On Being Busy

March 19, 2013

rome-2-fifth-and-hazel

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Fifth and Hazel.

In my early years of motherhood I remember hearing a lot about how busy life was. I often heard advice about cutting back, saying no, and the necessity of prioritizing. The discussion was interesting, but somehow didn’t feel very applicable to me. I guess I just wasn’t busy enough back then.

In recent years, though, I feel like the pace of life has increased, like I’ve gradually turned up the treadmill, because I knew I could handle a little more speed. But now I find myself panting for breath, hurrying faster than I’d thought possible. In my head, I hear echoes of those conversations about busyness, and finally, I’m nodding in agreement.

There’s no doubt that our days are filled with worthy work — we have so many ways to spend our time, and so many demands for it. But are there un-necessities, too, that keep us running just for the sake of being busy? This is what Tim Kreider suggests in “The Busy Trap,” an opinion piece for the New York Times last summer. For me, this is a powerful idea:

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” 

Do we take pride in being busy as if it lends meaning to our lives? The part of me that wants to write a completed item on my to do list just so I can cross it off is definitely susceptible to this way of thinking. But I am drawn to Kreider’s indictment of our cultural obsession with busyness because when I think about my most fulfilling, satisfying days, they are never the overbooked, hectically busy sort. On my best days, I have enjoyed a good amount of meaningful work as a mother, writer, friend, or wife. I have taken care of my family and myself. I have remembered to breathe and enjoy what I’ve been given. When I fall into the busy trap of over-scheduling and overcommitting, I fall into bed exhausted, and despite a fully checked to-do list, unfulfilled.

Kreider suggests a solution in idleness — making essential time for “space and quiet,” for perspective, inspiration, and possibly my favorite, remembering. He trimmed away distractions and chose a slower pace. His reward? “I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars.”

I’m curious, do you notice the kind of cultural honor in being busy that Kreider writes about? And what fills your most fulfilling days? What are the things you’d rediscover if you slowed down a bit?

P.S. For more of Tim Kreider’s great writing, you might enjoy this essay, an excerpt from his book. Thinking about this topic has reminded me of Wordsworth’s “getting and spending,” always a thoughtful read. And finally, Danielle LaPorte’s approach to being super busy: just own it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Kirtsy
  • StumbleUpon

{ 2 trackbacks }

The Buzz About Busy Bees: Five Reasons People Need To Be Busy | powell609
April 3, 2013 at 5:42 pm
Happy Friday! | A Thousand Threads
March 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lauren March 19, 2013 at 8:09 am

It is so easy to fall into the “busy trap”! As someone who is slightly obsessed with my to-do list, I have to remind myself that there are important things to do that never make it onto any list- like being quiet, enjoying nature, caring for others. I try to guard against over scheduling and also against always answering “Super busy!” when someone asks how we’ve been. Everyone is “busy” in their own way and I want to force myself to think of a more creative answer :)

Reply

2 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:15 am

Lauren, I like your idea of answering with something other than “super busy!” I think it allows us to get to something more real, as Koseli suggests below.

Reply

3 Caroline Perrin March 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

I agree, Lauren! Great point about finding a more creative answer. I’m going to think about that one.

Reply

4 Lisette Wolter-McKinley March 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

People do wear “busy” as a badge of honor, it is a strange cultural tendency we seem to have. I do believe it makes people think they are very important.

Reply

5 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

Yes. I love the line from Tim Kreider’s essay where he acknowledges that: “it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon.”

Reply

6 camilla March 19, 2013 at 8:19 am

I agree about the most satisfying days being the ones that I am home all day with my family, folding laundry and making dinner and sitting down at the table to help with homework. Thanks for the inspiration to carve out more of those days for myself and for my family. Those are the kind of days I want to remember and look back on someday.

Reply

7 Koseli Cummings March 19, 2013 at 8:27 am

Oh Amy, I love your posts so much.

It’s so easy to never get past the “It’s busy!” in conversation but I absolutely crave getting to a deeper level. I respect and admire people who I know are going full bore, but never hint or mention “busyness”. It seems that somehow they’ve managed to be engaged in work or personal interests that don’t make them busy, but just alive/working/playing and what else is there to say about that? I’d really like to be better at that.

