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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Letting Yourself Get Interrupted

"Sometimes if I have to write a paper and a friend calls or wants to stop

by, I'll just turn the paper in late. It's just a paper."

I blinked at my friend. Nothing in my life was just anything. Just a paper? Just a deadline? How foolish, I thought. How irresponsible. How borderline-lazy.

Those words were spoken to me and a group of friends several years ago. Back in college. Back when papers were necessary currency to your GPA as well as your intellectual standing with your friends/classmates/competitors.

Back then, I couldn't imagine putting something as important as a paper on hold for a person. I couldn't imagine putting my academic career on the line to make time for a coffee or dinner date.

I'd sing a constant song with how stressed I was or how much I had to get done when one of my friends who was really making an intentional effort to spend time with me asked me to dinner. Again. And again.

My answer to her each time was a personality cocktail of incredulous tension: I don't have time.

To which she replied, you do still have to eat, though, right?

Back to my friend, who was speaking to a group of us. Sharing her wisdom with us in a quiet, safe circle:

"I always want to make time for people," she said. "So I let myself get interrupted."

And so, I carried on my merry way, momentarily baffled by this philosophy on friendship and life in general. Letting myself let go of the temporary in favor of the eternal. Staying up a little later, or all night, if it meant helping a friend get through a fight with her boyfriend at 3 a.m., or accepting a simple coffee date even when my schedule was jam-packed.

(Or at least, the collegiate version of a jam-packed schedule.)

And let me tell you: I don't remember a single paper I turned in. I don't remember the individual grades of each one. I don't remember the tests that wore me down and made me unable to function without a Venti coffee and an energy drink throughout the day.

But, I remember the dinner dates.

I remember my a capella group rehearsals three times a week and weekend performances that we we were all too busy for, but somehow still made time for.

Those moments are what I remember. Those glorious, rose-gold interruptions. Thank God we made time for them. Thank God. Or I would've missed out on one of my fondest seasons without realizing it.

So much of my life as a writer is time spent alone. 

Time spent inflecting. Getting in some face-time with my bright-white screen.

And many writers will tell you to make time for your art. To be diligent. To  prioritize your creativity and your ambition over everything else. Because no one will do it for you.

I do this sometimes. I burrow myself away in a room when all of the extroversion within me would rather be sipping tea with a girlfriend or spending time with my husband that doesn't include plopping on our big red couch and watching Frasier reruns.

It's not really a discipline for me. I know the writing will get done.

But the letting myself get interrupted? In the name of a grieving friend or a discouraged family member? That doesn't get done as often as I'd like.

I do this with my spiritual life, too.

I don't want to be thought of as productive. Well, as only productive. Do I want to be a hard worker? Yes. Do I want to under-promise and over-deliver in my professional and creative life? Of course.

But, I don't want that to have such a stronghold on my life that it's the only adjective that describes who I am. I don't want to be so focused on what I think should matter: money, writing, gaining followers, writing fiction and non-fiction that stacks up in the industry that I forget.

My dreams, my goals might get interrupted. 

Many times I feel like my career, my progress as a human who's been pruned and encouraged and uplifted enough to believe that she's destined to have a big impact on the world around her, is at a stalemate.

But maybe, at this time, in this season, it's simply being interrupted. Interrupted for character growth. Or personal development. Or to simply enjoy.

We are always at risk of being interrupted at the hand of our Creator, our master storyteller. 

How many of us have been surprised by a pregnancy? 

Or swept into a whirlwind of a seasonal shift? 

A move?

An illness?


A car repair?

A new opportunity?

A job failure that pushed you into a new career?

A book deal?

A boyfriend who becomes a husband? 

Our lives might be fraught with interruptions. For better or for worse. And we can choose to invite them in. To let them perform somersaults in our schedules and day-to-days. We can welcome them in, and watch the friendships, the joys, the frustrations, setbacks, surprises and disappointments play out.

Because we put what we thought was important on hold long enough to see the beauty in a life that makes room for interruptions.


Whitney said...

I seriously can't be the first one to comment. This was what I needed today. People are always more important than chores.

Brett W. Tubbs said...

Whitneeeeeyyy! I never have a problem with putting off chores for friends ;) LOL! Any of my small group girls can verify that. #dirtydishes #always
But, when it comes to career or finishing a project? Aw man, it's easy for me to forget. I'm glad you could relate :)

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