like a shotgun

August 21, 2008

I just got back from a marathon trip to my hometown Montana.  The days stretched long past sundown, round bonfires or behind the steering wheel; sleep fit in wherever I could cram it–curled up on an air mattress or in the back of my old Jeep.  I hiked up to mountain lakes, waded in a geo-thermally-heated river, practiced my fly-fishing on what very well may be the best trout stream in the lower forty-eight, held a good friend’s baby daughter, and ate breakfast at a different diner nearly every day.  Cindy even rode a horse!  My college-aged brother and sister are exploring what it means for them to be adults, and my baby sister is already in high school.  I am learning to relate to each of them in new ways.  Very good times.

I also faced down some old, genetic (perhaps) flaws, brought to the surface by the hectic pace my parents’ family keeps.  I like to think I am a pretty good friend, that I really care for people and go out of my way to interact them at a really human, personal level.  But sometimes I really mess up. 

For instance, this past week I planned to meet up with an old friend for coffee.  My schedule was quite full, what with fishing and family and all, but I plotted and schemed and thought I could squeeze in just this one more thing.  But with the way things in my genetic-line work, everything never gets done.  I try to fit too much in.  And one thing leading to another, I ended up flaking out on my friend, feeling quite awful about making her go out of her way for nothing and feeling quite disappointed that I wouldn’t get to hear about the great things God was doing for her as she follows where Jesus leads.

I could almost spin this positively, saying that my heart is bigger than my abilities, that I try to fit so much in because I care about these people so much.  And it would be true to an extent.  But my conscience gets upset at the part untruth, and it won’t let me leave it at that.

You see, I am an irresponsible scheduler, a culpably irresponsible scheduler.  There are so many good things that I want to do, people I want to talk with, so much coffee to drink; and I tragically try to shoot the moon every time.  The basic problem is that I don’t prioritize.  I need to pick a few of the good things to concentrate on, and save the others for another time or for other people to do.  It’s the monkey and the peanut jar.

I always thought this was just my style–I’m laid back, unplanned, spontaneous.  No one can fault me for my style, I thought.  But this last trip has changed my mind.  This is really a wrong decision, and it shows an undervaluing of people, a disrespect for their time and their expectations (not that I ever make plans thinking they’ll fall through; it’s just that I should be planning concretely enough to know if things will work or not!).  So this is my shotgun apology to all of you who have been let down by my bad planning.  I considered calling and leaving voicemails to each of you individually, but sitting down to make the list ended up being like picking out a pebble from a dam–quite overwhelming.  So trust that this is much more heartfelt and thought-out than html can communicate, and please forgive me.

On the evening after I had this revelation, I sat out in my Jeep in the driveway beside the corral, watching the sun sink behind the Tobacco Root Mountains.  I felt bad, really bad.  I began to realize that this a personal fault that has its roots in the family culture I like so much–the culture that gets out and does things, goes flyfishing on a river five hours away, goes for a dayhike before a dinner party, invites twenty-five kids over to their house for a twelve hour party.  Later, as I was unloading fishing gear and tents from the back of the pickup, I asked my fifteen year-old sister if she thought our family tries to do too much.  “I guess, maybe,” she replied.  I want to find a way to be laid back, adventurous, and concrete enough in my scheduling to show people I love and respect them.  That, perhaps, is part of the challenge Cindy and I face as we continue to form our own family culture.