Lately, I’ve been sitting with the concept of “busy.”
Busy seems to be a very popular reply to “How are you?” and “What have you been up to?”
We use busy to describe our schedules, our lives, and our work. It doesn’t matter if we work inside or outside the home. It doesn’t matter if we have children or pets, if we have a hobby or if we belong to a civic organization: we are all busy.
I don’t remember adults, growing up, using that word as frequently as we do now. Which begs the question:
When did we all become so busy?
It feels like an addiction to me and we are all competing for the title of “Most Busy.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a conversation where folks are sharing how busy they are. It sounds like a litany from someone’s “to-do” list and can elicit feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy: making me wonder if I am doing enough or missing out on something.
I’ve done it too. I’ve whipped out my list of busy and even bragged about it. Am I hoping to impress? “Wow, look at all the things I can juggle!” Or am I looking for an excuse? “I’d love to but… I am too busy.” What is the value in being too busy?
I am not sure there is value other than I have conflated busy with productive. I, therefore, am undergoing an experiment which is twofold.
Part one of the experiment is to stop using the word busy and to use the word full.
I have noticed that if I say “full,” I am less likely to share my schedule and more likely to share what I enjoy.
For example, last Friday was a full day. I had so much fun being around people I enjoy and doing activities that I love. I had some really great conversations about empowerment and personal freedom. What about you? What did you enjoy about your day?
Doesn’t that response feel different than if I shared my schedule from last Friday with you? I know I feel better responding from a place of full than a place of busy. It feels like a gratitude practice to me and I’ve noticed it invites people into a very different conversation.
Part two of the experiment is to schedule fewer activities.
I am playing with open space on my calendar and it is weird. I notice that I have to work through an anxiety response before I can ease into the freedom of open time.
I think part of the anxiety response is the concern that I am not being productive enough. This knee-jerk reaction allows me to play with the practice of being rather than distracting myself with doing. (I may be playing with this practice for a while.)
I think the other part of the anxiety response is due to choice. I no longer have a ready-made excuse, e.g., “I am too busy.” Now I must pause, notice what I want, and communicate it. I am giving myself permission to say no, even if I have the time to do whatever I’ve been invited to do, and to say yes to in-the-moment, life-affirming activities.
Believe it or not, this practice takes some getting use to despite my desire for it.
I chalk the resistance up to an enculturation of busy. I didn’t get addicted to busy overnight; therefore, my recovery from busy is not going to happen overnight.
Which brings me to my last thought… I am advocating for People Getting Over Busy support groups.
We need to band together and talk each other through the urges to fill up our schedules. Because of the nature of the disease, I don’t think we should plan a meeting. Rather let’s randomly reach out. Let someone know that you are thinking of them and wishing them a full but not busy day. Who knows? You might just meet up in a park or in a coffee shop. The sky is the limit.