This year I'm approaching life with a new mantra.
I'm not using the word busy.
In reference to myself or my situation; it's out of bounds.
I've been surprised at how liberating but yet at times challenging it has been. Mostly it has been very liberating and freeing. I feel more peaceful and less stressed. I'm not constantly worrying about deadlines or overdue emails or needing to be somewhere. Those things are still there, but as I'm not approaching them with my mind tuned to how busy I am, they seem less daunting. That very small shift of mind has made all the difference.
The word busy has really become a modern-day mantra, along with the word stressed. I think in our society at times we almost wear "busy" as a badge of pride; you have to busy to be anyone important, to accomplishing anything or to have a satisfying life. How often in conversation do you hear "I've been really busy" as a response to the question, "How have you been?" I suspect that seeing yourself as being busy all the time brings with it a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure, pressure from within that needn't be there. I think some of us also use busy as a reason in this context to not engage, either in a conversation or an activity. Losing the word busy means having to actually converse and talk about what you have been doing or even involving yourself in something you may not have otherwise tried or done. We complain about being busy but at the same time it's like we almost use it as a security blanket.
We build such little personal empires as modern people, put up our busy walls and keep others out. When people tell us they are always busy, it does make them unapproachable. It's a shame really, and it is possible there is a connection between the loss of community and the increasing use of the word busy. I do wonder how many experiences and opportunities we miss out on by telling ourselves we don't have the time for that as we're too busy.
I have a friend whom every time I run into her, our conversation is basically a repeat. She tells me how crazy busy she is, she appears flustered, she hasn't seen anyone for ages because she's too busy, she must make time to catch up, etc. etc. You feel rushed having a conversation, albeit one-way, with her. We don't engage, reflect or even connect in such a conversation. It's just a one way gush of busyness. I honestly don't think she is any busier than the average person, and recognisably we all have a lot of challenges and time commitments in our everyday life. Nevertheless, I do think much of it is a mindset. It's a mindset that seems to plague our society. Have you ever noticed that those people who truly are 'busy' who are involved in every committee, seem to be everywhere with their kids doing things, activities every day after school, involved in all kinds of artistic, musical or sporting endeavours and seem to have very very full lives don't use the word to describe themselves.
As parents we are probably the most guilty users of 'busy', we use it as a fob-off with our kids all the time. I know I'm not the only one who's ever responded to a child's request to do something with, "Later. I'm busy right now." You know what, there's no reason that the busy stuff can't wait until later most of the time. Obviously, if you're in the middle of cooking dinner it might be a different scenario!
So I'm slowing down, appreciating the moment. Realising that yes, there are deadlines and things I need to do, but the missing internal pressure of being busy and worrying about what the next thing is, means everything actually gets done more efficiently. And if it doesn't, it's always going to be there tomorrow. Not being busy means suddenly there is time to enjoy the beauty around, more time to engage fully with our children, friends and partners, and more time to reflect and being more aware of the present moment. For mothers particularly, this is so important. Our children are only at the stage they are at at this one time in our and their lives, so enjoy it now.
At the start of this year when my youngest started school I read the book Buddhism for Mothers of School Children by Sarah Napthali. This one small section about busyness of this fabulous read really resonated with me and stuck with me. Sarah talks more about the idea of doing away with busyness in her book Buddhism for Mothers of Small Children. I enjoyed Sarah's books so much, I'm going to read them again. I think there is still so much more I can get from them.
Buddha, of course, spoke quite eloquently on the subject: "The restless, busy nature of the world, this, I declare, is at the root of pain.
What do you think?
Do you think we focus too much on being busy as people?
I'd love to know your thoughts.
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Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
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