Is 'busy' the new luxury brand?

Have you ever overheard this conversation? 

The woman next to me in Target had two kids in her cart and answered her cell phone. (This is an actual transcript:)

Oh I completely meant to call you. I'm so sorry I didn't get back. 
I've been SO busy. 
If it makes you feel any better, I literally have 600 unread e-mails in my inbox. 
I just haven't been able to get back before now. 

We've heard this conversation before.  Heck, we've HAD this conversation before.  There is another version of it that you might frequently hear at business lunches:

"I flew 274 days last year. "
"I have lifetime platinum status."
"I'm never quite sure which time zone I'm in."

What if "busy" has become the new social credit? What if we use it to try to shape our image just like we might with a Mercedes or a Louis Vuitton?

Can we spot a fake? 

To be fair, most of the time when we say we are busy, it is a statement of fact.

The thing is, as often as we tell these stories as a way to define ourselves, they are rarely relevant to the person we tell it to.

What if the phrases we use to celebrate our busy-ness play about as well as boasting about our car, title or street address? What if rather than making people see us as valuable or important, it doesn't make people like us?

Telling someone we are "too busy" just translates that they are not a priority. But it still doesn't change the fact that we are busy.  That there are more things clamoring for our time and attention than could ever possibly get done.

So why? Why are we so [insert your favorite expletive] busy?

The real reason we are so busy

Fact: the world is moving faster than when people walked everywhere.  Cars and computers have ensured that "business moves at the speed of light." But our human capacity remains the same and so do our needs.  We still require rest, close relationships and meaningful work.

So why do we live our lives so filled past capacity? Why have we lost control of our schedules? Is it our modern world? Our priorities?

The real reason we are "crazy-busy" is that we are afraid not to be. We are scared of what people will think of us if we do what we really want to do with our time. We judge ourselves equating rest with weakness and fear others feel the same. We lie and give our time to things that aren't meaningful to us because we are terrified of what might happen if we said what we are really thinking:

"I don't want to go to this event."
"Time with you drains me."
"Delivering what you are asking takes more energy than I have to give."
"No. I don't want to do that."

We will be judged if we don't deliver on others expectations. There is no way around it, but even if we get comfortable with that, we don't seem to be able to overcome how we judge ourselves.

The secret to breaking free of crazy-busy

If being crazy-busy makes us feel bad, then we are certain that not being crazy-busy will make us feel worse.

After all, we judge ourselves based on how close we are to our ideal of what is possible.  Our self-worth is tied to our perception of ourselves and others.

The key to breaking free of crazy-busy?

It  has to do with whether we get our self-worth from the externals or cultivate it from the internals.

If we require a luxury watch to feel good about ourselves, then there is a good chance that we get our value from externals.  If our concept of self is formed exclusively by the responses of others then we have outsourced our soul.

Getting our worth from the externals will ensure we stay crazy-busy.
  • We will do things to impress others. 
  • Commit to things we don't want to do to avoid judgment. 
  • Shop for things to make us feel worthy. 
  • Give our time to another person's value systems rather than choosing what is meaningful to us so that they will deem us worthy. 

How do we shift from externals to internals? 

If it were easy to stop getting our significance from external sources, the whole world would be doing it.  Instead it takes intention.  We have to make a deliberate choice to step out of the clamor and spend time with our souls.

Ever wonder why so many people have embraced meditation in our current culture? Because it is an excellent practice for transitioning from externals to internals. Silence gives us no choice but to hear what is going on inside of us. It reveals the longings of our heart, the pain we haven't dealt with, the need inside of us to connect to something real.

Sadly, even much of our religious practice has fed into the crazy-busy cycle as if God were keeping tally in the same way we do. Instead of creating space to connect, it has resulted in a longer list of things to do (or things to feel bad about not doing.)

While our world moves fast, our souls take time. Discovering who we are, what we want, and the love and faith that gives us the ability to see what is essential doesn't happen without carving space for it.

Want to do something radical and crazy? 

Say no to tomorrow. 

Don't wait for your next day off.

Use your PTO, ask if the kids can stay with grandma, let all the things go left undone and take a walk in nature. If it is raining, then curl up in a secluded corner of your public library, or a chapel, or a Starbucks. (Get out of your office or house. Your body is accustomed to doing tasks in there.)

Commit to quiet. To prayer. To thinking. To space.

Spend a day by yourself of radical "not busy" and see what it does for your soul.

You might just discover your internal worth.

And the luxury brand of "busy" might be revealed for what it is.  A cheap knockoff.


Anonymous said...

Random Cathy
I adore your writing, your spirit, your outlook on life. This particular post reminded me of something I realized back in 1974 when I was 17. I worked at an Accounting Firm in downtown Dallas. In a high rise building on the 43rd floor. There were different sections to catch the elevators to the various floors. They traveled very quickly with a "woosh". The mirrored wall behind you that offered some sense of "space" for those who might be slightly claustrophobic. Every morning arrival, lunch and departure throughout a days work involved the elevator. Upon entry to the elevator another passenger would greet me with "hello, how are you today?" I finally realized (at 17) that this question was posed with a "condition" on it. There was a "set" answer that was expected: "fine, and how are you?" Response: "fine, thank you". Being quite young I finally decided to utilize "honesty". God forbid. If I wasn't "fine" I said so. I got rather tickled at the many responses that varied but were all the same. When the expected answer was not delivered..people were caught so "off guard" almost to the point that I felt they wanted to ask "how dare you?" "You're not playing the game right and now I don't know what to say." From this, I derived that the majority of people don't really care how you are...and if so...why do they even ask? If the truth isn't accepted, even a "lie" is expected then what does that say about humanity as a whole? Just thought I would share this experience in relation to your story. Thank you.

Cathy_H said...

That is a very interesting I haven't tried. Hmmm....

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall