True confession: I am competitive and I like win. It is rather surprising for me to realize that my desire to win is waning, it is still there, it is strong, but not like it was in years past. What a blessing it is to longer feel such a powerful desire to prove myself.
There is one contest in particular of which I am consciously trying to steer clear and not get caught up in its web of participation. It is the Busy Contest. Some of you dear readers do not want to hear what I am about to say, but I challenge you to forge on to the end. This realization has improved my life and reduced my stress in significant measures.
Not so long ago when anyone other than my doctor would ask how I have been doing my standard reply was, “Busy”. I would then proceed to enlighten the poor soul with all the things I was working on or had accomplished in the recent past. It sounded kind of like this: “This time of year at work is always the worst, I feel like I earn my entire year’s salary during the month of ______(fill in the blank). I am training for another half marathon and hope to break my personal record. I am also trying to finish up my middle grade novel and find an agent. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, Blah, Blah, Blah.
Almost everyone took the bait and joined into the contest. The competitor would briefly acknowledge my hectic life and then without pause proceed to recite their own busy list. It sounded something like this: Oh I know, my job is just crazy too. Every since I was promoted (promotion equals bonus points in the contest) I have been spending 12 hours a day at the office. Then of course Ava is getting married in the spring and there is so much that has to be done to plan her dream wedding. Then there is Marcus, between academic team, soccer,DECA, BETA and college interviews there just isn’t enough time for anything else.
The busy contest is a little like boxing because it is played in rounds. In the scenario described above the competitor that is the first to either look at their watch or get an urgent cell phone call and with smile, proclaim, “Oh, Gotta run!” is the winner of said round.
I have come to realize that this game is not good for anyone because even when you win, especially when you win, you lose. How can one enjoy their child’s first piano recital when it lasts longer than expected causing one to be late getting to their other child’s star performance in the high school play while their own project deadline for work is going to demand most of the the night’s hours that should be spent sleeping? I get it, sometimes this happens. We get whammied with several important events that overlap. But I argue that more often than not we get this busy by choice.
When did it become fashionable to honor our stress and praise the stress of our family and friends as if it were an achievement? Healthy? Physicians and psychologists agree that stress lowers our resistance to fight off illness and can even be a primary cause of physical and mental ailments.
Children learn by example. Do we really want our kids to grow up thinking that being a good parent means doing everything for everyone at the expense of health? Is the lesson that the one with the most on their calendar and to do list gets to wear the crown?
I learned most of the things that kept me “busy” are not things that had to be done. Rather they are things that I choose to do. Things like writing this blog, playing bunco with the girls,volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, taking my dog for a run. The list can go on and on. Instead of telling myself that I am busy with these things I am starting to make a conscious effort to remember that I am blessed with precious time and I can choose how to invest and enjoy the gift of each day.
I have a lovely friend that reaches out almost every morning by texting a meme to me that either includes scripture or a Christian quote. They are nice and I know she sends the same one to many people hoping give us a little inspiration to start the day. I appreciate her and her kindness. Yet sometimes, I can’t help but wish she would make it more personal. Perhaps, ask how I am doing or tell me about something going on in her life. I typically reply with a happy emoji or a brief statement of agreement. Today, hoping for a brief personal interaction, I replied asking, “How are you?” Her one word response was, “Busy”. I am sure she had many tasks and that her agenda for the day was indeed full. I also realized that it was an invitation to enter the contest with her by texting back all the things I needed to do. I wonder if my response was a little surprising? I tapped out “Yes, I know you stay busy.” She sent back a smiley emoji and I let that be the end, She won the contest because I won’t play.
After my mother passed away and I needed to empty her home I found a list on her kitchen table of people for whom she had planned to give homemade cookies after she recovered from her surgery. I also found a list of things such as returning books to the library and taking the dog to the vet. When she made the lists I doubt that it crossed her mind that she might never return to her home, that the cancer that was supposed to be able to be removed completely with surgery would spread so fast that any plans she had for anything afterward would never play out. I learned a valuable lesson from her list of people that would have received her annual gift of delicious fresh cookies. I learned that no matter the age we have reached when our life ends, be it 10 years old or 100 years old, there will be things that we did not finish. Think about it, No matter how busy you are, no matter how much you plan or how hard you work, there will be tasks that you never see through to fruition.
I did many things today. I wrote this blog entry, I called a friend and we met at the theater and watched a movie followed by coffee and a nice chat. I did a few household chores and I brushed my dog and played with her. I fixed myself a meal and have talked with two friends on the phone. There were other things I would have done if I had more time, but that is ok. If God gives me more time tomorrow I can proceed to more things. I was not busy, I was enjoying the gift of the time granted to me today.
After hearing the Bible verse,Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” for many years it’s deeper meaning hit me one day. I was always trying to do something, to take charge of things and concur tasks and goals when what I really needed to do was stop and acknowledge God’s gentle voice telling me to have faith and to trust in him.
Are we really that busy and if we are, isn’t it our choice? Does being busy help a person to feel that they have value and are important? I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Please leave your comments. Thanks for reading. My wish is that you have a day that isn’t busy but jam packed with people and activities you enjoy.