Priorities and Marching Band and Halloween, Oh My!

It’s my usual dilemma: Too much to do and not enough time, energy, or financial resources to do it all. Like everybody these days, it’s a constant struggle to balance a busy life. I can’t do it all, despite what all those people say about multi-tasking.

When I multi-task, I just get a bunch of things done half-assed.

Then my perfectionism rears its ugly head.

Then I explode.

Then I have to apologize. (And I hate to apologize.)

But I really, really hate this vicious cycle even more.

It’s all about priorities. The problem with priorities is that a lot of other stuff gets in the way.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said something like this: “My family expects me to do this because that’s the way it’s always been.” or “I’m a member of the PTA (or Sports Boosters or Rotary or Kiwanis, etc.) and we have a fundraiser that needs to be staffed.” or “I can’t say ‘no’ when they need my help.” or “The house is a mess and I can’t concentrate unless it’s cleaned up.”

Ok, we all have different priorities (and some are a bit more OCD than others). The trick is figuring out what YOUR priorities are. Not your family’s priorities. Not your friends’. Not the twenty service organizations’ you belong to.


What makes you smile and laugh? What gives you a feeling of accomplishment? What have you always wanted to do? Do you honestly need to belong to twenty organizations?

Let’s face it folks, we only get one life. Do you want to live it stressed out to the point you hate your life, the people around you, and, most of all, hate yourself?

Problem is, if you start asking yourself the tough questions, you might not like the answers. It can require changing things. And a lot of people have trouble with change. That’s certainly been one of my hot-button issues.

My priorities?

On an everyday or regular basis: Family. Writing. Reading. Cooking dinner. My health.

On a part-time or seasonal basis: Movies. Gardening. Visual art. Halloween.

Each of these things can be broken down further. For instance, not everything that falls under the heading of Family is a priority for me. For example, my daughter wants to be in marching band. I think that’s a great thing and I’m proud of how well she’s learned to play the french horn. However, marching band is HER priority.

It isn’t a priority for me to go to every single parade and competition my kid is in. I will support her by watching a few parades, buying uniforms, and getting her to and from practices and the bus when they go on the road. If they make it to semi-finals or finals in competition, I’ll be there.

My daughter is a priority for me. I love her and do my best to make sure she is cared for and happy as it is possible for a tween to be. But I will not make every one of her priorities mine as well.

I made a monumental decision a few years ago to start a novel-writing career. As a result, I needed to rearrange my priorities and change several things in my life. Some were no-brainers and a snap to accomplish. Some were worse than pulling out my toenails with pliers.

Once I changed these things, life wasn’t smooth, either. Periodically, I find myself in the middle of a crisis and have to stop and think about my priorities again. Which is something I recently experienced.

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. We usually set up a yard haunt on trick-or-treat night, and last year we started a tradition of having a Halloween party too. This year, we planned for a party on Saturday night and the yard haunt on Monday night. No problem. Everything hummed along, right up until I got sick the week before.

When I get sick, I’m a mess for several days and usually feel like death wormed over. (Appropriate for the holiday, but I was actually dressing as a living person this year!)  Thankfully, most of the house was decorated and everything mostly planned. But the devil is always in the details and I still had SO MUCH TO DO.

I looked around at all the loose ends, feeling like something the cat left mangled by the kitchen door and, well, I felt it all closing in. I had a bit of a meltdown, though not a full explosion (probably from lack of energy).

I still had to apologize, though, dammit.

Anyway, my point is that I was forced to step back, reconsider my priorities, and plan accordingly. I scrapped a couple ideas for the party I didn’t have time for, went with a scaled-down version of my costume, and didn’t go overboard getting photos or video. On the day of the party, my wonderful husband took over kitchen duties.

Turns out, the party was a great success and we got compliments on the decor and food. But I still didn’t feel up to doing the yard haunt. Since it was a cold night, my husband offered to do candy duty. I stayed warm and cozy, ate popcorn, and watched The Bride of Frankenstein, and didn’t even mind missing trick-or-treat.

But I mulled over the whole situation and decided it’s best not to try to do both a party and a yard haunt again. Shockingly, the family was ok with only the yard haunt for next Halloween. Imagine that! While Halloween is a priority, I need to scale back how much I celebrate it.

Now I need to get back to all those other priorities – like writing!

Have you had to reconsider your priorities recently? What did you decide to do and how did it work out?


6 comments on “Priorities and Marching Band and Halloween, Oh My!

  1. Okay it’s a little creepy that you posted this when I was just about to post on my blog, along the same lines, about something that really hit home with me in a book I read last month 🙂

    I’m learning it’s not really about priorities so much as values. I asked myself, “What do you value?” The answer to that then gave me a measuring stick against which to hold all the activities / projects in my life.

    Balance is tricky and a somewhat moving target. Focus is the key. Flexibility is a must!

    P.S. Sorry to hear you were sick and glad you’re feeling better 😀


    • ekcarmel says:

      “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. You have entered…The Twilight Zone.”


      Scary how we are on the same wave length sometimes, Leah.

      I think our priorities grow out of the values we hold, so you went a step deeper than I did.

      Maybe balance is overrated. I don’t think I ever achieve it for more than a short period of time. It can seem nebulous and yet, I still try to reach for it. Hmm. Something to think about.

      Focus. “Ah focus, how I miss you!” I used to have laser focus and find myself such a scatter-brain anymore it’s depressing. About the only way I can keep on track is with lists. And selective hearing.


  2. I find it takes longer to do things the older I get, things I completed quickly years ago. However, I still undertake each project but I adjust the time required. eg. it used to take 15 mins to mow lawn, now it takes 20-25 minutes, but I still mow the lawn. Or, now vac house once a month instead of once a week. (easy decision now all kids fledged) The extra time I gain I use on writing, creating covers, editing, etc.
    Fun times ahead!


    • ekcarmel says:

      Very sensible, Diane. You amaze me with all that you accomplish. Some day I hope I’ll be able to manage it, too. Not to mention, it would be lovely to vacuum the house just once a month…


  3. So sorry you were sick and just before Halloween. Life loves to throw curve balls at us just to see if we’re paying attention and learning something.

    I’m raising my hand.

    Yeah, I suck at balance. When I was younger I worked two jobs, went to school part-time, did the majority of school activities with my daughters and whew! Just thinking about it makes me tired. A lot of stuff went undone or half done. Now I think, no I know, I would do things different.

    These days I’m still struggling with the priority/balance thing. I’m guilty as sin about putting anything and everything above what I should and need to be doing like writing. There are plenty of excuses I can come up with but in the end it’s up to me to get them worked out.

    You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. That balance thing might not be totally under control but it sounds like you’ve got it tied with a rope.


    • ekcarmel says:

      I totally believe that Life has a twisted sense of humor.

      Yup, I’m good at excuses too. But like you said, it’s up to us, ’cause no one else can do it for us.

      “Tied up with rope” -LOL- just call me Calamity Jane!


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