Yesterday, I received an email from a local musician, who’s mailing list I subscribe to. The email was to announce upcoming shows and classes. After the greeting, the first sentence was: Now we’re officially into the holiday rush.
On Friday, I overheard a friend say to another friend: I know you’re super crazy busy but I’m wondering if you’d have time to help me with something.
The definition for ‘busy’ in my trusty Webster’s dictionary, states: adj.1. engaged in action: not idle 2. being in use 3. full of activity and 4. meddling. Personally, though, I feel as though this is yet another word we’ve collectively commandeered and re-shapened. I think the definition for ‘busywork’ is more fitting: n. work that appears productive but only keeps one occupied.
If I were to come up with my own definition for the word ‘busy’ it would go a little something like this: adj. 1. state of being frantic; most often entered by way of choice masquerading as victim-hood. 2. common statement used in order to describe one’s day/week/life so that others think you’re not being lazy 3. statement hollow of meaning that waters seeds of stress and anxiety and perpetuates suffering.
I’ve written and spoken about this subject quite a bit over the years. I try my best to not only avoid the use of the word ‘busy’ but also address it when others try to stamp its label on me, as well. Last week, I was talking with a friend and he said: “Sounds like you’re pretty busy,” and I replied: “Well, no. I practice to be a non-busy person.” And by that I mean that I practice to see everything that I do as an active choice that I make, verses an obligation or protested engagement that is heaped upon me unwillingly. Our collective understanding and use of the word ‘busy’ has a lot of negative and detrimental functions in our often fast-paced and disconnected, distracted culture.
Busyness is a state of mind and a way of engaging with ourselves and the world that involves a disassociation with personal accountability. It is a cheap, nondescript word at this point. And the more we use it – which is a lot – the more momentum it picks up. Words matter. And I think we underestimate that truth much of the time. Focusing our energy of mindfulness on the word choices we make is a valuable practice to take up in our daily lives. Especially because so many of us just talk and have very little idea of what it is we’re saying and why we’re saying it. We’re also not tuned into what we’re conveying through our tones of voice and facial expressions and how what we’re saying might impact those around us. So there are a lot of subtleties in how we communicate. And communication is huge – we are constantly communicating with others, whether we’re talking or not. There’s an exchange happening all the time.
I’ve been thinking about the subject of priorities lately. About how everything comes down to what we prioritize in our lives – what we choose to invest our time into. But it’s the “choice factor” that trips people up most often. Speaking in a collective fashion, we tend to engage with the world around us as though we were victims. Victims of our harried schedule, our work, our circumstances, our upbringing, our causes and conditions. What we have trouble seeing and understanding is that victim-hood is a state of thinking, not a state of BEING.
The possibility exists for us to live our lives un-dramatized, un-apologetically, and un-fettered. The possibility exists for us to step fully into the life we’ve created for our self and embrace it as the series of choices it really is. The so-called burdens that we face are commonly the manifestations of where we place our thoughts and our motivations regarding the actions that ensue.
Last month, amid a string of private facebook conversation messages I was roped into (and eventually figured out how to bow out of continuing to receive), someone in the chain of messages said the following:
“I won’t be able to breathe until after Labor Day, I’m so very busy.”
And I thought: Goodness, I think something needs to change.
If we’re too busy to breathe, too busy to live life well, perhaps it’s time to do something a little different.
If you’ve been following me here on this blog, you know that I’ve written a few times about my dislike of any response having to do with the word busy. As in:
Gosh, I’m just sooo busy! or
I’ve been CRAZY busy! or
Well, ya know, I’m super busy.
Lately I’ve been growing more and more frustrated with the often used, and largely misunderstood, phrase, “I’ve been sooo busy!” I’m finding that my usual flat affect when listening to friends is starting to curdle when confronted with yet another person describing how they’re unable to do this or that due to the nature of being busy, or using it as an excuse for anything and everything that happens: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t respond to that email, I’ve just been sooo busy lately.”
I’ve written a number of posts on the topic of busyness. In this modern day and age, it’s a subject I feel never loses its application. We all have full lives. We all have numerous things we do with our time – some productive and beneficial and some not so much. Trouble arises when we start to make excuses for what we don’t have time for – when we cast ourselves in the victim role by placing blame on other people, places, and things. It’s simple, really: What we do with our time is up to us. End of story. What we’re really saying, when we remark about how busy we are to a friend, is that we are prioritizing certain things over other things. The words we use are important and point to the intention fueling what it is we’re saying. So it’s not that I begrudge people for having things they’re doing, it’s just that I wish they’d use a more accurate description regarding what’s going on and take responsibility for their choices.
Looking deeply I see that my ego is involved with this budding frustration. I think to myself, “Well, I’m “busy” too and I have the time to email you!” It’s good progress that I notice the presence of my ego in these instances because it isn’t a helpful voice to heed. It’s a voice I don’t like to admit to existing and being a part of my internal dialogue, which was my motivation for wanting to write this post. Shadow work, like dealing with one’s ego, remains hidden in darkness without the infusion of light shone upon it. And the more parts of ourselves we hold in shadow the less able we are to transform and grow.
And so…the work of bringing that which is in shadow to the light continues…
I don’t like the word busy. Its a hollow word that has lost meaning for me. While it’s true that my life (along with just about everyone else’s) could classify under the dictionary definition of busy, which is to be actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime, I don’t enjoy using this word in response to questions like How are you? or How was your day? I try not to use the word busy to describe any part of my day or life. To me the word busy has been culturally redefined and is now designated to a state of mental and physical being that has become seemingly “out of our control.” We take on this burdensome tone when talking about our busyness as though someone else has thrust all of these things onto our plate and we were powerless to do anything about it. We’re all various degrees of busy: crazy busy, super busy, plain ol’ busy, pretty busy, oh-my-god busy, and so on. I get it. We’re ALL busy. But what does that really mean? How is telling people how busy we are an accurate depiction of what we’re really doing with our time and energy?
We use busyness as an excuse to get out of things we don’t want to do, as the reasoning for why we forgot something important, and as a blanket statement to sum up our weekend or week or month or year. But what are we really saying when we use the word busy? Perhaps we insert that word in places where something else would be more fitting, more connective, more authentic to our actual experience. Perhaps we use that word as a reflex and don’t really know why we’re using it at all. Perhaps we really do feel like our life is out of our control and busy is the only word that makes sense.