"We get more done in satisfactory and meaningful ways when we get our priorities right. Just as each person is different to the next person in the bus queue, the differences in the priorities we set ourselves can vary enormously.
When I was first married, my best friend Christopher had one overriding priority and that was to be wealthy enough to retire at the age of 45 years. This burning ambition inside him was stoked by the death of his father by suicide after his father's textile business had failed. Christopher was highly successful in his job and was the joint owner of a mill before he was thirty. Unfortunately, his long hours at work and the preoccupation with his job, even when he came home, eventually turned out to be at the expense of his marriage. His wife started an affair with one of Christopher's employees, and after moving in with the new man in her life, she and Christopher divorced.
Another friend of mine called Matt, who was a fellow student on the course where we trained as Probation Officers, had the opposite priority to that of Chris. Matt had been a miner and was over the moon to be accepted for Probation Officer training at the age of 45 years. The most memorable thing about Matt, which none of the other thirty course members (including myself), would do, would be to give his full time and attention to whoever sought him out when he should have been diligently studying. Sadly, poor Matt never got to complete his course. He had a heart attack driving home one Friday evening for the weekend. I attended his funeral service in Peterlee. The church was packed to the rafters and there were literally two to three hundred friends and family there. Matt was probably the most loved man I ever knew, God bless his soul.
I have known far too many people whose priorities become greatly confused when they have lost a loving partner for whom they still grieve years after. Many of them feel that they've had their ride through life and thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Some would feel guilty if they considered pushing their boat out again instead of resigning themselves to widowhood for the rest of their days; hence their priority is to preserve the memory of the deceased at all cost. While I am not advocating that widows and widowers should or shouldn't join the courting scene again, remarry or live with another, I am advocating a change in priority for those who never go out anymore to enjoy themselves following a bereavement. A ship will always be safe in harbour, but the bottom line is, 'that is not what ships are meant to do!' Ships are meant to go out into the world and to sail uncharted waters, just as all bereaved humans who lost their soul mate are designed to do! Living involves risk and living again involves greater risk.
The young today, never seem to have enough time to do the things they want to do. I frequently tell them that though the age and world they grew up in was much different to mine, the one thing common to us all is 'time.' When all the water has been drained from the cooking pot, that's essentially what the stuff of life is; time! That's what life adds up to. At the start of every day, you are credited with 86,400 seconds of valuable time. Don't waste one second of your day! Hurrying or trying to find short-cuts to life are essentially wasteful and meaningless, as most things have a tendency to happen in their own time.
The most poignant and often saddest of situations is when a couple who are able to have children, want children, but never seem to get children! Conception constantly evades them, however, no matter how many times they try too become parents. John and Joyce were friends of mine when I first married. The upshot of their failed efforts to start a family was that John always felt under pressure to perform and his wife, Joyce, always felt unfulfilled. Joyce was constantly subject to periods of depression and low self-esteem all the years I knew her. They had tried everything imaginable to spice up the experience of procreation and make it happen, but to no avail. I still recall John telling me one night at the pub, 'Ever since me and Joyce have been married, Billy, I have never never made love, as I'm constantly trying to make babies!'
There is nothing like being confronted with the news of a terminal illness or some near death experience to get one to re-evaluate their priorities. There is simply no time more pertinent than this when we learn what really concerns us. This becomes the moment to recognise that trivia is but a small matter. This is the time to dump all pettiness and to grow a new perspective. Since I learned of my own terminal condition, I have tried to do some things differently and better than before, such as listening with the intent to hear and understand as opposed to listening with the intent of reply. I have learned that the most important things we do in life, is often done with our own families, within the walls of our own homes.
I have tried to be more conscious on occasions of my own actions and to respect the right of others to stay still when the 'do-gooder' part of me thinks they ought to move. We have all known the type of Good Samaritan whose speed to help often backfires. I refer to the person who seeks to help another without exercising sufficient forethought; the Good Samaritan who sees an elderly woman with a stick stood on the other side of a busy road during rush hour traffic. Seizing the moment, he gallantly helps the old woman across the road, only to learn when they reach the other side, that she'd already crossed the busy road before he'd come along and didn't want to cross back. She was merely catching her breath and was perfectly happy where he'd found her!
A few priorities I would love society at large to adopt would include, laugh more and enjoy the moment. Know that things will happen in their own time if they're meant to happen at all. Accept that there are no short-cuts to life and know that you'll never produce a baby in one month, even if you get nine women pregnant simultaneously! Recognise that nobody knows 'the truth' and that all we ever know is 'a truth.' Know that the same events will invariably produce different experiences for each of us. It is easier and less exhausting to forgive than to hang on to bitterness, and is good to forgive; not necessarily because they deserve it, but because you deserve the peace that only forgiveness can bring.
Though we may occasionally try to deceive others as to our true self, none can deceive ourselves. Put trust in God's innocent creatures and know that we are truly at our best when we are the person our dog thinks us to be." William Forde: October 14th, 2016.