Before It’s Too Late

Recently when I accompanied a loved one to the hospital I noticed a man sleeping in a chair in one of the waiting areas. He appeared to be in a fairly deep sleep – arms crossed over his chest, head tilted to the side. I studied his sleeping visage for a moment. Surely he was the spouse of a dear friend I met long ago when our kids were in first grade together. But I hadn’t seen him in so long… was that actually him? If so, I should wake him up and say hello.

It’d been years since our girls graduated high school, more years since their family attended my wedding, and even more since I’d attended the ceremony in which this amazing couple renewed their vows. While our kids were growing up we’d get together for coffee, dinner, karaoke and games.  The kids would play until all hours of the night, often resulting in a sleepover.  As the years went by, there’d been occasional visits, but contact became less frequent.   Each time we did communicate, though, we’d always agree, “We need to get together”. Facebook posts provided a means to learn about events in each other’s lives, and our friendly posts almost always ended with, “We really need to get together”.

Was this sleeping gentleman the head of this family I love so dearly? What if I was wrong? Would a stranger be annoyed that I woke him up because of mistaken identity?

The hospital receptionist couldn’t tell me his name or provide any information about the family – a protocol I fully understood since I also work in a healthcare facility. However, when I told her the name of the person I thought it might be, she confirmed he was indeed my dear friend.

A gentle nudge, a big hug and we were engrossed in conversation, ‘catching up’.

While it was a surprise to run into him at the hospital, I wasn’t surprised he was there. His wife had suffered with health issues for a long time. On this particular day, she was having surgery and we promised we’d all get together as soon as his wife was feeling up to it.

Although I wished that I’d done better at keeping in touch with such a wonderful family, I left the hospital that day grateful for this chance encounter, and the opportunity to reconnect. I was committed to us spending time together as soon as my friend was feeling better.

I was devastated when I logged onto Facebook just a few days later and discovered that the dutiful husband I woke at the hospital was now without the love of his life. Three beautiful, sweet and talented children are now without the woman who helped shape them into wonderful adults. And I would never get the chance to have another cup of coffee with my dear friend.

So why am I telling you all this? Hopefully you can avoid some of the mistakes I – and no doubt countless others have made.

Most, if not all of us who write, do so because we love it. It’s our passion. And when you love to do something, you want to do it all the time – yep, including that.

We eat, sleep, drink and think about our stories, our characters and ultimately our marketing and sales. Our writing is in our blood. We secretly curse when our phones ring or the dog needs to go out. It seems the hands on the clock conspire to move faster when we’re sitting at the computer, getting into deep POV. Why does it seem like the baby waits until we’re in the middle of a creative flow to wake up complaining of a wet diaper? We don’t want to be interrupted. We want to write.

I’ve found that in spite of the good that results from my passion for writing, the potential for harm exists as well. One of the biggest problems I have as a writer is finding balance. My passion for writing (and lack of discipline) has caused me to be late for work and behind on laundry and other household chores. There have been times I’ve missed saying goodnight to my son before he fell asleep and missed the due date on a few bills… more than once. My love for writing has even kept me from taking the time to get together with friends.

I’ve been trying to think of ways I can strike a balance between my passion for writing and the other areas of my life. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Delegate more. Ask others to take care of some tasks, even if they do it differently than I do.
  2. Schedule days and times for writing and only write at the designated times. This would mean keeping a small notebook handy for ideas and dialog that I can add to my story during my scheduled time.
  3. Set cell phone reminders for the dates that each of my bills are due.
  4. Make myself accountable to others. Post the bills that need to be taken care of in a spot where others can see them and remind me if necessary – perhaps writing them on a wall calendar.

What about you? How do you balance your passion for writing with the other tasks you are responsible for? What are some of the things you want to do and people you want to see before it’s too late?

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