In our home, we’ve had some fun debate about the use of the word ironic.
I suppose a portion of the blame could be placed with Alanis Morissette, who misused it throughout an entire hit song back in the ’90s.
Every now and then over the years, I would hear someone at home answer their phone and say, “That’s so ironic. I was just thinking about you!” Nope. It’s not ironic. That’s actually a coincidence—they love it when I correct them.
But recently I was faced with a very precise example of irony at home.
It’s the holiday season—a time for family, friends, and possibly some extensive feasting. Unfortunately, it is also a time of busyness.
As a rule, I prefer not to work too many hours for my job at home. But I was faced with a dilemma that pitted my need to spend some engaged time with family and friends at a large dinner we hold each year against my need to meet some urgent deadlines for work—one of which was writing an article on the importance of . . . you guessed it, family. That is ironic.
Now, if someone were to ask me which was more important, work or family, my answer would be a no-brainer: family first! Unfortunately, it is rare that our options are offered so clearly and in such a black and white fashion.
I made what was in my mind the correct choice to help with the entertaining, food prep, cleanup, etc. I could always wake up a bit earlier and take care of my work tasks the following day.
But as I was going through the proper motions of helping out, something occurred to me: my mind wasn’t there. It was somewhere else. My body was laughing. I was hugging family and friends. I was serving wine and coffee. But I wasn’t truly present.
Where was I? I was thinking what I should write for this article. Ironic, ain’t it? (Yeah, I know there are probably other adjectives one might insert as well.)
Trying to not think about something (i.e., work) can seem quite futile when the thoughts seem to have a mind of their own. The same can hold true when we’re at work and thoughts of family or other aspects of our personal life distract us from the task at hand.
Once the penny dropped, and I realized how foolish I was being, I looked around the room and began watching. Listening. Paying attention. I saw my kids joking around. I stared into the fireplace and heard my friends telling stories of what was going on in their lives. I listened (and maybe contributed) to some lame jokes. There were laughs, food, music, friends, and family.
I drank it all in, and forgot what I was trying not to think about. It was awesome. I was present. And there’s no place I’d rather be.