Oh, and I was just going to add on more thought. My happiest days are always those I spend with the people I love. The rainy morning I stayed in bed with my newborn, sleeping and nursing, until early afternoon; a spontaneous road trip to San Francisco with my best friend; an entire Saturday of family time with phones and computers off and zero plans or expectations. Those days are magical and keep me going in the day-to-day mundane. So every day, I’m trying to do one thing that feels spontaneous and engaging—sending a thank you or watching an artistic film or doing my hair differently—to try to help me feel like my days are indeed MINE. Like, I’m acting and not just reacting to ‘to dos’.

Reply

8 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:25 am

Koseli, you’ve made my day. Thanks, thanks.

I love what you said about getting past that part of the conversation. So true. And I agree, there’s something really inspiring about people who are simply alive/working/playing and not “sooo busy,” but I hadn’t put my finger on it. This sets a new standard for me. Thanks, Koseli!

AND, I think that doing something that you love everyday is so wise, and probably the path to being the kind of person you described in the first paragraph. Here’s to enjoying our lives! :)

Reply

9 amy March 19, 2013 at 8:36 am

This is an important topic. I found that once the kids go to school, parents (especially moms) are expected to volunteer for any number of activities, lead a Brownie troup, write the auction book, create a class project, coach a soccer team, be active in church and on and on. It’s like our culture has not caught up to the fact that most women work and cannot carry the volunteer load of previous generations. Working women usually don’t want to shift the burden of all volunteer activities to our non-working colleagues, so we sign up for this and that in order to hold up our end and end up exhausted. My kids are in junior high and high school, and the many small tasks of elementary life (treats for holidays, chaperoning field trips, etc.) have given way to a few larger tasks each year. I usually choose a few things I like to do and let the rest go. But I do keep track of how many dads I see volunteering, and even in our highly educated, liberal school, it runs something like 80% women to 20% men.

Reply

10 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Amy, a friend recently pointed out, in regard to parenthood and career, how important it is for men’s AND women’s lives to be balanced, but I agree that more often women’s lives seem to require more balancing.

Reply

11 Giulia March 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

he is so right, we should all learn to be better at this “busy” thing.
and amy, i totally write things on to do lists just to cross them off too…

Reply

12 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:27 am

Good company… :)

Reply

13 christie elkins March 19, 2013 at 9:00 am

Fantastic post! I am guilty of feeling satisfied in the self-proclaimed “busy” that I project on myself. Enjoy the time, busy or calm!

Reply

14 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thanks, Christie!

Reply

15 Heidi March 19, 2013 at 9:06 am

As a sahm with 4 kids spread between high school and preschool, I can definitely fall into the “busyness trap.” While a lot of the schlepping the kids around to after school activities is pretty much unavoidable (and we do limit how much each child can participate in) I do try and guard against overwhelming busyness by not over committing for myself. I limit the volunteer activities and PTA stuff. I’m not remotely Type A, I’m also an introvert and I know that I function better with breathing space. I get really crabby on days when I’m running from one thing to the next with a mile long list. Sometimes that can’t be helped-but I also find that I do much better on days when I have some regeneration time (usually exercise, or maybe coffee with a friend or reading a good book.)

Reply

16 Dee March 19, 2013 at 9:42 am

This is me too! I’m an introverted sahm of four (middle school to preschool) and I really had to pull back to keep from feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

Reply

17 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag March 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

What lovely post Amy! oh goodness, there are some people I see on Facebook who just go on and on and on unendingly about how busy their days and lives are, and it’s so clear they are trumpeting their laundry list of ‘busyness’ so that the affirmations will roll in….I’m not naturally a busy person and it’s a bit insidious, the mindset does creep in to my mind, one starts thinking, oh I must be ‘less’ because I’m not doing ‘more’….(which I know is nonsense)

Reply

18 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

Yep, that’s nonsense. Sometimes we do need reminding! :)

Reply

19 Stella March 19, 2013 at 9:22 am

I’m not a mom yet, but I am so guilty of falling into the “busyness” trap. I always tell people I’m soooo busy. But the reality is that at this stage in my life I’m not really that busy. I work full-time, but when I get home at night I often have an hour or two to myself. Sure, I volunteer, get together with friends, spend time planning activities for church and find other things to stay busy, but I do have a lot of free time. (My husband is a student and works 25 hrs/week, so he spends most of the evening & weekend hours doing crazy amounts of computer science homework… which leaves me with a lot of time to myself.) But when I run into a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, the first thing that comes out of my mouth when they ask, “What have you been up to?” is inevitably, “I’ve been busy!”

