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“If I make someone wait, they’ll be angry. I’m supposed to be available at all times… that’s why I have a cell phone, right?”
I could’ve said the words myself. And I cringed so hard the moment that I listened to them fall out of her mouth. I’ve had that same thought, or something similar to that line of thought, so many times. It’s unfortunate what you can convince yourself of when you’ve had years of people around you telling you that you’re not allowed to be unavailable.
There was a time where the entire world didn’t have a cell phone in their pocket. If you weren’t at home to answer a landline, you just weren’t at home to answer. Look back a little further in history and there were times that phones didn’t exist either. Imagine walking a road for an hour to visit a friend only to find when you got there that your friend had gone to visit someone else. A letter might make it to a destination and get a reply in the same month. Can you imagine?
So… as it turns out, there is no requirement that any of us be available to everyone or someone particular for 100% of our time. Years ago, an old friend gave me possibly one of the wisest pieces of advice in history. We were talking about becoming parents. She had a child or two already. I did not. What she offered though; it really translates well across any subject.
She offered me the words “pee first”.
Maybe your child is crying, and you need to address that, but don’t think you’ll be fine to wait and go once you get them calmed down. Pee first. Because if you don’t, you’ll get antsy. You’ll get tense, and start feeling desperate for the bathroom, and you’ll just end up having to put the baby down and aggravate them more.
It’s easy to draw some parallels and apply this advice to every other part of life. Maybe your coworker thinks it’s necessary that you listen to them right this second, but you’re not even going to listen if you’re trying to argue with your bladder about waiting. Pee first. If your coworker doesn’t understand, that’s more a problem for them.
Maybe your sister thinks you should answer all of her text messages no matter what time of night she sends them, but that’s not true. We don’t all keep the same schedule, and where she is a night shift worker, you need to be headed in at 6:00 a.m. and answering her at 3:00 a.m. when she’s looking for you just doesn’t make sense. Your wake times overlap somewhere in the day, and she can deal with that while you get your needed shuteye.
Someone that tries to chastise you because you couldn’t answer their call needs to get a grip more than they need to get your attention. And if you are the person trying to chastise another, I can promise you that you’re damaging your relationships by trying to insist that you get unlimited access to them all the time. Maybe you’ll get your way right now, but eventually you’ll do enough damage that you won’t be able to repair it anymore.
Really… it’s OK to sometimes not be there. It’s OK to sometimes be napping, working, or in the bathroom. It’s even OK to just not be able to handle people some days. But putting pressure on yourself to be always available and perfect for everyone is not the answer. If you’re always available for everyone else, when will you be able to check in on yourself? And without checking in on yourself… how long will you still be around for everyone else?