I am cruising headfirst into a very busy few weeks, mostly because of my real job. This week alone has involves a trip to California (round-trip in one day) and a long day in New York (6am shuttle down, 9pm shuttle back) on Friday. The days I’m in town are crammed too. I am missing a few kids’ school things here and there, but I am mostly comfortable with it. This is important. And I do like the people I work with a lot.
Still, I worry. I often feel anxious in this anticipatory way, sense that familiar old preemptive emotion coming in to swamp me. When I graduated from business school I worried constantly about finding a job that would allow me to pursue my new but passionate yoga practice. There’s no question this helped shape my choice. Was this wise, or was this a capitulation to the immature fear of something that had not happened yet (the consumption of my life by my job)?
People always tell me that I am busy. And yes, absolutely, I do have lots of things going on every day. I rarely have long stretches of uninterrupted time without claims on it. For a long time I definitely bought into this – I was busy, busy, busy. But at some point over the last few years I started resisting that ever-offered excuse for why someone didn’t do something/didn’t call/didn’t show up/was late … “I’m so busy!” Come on. Everybody is busy, tired, fighting their own battles.
I realized I wanted to stop making this excuse. Busy is a state of mind, and a relative term, quite uncorrelated with the subjective truth of how crowded one’s hours are. Furthermore, “busy” as an excuse asserts a lack of choice and control that I think is inaccurate. Somehow, we all find time to do the things we really care about. As Anne Lamott asserts, the time is there: just find it. Choose it over something else. Remember what Annie Dillard says: how you spend your days is, in fact, how you spend your life.
So, mostly, since then I have stopped claiming busy-ness, and what I found is I – delightfully! – mostly didn’t inhabit that space anymore. Still it remains true that there are undeniably times when the demands on me feel heavier than usual. There are times when I feel at risk of being frenzied and out of control, when I worry about not having time for the things I love most: reading, writing, sleep, running, yoga. I feel that way now: I am concerned that the next month won’t allow for as much of these things as I’ve grown accustomed to. I’m worried about time to write this blog: how can I expect you all to be here if I am not? And this community has come to mean so much to me. I also worry about what it says about my priorities if I find myself unable to come here. Am I failing to prioritize my writing and nascent creative life or am I simply being realistic about short-term unavoidable realities?
Overall, what I wonder, nervously, is this: am I falling back into the patterns where things felt busy, busy, busy? Does this creeping slipperiness under my feet, this slight but noticeable tightening of every minute of my day represent a backslide into old habits? Part of me thinks yes – the faint shadow of panic is so familiar – but another part of me thinks no. I am so keenly aware, now, of how much I prize quiet. Of how much I value time alone. Of how much certain practices mean to me. I never knew those things before, and the reason I feel anxious about the encroaching busy-ness is because I know now what I need. This knowledge and this reason are new, and I hope that they can be a bulwark against the encroachment of busy-ness.
I read Jena’s (always, always, always) stunning blog and learned that the Chinese characters for “busy” also mean “heart-killing.” It has been a long road for me to realize that there was part of my heart that was dying in all the busy-ness. Actually, I think a better way of saying it is that part of my heart was never allowed to live. I still fear a return to that, when I launch into a period of intensive commitments. But I return again to the same word, circling to the same place, a needle tugging north: I have to trust that I’ll come through this phase and return to what I now know I prize. I have to trust that I won’t lose my heart in the busy-ness. And, most of the time, I do.
22 thoughts on “Busy”
Boy do I relate to this struggle! I find myself struggling and grappling with all the quandaries you present here nearly constantly. I, too, find the “I’m busy” excuse a lame one, but one I lean in far too often these days. The truth is, I suppose, is that there are just a lot of things and people who I dont want to make the time for anymore…but I’m not yet sure what is a priority. Great read!
You will certainly find a way to live and love around the busyness… and your words stay here even when you are not writing… I for one will keep reading!
Off on a 15 hour day, but had a feeling I should check in here and I am so glad I did! Thank you…
So here we go – open heart, deep breath, and with the knowledge that we aren’t alone…
In this we are, as in so many ways, so much the same. People always ask me: how do you do all that you do, work, mother, write, read, scrapbook, etc. and I always answer that it’s a matter of priorities. I don’t watch tv, I protect me time, I say no to social obligations. I do all of that so that I can focus on what helps me be happy. It took me a lot of years to learn that about myself, that I need to protect time for the things that matter most. But also, to recognize that those things are constantly changing and that’s okay too. It’s a pendulum and we should be able to move between things without guilt. All this to say, do what needs doing Lindsey. We’ll be here, and you’ll come back when you need to. Don’t start to feel responsible to your blog. You’d be doing yourself a disservice.