This post really made me think. I want to stop trying to wear “busy-ness” as a badge of honor and spend more time being engaged in meaningful conversations and honesty about what I *am* doing. And not using “been busy” as an excuse for why I haven’t seen/talked to someone in a while. Thanks, Amy.

Reply

20 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Thanks, Stella. So glad it’s given you something to think about. I love that so many of the comments have focused on how we’ll change our conversations with each other. Very cool.

Reply

21 Linda K March 19, 2013 at 9:29 am

Something that irritates me to no end is when people answer the questions “How are you?” with “Busy.” And I am guilty. I am making a consciouss effort to eradicate it from my lexicon, to some (limited) success. I know we all struggle with managing priorities, and we all need to feel how we spend our time is valid. But I now try to answer more thoughtfully. If I do slip and respond with “busy” I try to add context, ie. but I am grateful that my job is engaging me so fully, or but I’m glad that my kids are enthusiastic about sports so driving them around isn’t really that much of a hardship.

Busyness should certianly not be an end in itself! If ‘busyness’ is a feature of ones life it should be a conscious choice and, hopefully, a product of a well lived life. I try to think of women in less-developed countries who are truly “busy” trying to make ends meet and sustain their family to keep my “busyness” in perspective.

Reply

22 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

Linda, I’m with you. I’m guilty, too, of answering that way even though it feels less authentic. I love your approach of adding context about the reasons you’re busy because that does feel authentic.

Reply

23 Dee March 19, 2013 at 9:47 am

Oh, I definitely notice it. And being a mother of four, people often assume that I must be “so busy”. No, I’m not, and I like it that way. I’ve gone down the path of being hurried and harried and I am not interested in that life anymore. My most fulfilling days are the ones I spend with my family or friends with single minded focus.

Reply

24 Shannon { A Mom's Year } March 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Yes, this. I have four kids, too, and I’m choosing to say “no” to a lot of things so my family will have time to just “be.” Not an easy thing, always, but I hold on to the belief that it’s what’s best for us.

Reply

25 ginger March 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

Just a little story that really helped me to slow down:
I was taking my daugher (4.5) to the grocery store. “Hurry up we have lots to do before dinner.” “Mommy, can I bring my stuffed dog?” she asked sweetly. I had a rare moment of whimsy and replied “Yes.” She was so excited.
Well, bringing her stuffed dog means, that Dog needs to get dressed too, and Doggt also has to be buckled in a carseat too, and so on a so forth….
So as I stand by tapping my mental foot in impatience during the “Just one more thing for Doggy” routine they are both finally all buckled in and ready for the store.
Then all of the sudden I hear her say “Mommy, I want to give Doggy another Kiss before we go.” “Doggy just loves kisses.”
I don’t know what came over me, but I just realized that my daughter was being such a good mommy to her Doggy and with such tenderness and care she buckled him in, and kissed him and smoothed his hair and smiled the whole time. Her little sweet smile as she took such care with her Doggy just made me realize that THESE are the precious times, and I have missed so many opportunities,
Being too busy to take them……

Take time to hug and kiss the ones you love today….

Reply

26 Linda K. March 19, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Sweet anecdote – lovely reality check.

Reply

27 Melissa Walsh March 22, 2013 at 6:51 am

I have had a similar moment with my second daughter. I find that I had more “time” or “patience” for these sweet moments and opportunities with my first daughter. I recall many times when, at the end of the day, I wished that I had given her/them that time to do a fancy twirl out of the car or to tuck their special treasures into their “purses” without rushing them, without the impatience in my voice and on my face. Sometimes…it’s okay to be late. Sometimes…being late is when all the magic happens.

Reply

28 Andrea March 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

This is such a lovely post, and I’ve loved reading the comments as well. Also, thanks for the reminder about the Wordsworth poem. I hadn’t read that one in a while, and I’d forgotten how much I love it.

Reply

29 Blaze March 3, 2014 at 2:53 am

Also, the majority of states have passed automobile financial responsibility laws that require every driver to maintain sufficient funds to pay for damages caused to other drivers. Although some states allow drivers to QuotesChimp funds on deposit with the Department of Motor Vehicles to demonstrate financial responsibility, automobile insurance is a more cost-effective option for most drivers. Each year, more states pass laws that require insurance companies to report policy cancellations electronically to the Department of Insurance or the Department of Motor Vehicles. If the state receives notification that a driver’s policy has been canceled, the state will require the driver to provide proof of a replacement automobile insurance policy to avoid driver’s license suspension and possible fines and penalties.

