Busyness is rampant in society. And we’re losing humans to the rat race. If you win at the rat race, you still come out a rat.
Busyness also seems to be an addiction. If we ask “How are you?”, people often say “I am sooo busy”. Being busy makes some people feel important and many seem to find their purpose in being busy rather than in being. For this reason I pose to all: To be or to be busy? That is the question!
It seems that “busy” has many faces. Some feel that they are so busy, cannot see an end to it and become dominated by it, like an anvil they cannot climb out from under. It is the schedule that is busy. We have the power to either change a schedule or the way we look at the schedule.
It frustrates me that Busy becomes the scapegoat. Busy does not justify neglect or absolution of responsibilities to (NOT for) friends, family and other loved ones. We say that time flies – time moves no faster, it is we who speed up. Each day has a certain defined amount of time in it – it is up to us what we do in that time, and I wish we all took responsibility for our hours more and were more courageous and honest about our priorities.
I think there really is pending danger for an increasingly busy society. Brains are frazzled, fuses are short and so many are developing unhealthy relationships with their multitude of screens rather than developing healthy relationships with the people around them. Increasingly, we hear stories of people being broken up with over email, text, probably now even WhatsApp – responsibility is being shirked all around us. Screens increase communication but somehow also de-personalise interactions in some way.
Society seems intent on filling things with things – squeezing ever more into each moment, offering a Bar One chocolate for the “25 hour day”, energy drinks so that you can achieve more in the time you have, brain boosters, stimulants, protein shakes – we’re all trying to do more with less. If we constantly need an injection of external resources to enable us to live the lives we lead, I see that as an indication of a need to make some choices and changes.
We are told to “Mind the gap”. Elsewhere, opportunists say “Take the gap”. Don’t avoid it, don’t obliterate or stuff it, what about observing the gap, and finding pleasure in it? We can’t fill everything! That leaves no space for potential and creativity to flourish. It is out of the spaces, the cracks, the crevices, that serendipitous things emerge.
At the end of 2013, I decided to stop saying “I am busy”. Now, if I feel it on my lips (which I still do, out of habit), I find other ways to convey what is happening in my life. And interestingly enough, I realise that I need to think harder about what I say before I say it. “I am busy” is the easiest, laziest answer. I sometimes experience it as a conversation ender, and have noted a number of times how as soon as someone says it, their eyes drift away and I feel in that moment I lost them to their own worries of not having enough time rather than enjoying the present moment.
Something that concerns me in society today is how difficult so many people in Westernised culture find it to “do nothing”. Our generation and those beneath us have a big addiction to instant gratification and it means that for many, having constantly filled time is the norm. Back-to-back schedules, relationships, jobs – there is no pause in between for reflection, dissemination of lessons and calm evaluation of what feels like the next step. Hence my choosing to take some time off, to learn how to rest my body and mind properly, to relax, and to stop DOING so much. Some days it is a real challenge, some days I cannot imagine any other way.
So I challenge us all to stop saying “I am busy” as an answer to a question. We must have the courage to own the state and pace of our own lives, and to take the responsibility to change it if we don’t like it. If any of us feel a great sense of discomfort if we don’t have lots on the go all the time, I reckon that may be when it is most necessary to stop and take a very careful look at what is really going on. Being busy is often, first and foremost, a way to distract ourselves from our reality or even from ourselves. If I say “how are you?”, how is it ok when someone says “I am busy?” !!!? That isn’t how you are, it is how your schedule looks.
It is disappointing and shortsighted that busyness almost seems to be popular – just yesterday I heard someone convey such respect for someone who hardly sleeps, is involved in countless projects, committees, holds down a few jobs and studies at the same time but when someone takes time off to rest, we get called a bum?
I want to be. I don’t want to be ridiculously busy. For me, even the thought of being constantly busy is exhausting, shortsighted and actually crazy, nevermind unsustainable, especially healthwise. The challenge is to be still, to be peaceful, to be happy. The challenge is to be, regardless of, despite of and beyond our schedules. And if you think you’re busy, there is ALWAYS someone who’s doing twice as much as you and someone else doing half as much as you who isn’t thinking about being busy or not busy because they are actually experiencing their lives.