The other day I received a letter from a dear friend, hoping that sometime soon we will get the time to meet up but sadly she talked in her letter of how busy she was with one thing or another and how busy I was and that it didn’t look that we would get together in the near future. A grey cloud moved over head as I read that thinking when did we all become so busy with “life” that we don’t have time for each other? When did I get so tied up with “life” that my friends think that I’m too busy for them? When did we all succumb to the ‘busybusybusy’ syndrome? What exactly is it? Why do we all need to be so busy? How much does it affect family life and more importantly how can I make changes that will mean that “busyness” isn’t ruling my life or ruling it to the extent that friends don’t think I can fit them in?
To be honest, it’s a funny thing, because before receiving the letter I have never thought of myself as a busy person. I always feel that I could do so much more with my day. Ask me to fit something in and inevitably I will; shifting priorities here and there and making sure that, somehow that everything gets done with the limited hours that we get in our 24 hour days. It’s always a bit of a tough conundrum never really knowing what one day brings to the next in terms of health but on the whole we just go with the flow. Still to this friend, I obviously appear very busy raising four teenage children by myself but to my mind life is just ‘full’. But what is the difference between a full life and a busy one?
Essentially, on reflection, I realised that different people have different perceptions as to what busyness is. One person may say they are busy busy busy and run off their feet with activities whereas another maybe doing exactly the same activities and just feel that life is full, not especially busy. Benjamin Franklin’s quote “if you want something done, ask a busy person” comes to mind, but why is that – is it that we should ask a person who says they are busy or someone who doesn’t but appears busy? We are all, or many of us are, occupied now days with the pressures and strains of modern life yet somewhere along the line we have become consumed by busyness. It has become a state of mind not a state of affairs, as has often been said, but why? Why do we all need to be so busy and how much does it affect family?
If we strip away at what constitutes busy, as previously mentioned, this can mean a multitude of things to different people. The dictionary “busyness” as the “1. quality or condition of being busy.” and “2. lively but meaningless activity.” But essentially it is fair to say that busyness entails a degree of subjectivity. I, for instance, don’t think I’m busy, but my friend does. Who is right? Is either or neither? If I consider a busy day over a full day, that is a day when I don’t have time for anything else, not because I couldn’t make time but because I choose not to. That choice may well not be a conscious one, or one that I would sit down and deliberately make, but it is a reactive choice with consequences that are far outreaching. It destroys my inner peace and takes away from a deeper calm, that otherwise would see me in the midst of a full day but still able to step out of it to include another activity if necessary. Effectively it becomes a reaction as opposed to a thought through response made from a centre of proactivity and ultimately the people that pay the price for such reactivity is me, my family and my friends.
Life then, in terms of our daily activities, needs to be seen as a series of choices; choices that give us space to be proactive and choices that mean that we don’t succumb to a busyness disorder. If we feel the need to be overtly busy, then we need to ask ourselves why? Why do we want to live life in the fast lane, never taking the time out to coast in the middle lane or meander in the slow lane? We need to challenge ourselves as to exactly what the consequences are of slowing down a bit. Are we scared of missing out on something, maybe some opportunity, if we stop to take a breath? Do we really need to close yet another sale – is our business going to fall to pieces if we take five minutes? Do we really need to do everything that we think we need to do? If we take on that job are we going to starve? And what about family, probably the biggest question or all, and our children – can we actually afford to burn life away in the fast lane without taking time out to spend even a short period of time with them each day, drop that call to answer their question, or to sit down and take the time out? Can we afford not to listen to that small, peaceful voice within that guides and support, strengthens and inspires? Are we fully aware that our busyness is the mute button to that voice.
If it all sounds unrealistic – then we have to ask ourselves why? What actually would happen tomorrow if everything we did suddenly ground to a halt? What realistically would the outcome be if we wound up, say, in some hospital bed and couldn’t do everything we had been doing? Four years ago that effectively did happen to us and strangely enough our quality of life improved and things got better and better. For sure, our family bonds strengthened; sibling rivalry ceased and there was a new focus on teamwork and mutual co-operation, respect and individual responsibility. In a few short months, our world seemed to stop but in that time we learnt so much and now when life is full and edging towards busy, I often reflect on that time and take a rain-check before busyness takes over like it used to.
However, only each of us can truly know why we subscribe to a “busy” life over a “full” one but, for sure, busyness diminishes life’s rich tapestry – full on the other hand leads to a fulfilling peaceful life where the tapestry is brightly coloured, interesting, magnificent with the capacity for expansion. Is there really, then a choice?