Reply

30 Sandra March 19, 2013 at 10:39 am

I’m a busy person, I suppose. I have a lot of passions and interests that I am pursuing. And I have a partner and a 7 year old daughter.

I find that what makes a difference to me is the intent behind my busy-ness. If its to keep up with some imagine or very real bloggy pace, then it drains me. If it fits with my step-by-step growth as a writer and photographer, if I’m taking the long view – then it’s tiring but in that good way when you know you’re being true to yourself.

I have a lot of joy in the small moments with the man and my girl too.

Reply

31 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Yes, Sandra, I completely agree. The intent behind my busyness makes all the difference in feeling fulfilled or drained.

Reply

32 Jenni Bailey March 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

I absolutely notice that. I find myself often at odds with even family members who don’t understand my reluctance to book up every weekend. They will say things like, “Well, why can’t you come? What else are you doing?” As though I better have a good excuse – and not just that I want to relax with my girls and ride bikes in the street or color on the patio with chalk. It’s hard to explain away that kind of conditioning. One is either busy or lazy. I don’t agree with the logic myself but I confess that I haven’t yet found a graceful way around it. It’s good to know, at least, that I’m not alone. :)

Reply

33 Jeanne March 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Thank you for saying that!

Reply

34 Elisabeth March 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

When I think of my favorite memories, many of them have occurred with my grandparents, which I think is indicative of the difference between generations. With them, I did (and still do) things such as baking, gardening, folding laundry, planting trees (my grandfather has a Christmas tree farm), and playing cards. My days with them were busy, but not the type of busy we so value now. I think what’s important is that we are busy with the things that make our lives more fulfilling and that we don’t feel pressure to be involved in things that aren’t going to make our lives more fulfilling.

Reply

35 Jeanne March 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I think I better stop reading everyone’s posts because I might comment on all, but I have felt the same thing. I think right now I am am trying to figure out what will be the most fulfilling. I think being able to find joy in our circumstances is a great start, then I am going to work on the good busy.

Reply

36 Andrea sayer March 19, 2013 at 11:38 am

I used to get great satisfaction and measure my worth from being “super busy” and productive. I remember feeling stressed out and being grouchy with my kids when I was trying so hard to do everything. It wasn’t worth it. I have two older boys (6&9) and now a 7 month old boy. This time around I really took a chill pill. I love the quiet when Luca naps. I am reading and thinking and napping during his naps. i am doing a lot more snuggling, trying to make him laugh, trying to ignore the dirty dishes, but thoroughly enjoying this baby as well as my older boys. I feel like I have a healthy style of busyness now, and don’t feel guilty for the down time of relaxing, thinking and reading. I hope I can stay this way.

Reply

37 Jenny March 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I love to go and do and being busy definitely validated my life and made me feel like what I was doing was important. Enter being sick/in bed with pregnancies and miscarriage since the fall! It was a little traumatic to realize that I was too sick to be busy, and if I wasn’t giving value to my life by being busy then what was I doing? It has been a difficult adjustment to let so many things go and try and establish a different, slower “normal” than seems almost anti-cultural. Is anti-cultural even a word? I love this post and this conversation.

Reply

38 Jeanne March 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I agree, slower normal is very anti-cultural (sounds legit to me). It bothers people and it bothers me that they are bothered because I find some value in it.

Reply

39 Jeanne March 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I keep thinking something is wrong with me because I don’t desire to be busy. Maybe there is? I just hate rush and I hate feeling pulled in ten directions. I love my time to think and pray and ponder and observe and let my kids play. Today I need to remind myself of that. I certainly need work in other areas, but I don’t like who I become when I am trying to be busy. On the down side, it sure makes making goals challenging, especially paired with anxiety and depression. But I don’t want those things to define me. I am trying to figure out the balance. Balance is tough.

