Time, Attention & Boundaries

Merlin Mann had a wonderful series up recently on making time for creativity. He makes many, many salient points. Although all of his points apply (check it out, it really is that good), one in particular really struck me as oh so appropriate for this particular rant.

“Embrace the disingenuous charge of elitism (or, as I prefer to call it, maturity) by not pretending that everyone is equally “special” to you. …Widen the channels to the people you adore, and never make them suffer [because of] your weird compulsion to wave at strangers.”

Yeah! Exactly! What he said!

No Thru TrafficAt some level this should be a no-brainer. But I often find myself in situations where almost complete strangers demand more of my time and attention than I would actually tolerate from the people I love. Sometimes, they are not complete strangers, but because of the lack of a real and meaningful connection, they come very close to it.

To put it bluntly, I do not have sufficient time in my life to respond to everyone and everything that is screaming for attention. So I prioritize. I am more likely to respond favorably to requests for my time depending on the nature of the request and the level of our prior relationship. Seems pretty simple and straightforward to me.

A few examples might be helpful.

  • Scenario 1: A person who has served with me in working groups, teaching teams and conference style discussion panels, calls and asks if I could offer her some career advice. We have a shared history and a friendly relationship. I respond warmly to this request.
  • Scenario 2: A person who has taken a few of my classes sends me an email asking me for recommendations for further studies in a specific area. I remember him as a curious but committed student. I search through my referral lists and respond with suggestions.
  • Scenario 3: One of my full-time students has an emergency and calls me for support. I cancel what I can of my plans and respond accordingly.
  • Scenario 4: A person new to the DC area emails me asking for suggestions for getting involved in the local pagan community. I send him my standard email with helpful links to local sources of info and contact.
  • Scenario 5: A community member writes to me and asks when I plan to teach a particular class again. I send them what I know of my upcoming offerings and reassure them of any future plans in that area.
  • Scenario 6: A person writes to me asking me to teach/speak/attend an upcoming event. I check my schedule for availability and respond accordingly with either regrets or further questions.
  • Scenario 7: A friend or colleague writes to me asking me to teach/speak/attend an upcoming event. I check my schedule for availability (possibly rearranging what I can) and respond accordingly with either regrets or further questions.

Stop WatchWhat these scenarios have in common is that the nature of the request is inline with the nature of our relationship.

But in contrast, consider the following scenarios.

  • Scenario A: A stranger writes to me asking me to be their priestess/teacher/mentor/whatever. If I do not get an “uncomfortable” vibe from the note, I send them a link to Reflections, Connect DC, my standard spiritual counseling/consulting services list, and, if they mention being local, the standard email with helpful links.
  • Scenario B: A community member writes to me asking me to be their priestess/teacher/mentor/whatever. I assume they are aware of my classes, rituals and mystery school.
    1. So if they have attended any of my classes or rituals, I might suggest they consider joining my mystery school. But I also check my calendar and if I can, I offer them a time for a phone chat or and in person meeting to discuss it further.
    2. But if they have not attended ANY (to my knowledge) of my local offerings, I send them my standard spiritual counseling/consulting services list.

And it is this last bit that recently bothered a member of my local community. Both scenario A and B-2 represent requests not in line with the nature of our current relationship. And because of that, I am less inclined to either make time in my already full schedule or offer one-on-one face time w/o some form of payment.

When I reach out to others, I try to be careful when asking for some of their precious time. For example, I am really happy with my current medical doctor, chiropractor, intuitive healer and massage therapist. And I have a warm relationship with every single one of them. But I would not dare just call them up and ask for some of their time without expecting to pay them.

I also have several very close friends who are fairly well known, extremely talented and even busier than I am. And even knowing that they *love* me, I am very careful with taking up too much of their time.

Hell, even in my family we ask, “Is this a good time?” when we call.

Hour GlassI don’t know. Maybe I *could* be a bit more accessible. But then I ask you this? What do I drop to make this a reality? Do I drop the time I dedicate to my full time students and initiates? Do I drop the time I set aside to check in with my colleagues and elders? Do I drop the time I set aside for teaching, counseling and writing? Do I drop the time I set aside for self-care and self-nurturing? Do I drop my business or my plethora of medical appointments? Or do I cease the methodologies and processes that allow me to continue to work while facing several long-term chronic illnesses? Because dropping something currently on my plate is what I would have to do to be more accessible.

The bottom line is this … I am not trying to be elitist or arrogant. I am trying to make sense of an already very full life that has several real physical and energetic limits. So I am truly sorry if the person from B-2 above was disappointed.Note 1. But your potential or very real disappointment is not my metric in deciding how to manage my life.

In my mission statement, I state the following.

My mission is …
To share my gifts.
To actively participate in my own evolution.
To acknowledge divine mystery.
To experience the joy, sweetness and beauty of life.
To be willing to touch and be touched by the journeys of my loved ones.
To be grounded in the present moment with an open heart and mind.
To engage in radical self care.

This is my metric. And this … is my boundary.


1. To be truthful, I did offer a free phone call for us to discuss exactly what she was looking for from me. But I suspect that because I listed my prices for spiritual counseling and consults, she was disinclined to go further.

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