A few weeks ago, as we were throttling headlong toward the last day of school, I called one morning to have my oldest dismissed from class for an orthodontist’s appointment. I spoke to the school’s receptionist, letting her know that I would pick Noah up at 11:30 and bring him back shortly after lunch.
A couple of hours later my cell phone rang while I was out running. When I saw it was the school, I quickly paused the podcast I’d been listening to and answered the call.
“Hi, Ms. DeRusha,” the school receptionist said. “You called earlier to have Noah dismissed this afternoon, but it seems we don’t have a record of a Noah Johnson at this school. According to our files, Noah finished up middle school two years ago and is now a sophomore at the high school.”
I stood dumbstruck on the running path, my brain frantically trying to catch up to what I was hearing in my ear. Finally the pieces clicked into place. I had called the middle school rather than the high school to dismiss Noah for his orthodontist’s appointment. I’d called to have my son dismissed from a school he hadn’t attended in two years.
The receptionist on the line was quiet as I stammered out an explanation, a response undoubtedly made even more disturbing by the fact that, because she’d caught me mid-run, I was wheezing great, laborious gasps into the phone between sentences.
She gently asked if I needed her to call the high school to have Noah dismissed, an offer I did my best, between gasps, to gracefully decline. I’m sure I sounded like nothing less than an unhinged lunatic.
This, friends, is what distraction looks like. This is what happens when your brain synapses are firing in 146 different directions. This is what happens when you don’t allow yourself time to take a breath, but instead hurtle onward in overdrive, to-do list in hand, myriad balls in the air, bent on accomplishing every last thing.
The truth is, hustle-produce-achieve is my default, and it’s frightfully easy for me to slip mindlessly into that mode. Add a couple of important deadlines and an increased workload to the busy end-of-the-year school schedule, and presto, I’m hustling morning, noon and night.
The problem is, while we might be able to handle 24/7 hustle for a little while – maybe a few weeks, or even a few months – we can’t continue to burn the candle at both ends indefinitely. Because here’s the truth about the hustle-produce-achieve existence: it doesn’t just result in a frazzled mind; in my experience, it also results in a fractured soul.
When we’re deep in hustle-produce-achieve mode, we’re more apt to lose sight of our true self – the person created by and beloved by God. Rather than resting in the knowledge of who we are at the center of our heart, mind and soul, we find ourselves scrambling to define and identify ourselves by what we do.
Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life defining myself by what I’ve produced or achieved. It’s only more recently that I’ve begun to understand that who I truly am is not defined by all the things I do.
On one hand, my phone call to the wrong school was just a silly, albeit mortifying, mistake. On the other hand, though, it was a red flag, a literal wake-up call right there in the middle of the running path — a reminder to take a breath, dial back the hustle and the need to achieve and perform, and remember who I am – known, seen and, above all, beloved.