You probably have a million things going on right now, so I’ll cut to the chase: I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all fucking busy.
We’re busy racing to get out the door in the morning.
We’re busy finding socks and packing lunches and planning birthdays.
We’re busy returning emails and leading conference calls.
We’re busy running the PTA and coordinating a food drive for the local homeless shelter.
We’re busy catching up on Schitt’s Creek and getting lunch with our girlfriends.
We’re busy watching our kids’ baseball games, piano recitals, and then more baseball games.
We’re busy planning a date night now and then, and scheduling babysitters and running to the store at midnight because we’re out of diapers. Again.
We’re busy making lists of all the things keeping us busy.
We’re busy being the badass women that we are.
We’re busy, all right? We’re fucking busy, so let’s just get that out of the way.
Lately, busy has become a badge of honor. A competition. Busy is better. Busy wins. Right?
Wrong. There is no busy contest, so let’s just cut that shit out.
But does that mean that busy is a four-letter word? (Okay, so it technically is a four-letter word, but I’m talking about the other kind of four-letter word.) Is busy a bad thing? Does withdrawing from the Battle of Busy mean we all need to quit the PTA and make sure we’re taking long walks in the evening and spending time staring out the window in a meditative state of boredom? Is busy the enemy?
I read an article from On Being a few months ago about the disease of busyness. Omid Safi writes about the wounds caused in the battle of the busy and our quest to stay on top of the mountain of to-dos.
“This disease of being ‘busy’ (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing,” Safi writes. “It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.”
Oh great, I thought. Here’s another article telling me how much I’m ruining my life and my relationships because I’m busy with this committee or that board meeting. I should put my phone away and keep the computer closed at night. I should be going for long walks with no destination. I should let myself get bored. I should, I should, I should…
Ugh. Enough. Honestly, I’m as sick of articles and advice condemning busy as I am with people talking about how busy they are all the damn time. We all function differently. For some people (like me), being busy is a good thing. For others, it is not.
Even though I might complain sometimes, deep down, I like being busy. I like being engaged and active. I enjoy having lots of things to do, places to go, and activities to plan. Sure, it can be exhausting and overwhelming sometimes, but ultimately, being busy is better for my mind and spirit than being not-as-busy.
Being busy doesn’t work for everyone, obviously. Some people need plenty of downtime to recharge. Some people like to have long afternoons with absolutely nothing planned and nowhere to be. I am not one of those people.
At first, I was frustrated with Safi’s not-so-subtle condemnation of busyness — he did call it a disease, after all — but as I read on, I realized he wasn’t suggesting that we quit all the things and pencil in “feel bored” on our calendars. Instead, he was suggesting that we shift our focus from what we’re doing to how we’re feeling.
Rather than responding to the question of “How are you?” with a quick “I’m so busy” or a rundown of all the things we’re doing, Safi suggests that what we really ask is “How is your heart doing?” How we’re feeling, he reminds us, is more important than what we’re doing (or not doing).
Being active, involved, and occupied — or, in other words, keeping busy — is good for my heart. Busy might not be good for everyone, but it’s good for me. Being busy energizes me, makes me feel useful and of service. It keeps my mind from dwelling on the litany of things outside of my control by focusing my energy on the things I can control.
Being busy doesn’t mean doing everything and being everything to everyone. I learned the hard way a few years ago that saying “no” to some things means I can say “yes” to other things. I’ve learned to be a bit more selective with how I’m filling my busy bucket, and turning down some things means freeing up time and energy for the things I really care about, the things that are good for my heart.
Look, there is no busy contest. We’re all busy doing things we want to do, things we need to do, or doing nothing at all. And that’s okay. So let’s just shut the fuck about being busy (or not busy) all the time and take care of business.
We have many things to do anyway — even if those things include doing absolutely nothing at all.