Excuses, juggling, and stress

When I use the word “excuses” I am sure it triggers a lot of negative thoughts. But especially when we have busy lives and are juggling many responsibilities excuses are not simply an accusation to throw at ourselves but an essential way of coping and prioritizing. What after all is the difference between an excuse and a reason? If we have a reason doesn’t it make sense to put something off when we have so many other things to do? Unfortunately, even under such an innocent disguise these excuses can become a big problem. Too often among the things we are juggling there are things which are unpleasant/hard but essential. The unpleasant/hard aspect makes them easy to put off while their essential aspect means putting them off is slowly moving the situation towards disaster. That is of course where the stress comes in.

This comes into play in several aspects of my life but the biggest is in taking care of my mother who is 81 and has lost most of her mobility. The excuse I have most often is that she simply tells me to go away… her excuse is reading a book and doesn’t want to put it down. I am putting off fighting with her and insisting that she stand up so we get her cleaned up. I am really really only too happy to do other things… unfortunately that way leads to disaster… argh…

I am sure any of you can think of a dozen examples of this in your own lives. It seems to be a pretty universal human condition, don’t you think?

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Without consulting a dictionary - I’d just say that ‘excuses’ are a special subset of reasons, or in other words, reasons considered bad or that leave us looking culpable in society’s eyes. A stack of papers on my desk may not get graded as soon as they could have, maybe somebody isn’t getting some work done because they are too lazy, or perhaps too undisciplined to resist distractions like posting stuff online (merely a hypothetical situation - I strongly want you to know.)

It’s alleged moral deficiency doesn’t make it any less of a reason as far as impartial logic goes. It is the reason perhaps that something else isn’t getting done. It’s just a bad reason. So take reasons and attach judgmental value to them, and they earn the partisan label of ‘excuse’. I suppose it wouldn’t completely look like an excuse, though, if that judgmental connotation wasn’t disputed by the excuse-giver. I.e. It’s only an ‘excuse’ in the eyes of the critics. To the subject himself, he may insist it’s an entirely legitimate reason, without being an excuse at all.

That’s good that you can care for your mom like that, even if she doesn’t always want you around. If she’s still sharp enough to be reading and such, you do have some significant blessings to count. My own mom died after sinking into severe dementia (to the point of not talking at all) in her last years. She was in a facility, so I wasn’t facing daily care task on her behalf as it sounds like you are. But my point is, enjoy her years of lucidity, even if she’s using it to tell you to get the heck out of there so she can read. That’s gotta be hard to show your love with both distance, but then also with getting her needed care done. My thoughts are with you on that. I can tell you love her a lot.


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