June 29, 2013


"You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."

(apologies to S. Morgenstern).


It may come as a surprise, but "busy" does not equal worthwhile.  It does not mean happy, or content, or satisfied.  Busy does not mean productive.  It doesn't mean successful, either.  Busy does not mean useful, or popular, or even needed.

Busy just means full.  Too full, usually.  When we are satisfyingly occupied, we don't feel busy.  We feel content, because we are present enough to look around us and see, and be content.

Busy means hiding, sometimes.  It means desperate.  It might mean running-away, and escape.  Busy can mean lonely, or disorganized, or frantic.  Busy can mean procrastinating.  It can mean selfish.  It can mean thoughtless.  Busy, by definition, cannot mean thoughtful.

So when you ask me how my week was, and offer "busy?" as a possible answer while I stop to think how was my week?? ... I hope I will say, "no, not busy.  I try not to be busy."  And when I ask you how you are, and you answer "busy!" with a satisfied smile, I will not feel impressed, but sad.

Busy is not a badge of honor.

Living deliberately is what I aim for.  Productive, yes.  Useful, yes.  But deliberate in filling my time, not packing it in like a starving man at a potluck table.  A little choosy in my consumption, even.  Leaving a generous amount of unscheduled space, to appreciate the activities.  In art, it's called negative space.  In music, rest.  In writing, margin.

It's true - some of us need more rest than others.  But no one thrives on stuffing themselves.

I know:  some seasons of life are fuller than others.  I'm in one now.  But I also know that my need for rest is all the more vital to meet well the demands of this season.


So next time you are tempted to describe yourself as busy, try on another word for size:  content, maybe, or productive.  It might just fit you better.

Better still, if I ask you how you are, and busy comes to mind, tell me something you did with your time that was meaningful - worked in your garden, played with children, talked with a friend, went for a run, watched a sunset, read a book, shopped for your family, fixed a bicycle, balanced the checkbook, painted a bedroom - whatever it was, it is more you than "busy."

And you is what I'm after.

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