Reply

40 Abbey March 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm

The entire year after having my first son was amazing. Why? I wasn’t BUSY. We took naps when we wanted, played when we wanted, made dinner together and enjoyed dinner as a family when my husband got home from work. I was only freelancing a bit so it all felt so manageable. My poor 2nd son though got a whole different start. I was overwhelmed with clients and trying to be a mom at the same time. Bottom line, I couldn’t handle it. I was too busy and not in a good way. This post means so much to me because a little over a year later I am still coming to terms with how I want to prioritize my time so that it lends the most value to me, my family and my work. It’s a tough balance but I will definitely keep your words and Kreider’s in my mind as I try to navigate it all…Thank you!!

Reply

41 Shannon { A Mom's Year } March 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Another insightful post AND you brought up Wordsworth! This will sound crazy (and it probably is) but when I’m feeling overwhelmed and “got at,” I find myself chanting “the world is too much with us, the world is too much with us.” :)

I had to laugh because recently I wrote about taking guitar lessons and the very next day I got three calls to volunteer! Apparently, people thought I must have too much time on my hands. I’ve been mentally writing an essay on being like Mama Duck (serene on top, but paddling like mad underneath), so I really appreciate your thoughts and the quote from Tim Kreider!

Reply

42 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Glad to hear it, Shannon! So fun to hear your thoughts. I want to read your essay!

Reply

43 Amy March 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Now that we’ve all agreed that it is better not to be overwhelmingly busy (and believe me, I agree wholeheartedly), I have to ask: who is going to run the world? By that I mean volunteer at school and everywhere else, sit on boards of philanthropic organizations, bring about social change, be the leader (or whatever) that you want your kids to be, in addition to working as most of us do. As women in the best part of our lives, aren’t we supposed to be busy? We will never have more gifts and energy than we do now. What do we owe our communities?

I certainly struggle with finding the balance, but I do think many volunteer activities (not all!) are important and fall in the category of “serving your community.” If we all stayed home and said no, many things would not get done.

Thoughts?

Reply

44 Shannon { A Mom's Year } March 19, 2013 at 4:37 pm

You do ask the good questions, Miss Amy. My volunteer efforts usually (selfishly) involve something I love, like helping at the book fair or Battle of the Books or reading with kids. And if our kids are in an activity, we try to coach or bring treats or whatever and not expect other people to be completely responsible for our kids.

I whole-heartedly believe that “to whom much is given much is expected,” but I do wonder sometimes if these people I see serving on endless committees understand how quickly this time with children passes.

Reply

45 Shannon { A Mom's Year } March 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Oops. Wrong Amy! But I still like the question. :)

Reply

46 Amy Hackworth March 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Great questions. I think it’s important to volunteer, too. My idealistic hope is that if we all do our good, purposeful, fulfilling work (which includes serving our communities), things will get done. I do my part, you do yours, but none of us has to risk health or happy families for it? That’s what I hope.

Reply

47 Cassandra March 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I’ll pipe up and say that I LOVE a day that is truly full with friends and work and food and family. I love waking up in the morning and knowing I might not sit down until I crash into bed. I thrive on those days. So do my busy kids.

While I hear and appreciate the current vogue for cutting back and letting go reevaluating I know where I am right now. I am in a place where my children bounce out of bed at 6:00 am with a full tank of gas and little bodies and minds that won’t stop until nightfall. They crave mental and physical stimulation.

I do not have kids who will play by themselves much and I have already mourned that dream. Once when I read about parent’s who offer their children hours of unstructured play I used to cry a few frustrated tears of longing because my children didn’t want that. Now I try to embrace who they are. I have a cup of tea and I get going because they are mine and I am thankful to be with them. I’m blessed to be living these full days and I’m not sorry that we’re busy.

Reply

48 Shannon { A Mom's Year } March 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I think the nuance here is whether the “busyness” is stuff you want to do or stuff you think you HAVE to do. Which are two completely different things. I love to be busy, but the stuff I like to do isn’t necessarily what the world, or my community, thinks is important.

A busy day of being with my family knitting, playing guitar, getting my house in order, ice-skating, baking, reading, watching a movie? Bliss. A day of running around doing things I don’t love–often away from my family–out of a sense of guilt? Not so blissful. :)

Reply

49 Meagan March 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Love this! I am not a busy person… And often I feel guilty about that. Just as often though, I feel a tiny bit, secretly, smug, like I’ve figured out something the rest of the world is missing. Today I had a conversation with another mom at the library, and when I told her my child’s age (not quite two) she said oh, I must be very tired! I was a little embarrassed to admit, no, I’m actually not particularly tired. He’s currently sleeping well at night (knock on wood) spends 3 hours a day at school, naps until 3:30 every afternoon. I have plenty of projects to fill my “empty” hours, but the freedom not to be overwhelmed. Later, she was telling me about all the activities her daughter was involved in, and I was just baffled as to why any 6 year old, or parent to a six year old, need be that busy… It sounds exhausting!

