Caregivers: Finding Time for Important Things

  • Getting Our Priorities Straight


    Through my many years as a "Sandwich Generation" caregiver - caring for young children and elders at the same time - I rarely thought to myself, "Gee, it's time to do something for me. Maybe I should get together with one of my friends, before they forget who I am."


    No, I was more likely to say, when asked to run out for coffee, "Thanks, but I just don't have time. Maybe next week?" But next week never came.


    I'm still capable of doing this. I don't have seven elders depending on me, but I have the equivalent of two jobs, as well as a son with chronic health problems. I have many blessings, and I'm very aware of them. But I often feel pressed for time. There never seems to be enough time to do what I "need" to do.

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    Or is there? When I start to feel that I don't have time for anything, let alone myself, I know I need to take a look at my spiritual health. If what I'm doing is what I'm meant to do, then the time is also there for me to accomplish my tasks. And, I do believe that I'm doing what I'm meant to do. So, the next step is to refresh my faith in that belief.


    Which brings me to the story below. I've received several incarnations of this story, as it has floated around the internet. I have no idea where it originated, or which version is original. However, I do know it serves me well as a reminder of what life is truly about. I hope it helps you busy caregivers take a fresh look at your schedules, and to remember that there truly is time to accomplish that which really matters.


    Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee


    A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.


    He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.


    The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.


    He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.


    The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.


    He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded again, with "yes."


    The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the liquid into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.


    "Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.


    The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car.


    The sand is everything else - the small stuff.


    "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."


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    "So... Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."


    One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."


    Remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee when things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough.


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Published On: August 03, 2007