The Most Important Item

“If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for an hour.”

I ran across this saying a few days ago. At first read, it made sense, but then I did a U-turn. Say what?

I had to reread it several times to finally get it. Of course! If your life is so hectic, if you are so busy, if your to-do list merely gets longer and longer with each passing day, then you won’t be able to find the time or space for 20 minutes of downtime.

And if that is the case, then it’s condition critical. You have become a prime candidate to self-combust. It happens to many of us. It’s happened to me. The first time I noticed it was a long time ago.

I was a young wife to a husband who traveled constantly, a young mother of three children, and a young nurse manager of three departments. By the age of 33, I had acquired 24-hour responsibility in all three aspects of my life.

Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but I can still see myself in my hospital office taking a few moments at the end of each full day to think about what had been accomplished and what needed doing the next day. My last act for the day was to write down what I had to attend to the following day, by priority, the most important item taking number one on the list.

But before I did that, I would soberly assess each listing from the previous day and cross it out if it had been taken care of. If not, it carried over to the next day and was re-prioritized, triaged, as to what position it should take on the new list.

I would then leave the notepad open with the list in full view right smack in the middle of my computerless desk so that it would be the first thing I’d see upon entering my small office the next morning.

Those few minutes, with my office door closed, were the only moments of solitude, of reflection, that I had each day. Once I grabbed my things, threw open my door and flew down the stairs to my car, I was already in transition, planning for the needs of my family.

Needless to say, this didn’t end well. For me. At the end of two years, my departments were running seamlessly and the answer my successor gave to my staff’s question, “What are you going to change?” was: Nothing, Irma changed what needed changing.

And now Irma was going to change herself. I felt proud of having worked hard to improve things for all, but in the process, I had ignored myself. I became ill and ended up needing major surgery. When my husband’s company wanted to transfer him, and he told me there’d be less travel involved, I said yes, and gave my notice.

We moved cross-country and I cut back on work hours. I also cut back on responsibility, preferring to work as staff, and saying no politely for several years when approached about management positions. I concentrated on my family and our newest blessing, a baby girl.

I tried my best to manage the stress of everyday life and then one day, RA came calling. And that underscored the fact that I definitely had to stop at the end of my day. I had to make time to review what had been accomplished, and what had not, in the quest for regaining my health. I had to reflect on what had worked, and what hadn’t, in order to make plans for the next goal.

I had to learn a new form of triage:




Think about what truly matters.

The most important item on the list is you.

8 thoughts on “The Most Important Item

  1. mrsmendymac

    Being a working wife and mother I get what you are saying here. Maybe my job isn’t so demanding as being a nurse but being a working mother alone is enough. Do you still work?

    1. Irma Post author

      Hi, Mendy. Thank you for reading. I think any mom is a working mom. And when you add a job, well we better quickly learn the art of juggling. It’s hardest, I think, when you are a new mom, a young mom. But on the other hand, the fleeting days when our children are small are the days to be treasured forever.

      I don’t work in nursing anymore. RA gave me the opportunity to concentrate on establishing a second career, freelance writing and editing. It may sound strange to say that, but RA closed the door on one thing I valued and opened the door to another.

      I look forward to reading your blog and wish you well on your journey.

  2. J.G. Chayko

    This is so true – and so necessary. I was constantly on the go, a battery that never died…there was never enough time and always more to do. RA was my wake up call to stop, slow down and breathe. And now, I always take time for me and the things in my life I value. Thanks for a lovely post X

    1. Irma Post author

      Yes, sometimes I think of RA as a brick wall that stopped me in my tracks and gave me a chance to reevaluate my life. The wall is still there and I do my best to stay away from it! Hope you are doing well.

  3. phat50chick

    I bet most of us with chronic health issues never put ourselves first until our diagnoses. I know I didn’t. But once diagnosed, I realized that I had to treat myself better. Selfish? Absolutely. Necessary? You bet!!

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.


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