Reply

50 Regina March 19, 2013 at 10:47 pm

I love this post! I read this article a few months back and since then I also resolved not to answer “How are you?” with “Busy!”, or “Things are good, I’m busy!” or other variations. I get this answer a lot too, and I’ve found that this response can end a conversation quickly (can I ask what she’s busy with? Or is she too busy to talk about it?). Come to think of it, “How are you?” is also a bit of a generic question and possibly deserves a generic answer. Maybe I should be asking my friends things like “What did you do over the vacation?” or “What book are you reading now?”

Reply

51 Talya March 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

I want to recommend another book – especially applicable for those of us who do creative work of one type or another (isn’t that everyone…) It’s called “World Enough and Time: on creativity and slowing down” by the wonderful Christian McEwen. It’s a great one for dipping in and out of if you don’t have time to read the whole thing (ha, ha!)

Reply

52 Christine March 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I just finished Kreider’s latest book. He is brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the context for his “busyness” was also fascinating (i.e. his survival of being stabbed). I thought he aptly captured how we have an expanded sense of life when we are at particular points of contemplation or experience, but then the busyness of life subsumes us again. I thought he pointed out pretty well how that can be both a blessing and a curse.

Reply

53 Julie March 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

I’m a little late in reading this post, but I love it. Going to read that article. It has been a pet peeve of mine for years when people go on and on about how busy they are. Drives me nuts. I usually can’t tell if they are complaining or boasting, but either way it sounds like complaining and makes me want to end the conversation and move on. My neighbors often comment on how “simple” our life is all the time because we aren’t constantly flitting around from one thing to the next, but they plan theirs to the nth degree. I just can’t live like that. There are just too many unexpected and lovely surprises waiting around the corner if you have the time available to appreciate them.

Reply

54 Jenni Fisher March 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

Guess what? I love having a full plate. I am much more productive and organized when I have more to do. I LOVE being busy.

Or more accurately, I love standing at the corner of hectic and bored, the Goldilocks approach to the business of being busy. In other words, I aspire to fill my time with moments that alternate between fast and slow pace, producing an average pace of feeling “just right.” HOW?

For me, the bad guy of busyness is not the action, but the loss of autonomy and control…. whether I feel forced or trapped, or whether the activity is my choice.

What is busyness, exactly? It is incorrect to assume that busyness is synonymous with “fast.” If I am sitting on a park bench being physically IDLE, but mentally writing a poem in my head through active pondering, I consider myself active with mental energy. Taking time to remember, or ogle over a fresh patch of tulips is a busy mental moment. When I am sitting on vacation, sans cell-phone, sans the cares of the world, watching my kids busily body surfing in the ocean waves, I am busy being a present parent.

BUSY simply means you are choosing one activity, or five, at the expense of another. Tim Kreider tells of riding his bike every afternoon, implying that somewhere there must be a giant chart which rates different activities on a busyness scale: bike riding hanging attractively {deceptively} at the bottom, while work-related emails teeter destructively at the top of the pile. The irony, of course, being that while Kreider is out riding his bike, friends trying to reach him would, in essence, get a busy signal. The negative connotation of ‘being busy’ seems to stem from the benefit derived from the activity rather than the activity itself.

Even the ultimate antidote to busyness….meditation… requires a focus on being busy with emptying your mind and being busy with the work of breathing. The only break from busyness is death.

I choose not to look at busyness as the enemy.

The real enemy is the word YES!

Which makes NO the real hero.

The ability, wisdom and strength to selectively CHOOSE how to spend my time is where true contentment [& autonomy] lies. And isn’t that the whole intent of being “busy”…. to ultimately find sustainable peace and joy?

Reply

55 Whitney Hardie March 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Amy, your posts are so timely and wise. I love reading what you share here and on your own blog. I’ve been thinking along these lines a lot lately. Busy-ness can be addicting, but it is rarely fulfilling. We wear it like a badge of honor and yet is can suck the joy from our lives. Thank you for bringing this up and for offering your thoughts on the subject.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: