a process guy. That’s what I do for a living, so I created a monthly recurring reminder on my Nanna’s contact record in Outlook that’ll pop her into my Reminder box each month to prompt me to give her a call. The solution was easy once the motivation existed.
The Value of Action
There are a lot of things we know we should do. There are a number of things we probably will do. But whenever you’re in the throws of trying to evaluate the true benefits of making a change to improve the “balance” in your life, ask yourself this one question: When you’ve reached the end of your life, will you wish you’d made that change?
2 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance Requires Change”
I am so glad you not only called your Nana, but that you realized that there is something wrong with the world and ourselves if the important people in our life become an afterthought after work, chores, etc. You had some valid points about change, how to make it part of your routine. We all could stand some lessons in how to incorporate work life balance
A practical book that steps through how to make these changes that I recommend is called “Your Work, Your Life….Your Way.”
Kendra: Thanks for your comments. It’s true that our dashing about can easily leave a vaccum of connection in our wake. Another great resource is http://www.zenhabits.com for those who want to live a more considered life.