Take care! Find time to breathe.
Every woman I know is busier than ever, so trust me, we understand. No matter how long you take off from the blog, we will be here when you return. Safe travels.
What a beautiful post! Trust us, we’ll be here waiting to read your words when you have the time. Safe travels until then. XXX
Just think how much more busier you would be if you were doing all this and still attending school! As current student and one who has a few years (6 w/ residency) left of it, enjoy the fact that the didactic verbosity is behind you. I recently stumbled across your digital scribings and must say I am impressed that you are able to give it as much time as you do. Well done!
“Am I failing to prioritize my writing and nascent creative life or am I simply being realistic about short-term unavoidable realities?”
Option B. At least that’s what I’d say. We blog for ourselves, right? We blog because something about what we do here, in this online space, augments our offline life. If that isn’t true, then what purpose does blogging serve?
We all have lives in the real world, and sometimes those lives need us more acutely than other times. Yielding to those moments – whether a day, week, or month – is important. It means that we understand the balance and trade-offs of our lives. Not every temporary decision is a commentary on the larger direction of our lives. Or, to put it a bit more crassly, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
We will be here. If you need to dial it down this month, then by all means do so. If you need to keep blogging daily for yourself, that is a different matter. But give yourself the permission and freedom to take a step back if that’s what you need.
I, too, HATE when people excuse their tardiness/lack of calling back/general unreliability to being busy. I loved how you point out that it makes it seem like they have no control over it. Everyone is busy these days. We all have our issues/commitments/obligations/passions. Make time for the important stuff. I’m with you.
The idea of the Chinese character for busy also meaning heart-killing…brilliant and insightful.
Wow. The fact that you stated exactly the change in my mindset so succinctly really has me shivering.
I don’t remember when I shifted from “give me a break, I’m busy!” to “I’m taking a break because I need the silence” but I do know it has saved me from guilt on many levels. As you said, we are all busy but finding that quiet time we all need is something we must figure out on our own.
Busy like Richard Scarry am I as well… reading you as clock ticks and appointments near. I love them all too much, so I breathe and say that when you are in LA for your fifteen minutes (probably in Century City, for where else would one go in LA for such a trip?) I wave from just blocks away, virtually, and in a long quiet moment that adds nothing to our calendars.
Echoes from my heart, this seems.
I so very much resonate with much of what you posted today, Lindsey. Love the Dillard quote (may we all have her brilliance) and really can appreciate the Chinese character meaning for busy being heart-killing. xoxo
Busy can be a mindset. There’s always someone who’s doing more than me with a quieter mind. And that helps me to inhale/exhale.
Lindsey, we will be here whenever you have time to write again. It took you time to realize that you cherish the pause and the quiet. I understand it, it resonates with me. Trust that you will come through this. Trust it, you will be great!
You have all the answers. I can see them poking their heads out between your words. All is well. And we will be here to read whenever you write. xo
I love the quotes you chose by Lamott and Dillard. They resonate with me.
If you decide to take break, don’t fret. Your prose is always inspiring, I am certain that all of us will be back to read your posts when you are ready.
oh lordy, chica, i love this! i didn’t know that “busy” and “heart-killing” are the same character and – wow – that resonates for me as well. even the thought makes me breathe deeper and slow down a bit. thank you so much for spreading the knowledge – what a gift.
“Remember what Annie Dillard says: how you spend your days is, in fact, how you spend your life.”
Actually in the process of making big changes in order to spend more time, daily, present in life.
Hi Lindsey! New-ish reader, brand-new commenter.
This post really spoke to me. I have realized that that the mindset of “too busy” is my primary way of hiding from my life. Given my demanding job and new motherhood, people (including myself) seem to buy it—and I can get away with it! It is all to easy to blame my inability to fully engage, and live & behave the way I really aspire on being “too busy”.
I love that you stopped claiming it and found yourself out of that space; very inspiring, and something I’m going to try going forward!
On the other hand, there are going to periods in life where certain priorities take over. That is normal & unavoidable; just jump in and swim in it, and when you emerge at the end, everything will be here waiting for you!
There are definitely times when I feel busy, busy, busy. There are times when I use that “I’m so busy” excuse. However, I think that it’s really more that I do not want to make the time. I have friends I could see, but I choose to keep my life simpler and stay home and stay less busy.
As always, your words articulate feelings I didn’t even know were there until I read your blog.
Yes, I will definitely be waiting even if you don’t write for a stretch. Be very kind to yourself right now during this time of stress. And remember that stress in small does makes us stronger. Balance needs to be measured over months or years or a lifetime – not over a few weeks. If you get crazy and BUSY for a while, that is OK too. You’ll return home when you need to. You have more wisdom than you give yourself credit for my dear.
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