A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


"Oh, man," I said frantically as I rummaged around in the van.

"Whatís the matter?" my wife, Anita, asked calmly.

"I canít find my cell phone," I said, exasperation coloring every syllable in frustrated hues.

There was a long pause from Anita. "Uh, please forgive me if Iím wrong," she ventured cautiously, "but arenít you talking to me on your cell phone?"

I pulled the little black oblong box away from my ear. Yep. That was certainly it. My cell phone Ė my nemesis and my friend. I was talking on it while I was looking for it.

"Oh, man," I said, chagrined. "Iím losing it."

I began wondering if theyíd ever had father-and-son roommates at the Alzheimerís care center where my Dad now resides. Iíve been forgetting everything lately. Sort of like a few years ago, when Dad called me at home to ask if I had seen his trombone Ė the trombone he had hocked during the Great Depression and hadnít seen since. I remember hanging up the phone after that conversation with Dad, looking at Anita and telling her: "Dadís losing it."

And now Iím losing it too.

"Youíre not losing it," Anita said. "Youíre just under so much stress right now. Itís no wonder that you canít remember everything."

She was right about that. I donít remember ever feeling stress and pressure like Iíve felt lately in my work. Everything else in my life Ė everything Ė has been set aside while Iíve tried to deal with Really Important Stuff. Iíve hardly seen my family these past few weeks. My extended family thinks Iíve fallen off the edge of the earth. Thereís been no time for service in my church and community. Iíve eaten enough fast food to give cholesterol shock to Bolivia. And itís starting to feel like the "significant other" in my life is a pot-bellied engineer named John.

But now itís over. The day of The Big Event has come and gone, and I have survived. Sure, I had to explain my erratic, exhausted driving to a couple of police officers who thought my driving suggested some alcoholic influence was at work in me (Iím just glad Anita wasnít with me when I talked to the officers Ė she would have told them that I drive like that ALL the time). But for the most part, I have emerged from the pressure cooker of a lifetime unscathed Ė a little sunburned, perhaps, and still a little tired. But unscathed.

But what about Anita? What messages did she receive from me these past few weeks? That she isnít quite as important to me as that other Really Important Stuff? And what about my children? What did they learn from me about values and priorities? What about those who I might have served, whose lives might have been blessed by a few minutes of kindness or attention from me? What happened to them when they needed me, and I wasnít there?

Donít worry Ė Iím not really losing it over this. I understand that stuff like this happens to all of us. The pace of life can be pretty incredible, and there are times when we all get so focused on Whatís Important Right Now that we sort of lose track of Whatís Important Forever. Iím just trying to learn from this experience and to see if thereís some way to avoid repeating it. Iím pretty sure there will be a "next time," and I want to see if thereís a way I can handle it a little better. The way I see it, those messages can never be called back, and those opportunities to serve pass quickly and are lost forever.

And I just donít want to do any more . . . you know . . . "losing it."

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and