The opposite of availability

So many things compete for our attention! Detail from artwork at Children’s National Medical Center,Washington, DC, March 2014

So many things compete for our attention!
Detail from artwork at Children’s National Medical Center,Washington, DC, March 2014

“The opposite of availability is not unavailability, but an overcrowded heart.”
Sue Monk Kidd

Did any of you wince inwardly on reading these words? I know I did. It’s the sort of observation we know to be true even as we wish it wasn’t. So many of us have a hard time saying “no” to new opportunities, potential friendships, or additional experiences even though our lives are already filled to the brim with good things.

Choosing between good, better and best is no easy task. But on reflection, perhaps I don’t have to start there. Maybe there are a few not-so-great things taking up real estate in my overwhelmed brain.  Is there any junk I can clear out of my home, heart and schedule? I must admit, there certainly is.

I don’t know what anyone else’s list might look like, but I can start with eliminating negative thoughts and worry, fretting over minor irritations, and berating myself (aloud or silently) for simple mistakes.  The cumulative effects of these mental habits use up more energy than I might realize.

Moving on to more concrete items, I can easily live without glossy, attractive advertising for items I don’t need, or gossipy online “news” stories of dubious credibility.  I can turn the telephone off for a few hours (or even days!) and check my phone messages once daily, or re-direct them to email, so as not to be sidetracked. I can take steps to minimize junk mail, junk TV, junk calls and texts, and junk food and drinks. These distractions consume countless small increments of time that add up to hours of life.

Once I eliminate all the things I will never miss, it might be easier to find time for what is really important to me. Sometimes this will mean decreasing the time allocated for certain activities, at least temporarily.  Or it may mean learning to be comfortable with being totally unavailable for awhile, knowing that periodic unavailability for one opportunity opens doors to others.

Do you struggle with the conflicted emotions that go with having an overcrowded heart? What are some of your secrets for being available for the people and projects that matter most?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I’m praying for you and Matt, there are Children’s National. I imagine I could spend some time contemplating that piece of artwork.
    Regarding distractions, I opened a new internet tab to read today’s Defeat Despair, and the news feed included something about “The Mediterranean has finally dried up, and ….”
    Not only will I not click on that article, I think I won’t bother to read the news feed’s story on avocados, either. I think they’ve successfully tempered my interest in any of their “news” stories!

    • Susan, how ironic that this post, scheduled in advance, would publish on a day when Matthew and I were both on the same floor of that same hospital, just a short stroll away in the CICU…NEVER let somebody else’s click bait news feed steal your time! It’s worth more than money!!!

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