We got in the car last week to leave on a family vacation and my husband asked “What’s one thing you want to do that would make this a good vacation?”. My response: “I just want to sit.” He laughed. I was serious. I just want to SIT. Sit and eat my meals. Sit and read a book. Sit and watch my kids play. Sit and listen to my family talk and joke around. I just want to sit. And be still. Without feeling guilty about the millions of other things I should be doing.
I should have known better because we were going to Lake Powell. And we were taking all four of our kids including our 3 year old who has a little trouble listening (and by trouble I mean he often completely disregards what I say–it’s a problem). And we were surrounded by water. And he can’t swim. So before we even left, I knew sitting was pretty much out of the question.
But it got me thinking about life and how busy I am. How busy we all seem to be. Thinking about what it is I’m so busy doing anyway. Am I busy doing the right things? Am I a sacrificing the best things I could be doing for things that are good, just not the best? What are we so busy doing?
Brene Brown said in her book Daring Greatly (it’s amazing, you should read it): “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having twelve-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
If I were to strip the purpose of life down to the bare bones, I would say the thing that counts most is how we treat other people. How we make other people feel. What kind of real, authentic relationships we have created. How approachable we are. How we LOVE other people. How we love ourselves. What we give back to other people (time, attention, love). The question is, am I too busy to do this?
I was driving home from the store yesterday and I saw an older man sitting on the corner in a chair. I see him in this same spot frequently. He’s dirty and wears thick glasses. His hair is long, gray, and matted. He doesn’t move much, stares into places unknown, and holds a sign that says “I am hungry”. This time, however, his sign just said “homeless”. About 20 feet away from this man was a younger man in clean clothes, short groomed hair, standing on the grass also holding a cardboard sign. This man’s sign was in the shape of an arrow pointing at the older man. It said “He is not homeless and does not need money.” In smaller print it said “in my opinion”.
I can’t really explain why, but this whole situation really bothered me. It’s completely out of character for me, but I wanted to stop and ask the younger man what his purpose was. Did he feel cheated by this man? Did he know him? How did he know he wasn’t homeless? And how would he know the man didn’t need money? What aggravated him so much that he was willing to stand there as well with his own cardboard sign? I’m not even sure what the feeling was I was feeling. Confused, sadness, anger, curiosity, compassion. Every part of me wanted to stop and see what was going on. But I didn’t have time. I didn’t have time to stop and talk to these people. To show compassion to the man on the corner. To show compassion to the younger man who felt wronged by the situation. I didn’t have time. So I kept driving.
It still bothers me that I didn’t stop. I had a house to clean. Work things to do. A trip to pack for. My list never ends. But I’m really starting to question that list. And what things are getting priority on that list.
Am I available? Am I accessible? Am I present? Or am I too busy doing too many other things (even if those things are seemingly important)?
For some reason, when I (we) become increasingly busy, the first thing that suffers is my relationships. My time for other people, for service, for FUN, for leisure time just BEING with the people I love often get pushed aside. I also neglect things that nourish my soul. Time for me. Time for reflection. Time for God.
I ask myself, if a friend calls and needs support, will I drop everything and go? Will they even call me in the first place if they think I’m “too busy”? If one of my kids needs some extra love and attention, can my “to do” list be put aside?
What do I spend my free time doing? And WHY? Do I even have free time? If not, why? Does my use of time reflect who I am and who I hope to become?
So I’m re-assessing and trying some strategies to help me be less-busy with the good things and instead fill my time with the best things. I’m reminding myself it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to not be busy all.the.time. It’s okay to take things off the schedule that don’t support my WHY or the goals and ambitions of our family life. It’s OKAY TO SAY NO. Because when I say “no” to one thing, I say “yes” to something that supports my why. Something that matters MORE.
I’m trying to slow down. BE STILL. Listen. Pay attention. Notice details. Be deliberate with my time. Nurture relationships with family, friends, and strangers. And solely focus on what really matters to me. People. And Love.
PS. If you liked this post, you may also like a post I put together with suggestions and ideas on HOW to help someone in need for ANY reason. It’s a good one!
And if you feel like you don’t have enough energy to get through your day, you’ll definitely want to check out “Are you living an energy efficient life?”. It changed the way I think about my days.