Busy Is the New Black

student_3921899_smIf you’ve spent much time around little people, you know that they are perfect mirrors of life around them. Just when I think I’m behaving well and providing a good example, my son will do something that is undeniably me. . . and not always flattering! It helps me realize how many negative characteristics they pick up, along with (hopefully!) a few positives. Recently my son has picked up a new phrase: “I’m so busy!” I am still in denial that it’s coming from me! If I ask him to do something, whether it be put on his shoes or sit down for dinner, I will often get the excuse, “I’m too busy.” Coming from an almost-three-year-old with no real schedule, the excuse of “busy-ness” is laughable, but he means it quite sincerely.

I, on the other hand, am quick to provide the “I’m too busy” excuse—perhaps not out loud, but I certainly think it often enough. If anything else is put on my to-do list I immediately think, “I’m so busy,” and feel sorry for myself. If my to-do list is too long then I must be important, but not productive, and if it’s too short then I am either not important enough to have a longer list or so productive that I’ve accomplished all these tasks. The mental gymnastics are exhausting, at best.

Recently, a friend of mine commented that he’d heard it said that, “Busy is the new fine.” In other words, it’s now the norm, when asked how you’re doing, to respond, “Busy!” It’s generic, it’s quick, and it doesn’t really invite follow-up questions unless someone truly wants to know your schedule. Saying that we’re “busy” can be a way we dismiss people, a way we set them aside to focus on whatever it is we are so busy doing. It’s popular, desirable. It’s the new black.

In fact, all this busy-ness makes us suspect of people who aren’t so busy, people who seem to be enjoying their free time, people who show up Monday morning at the office a little sunburned and a lot rested. We assume they aren’t as important as we are, or at least don’t have the same number of commitments, and we pat ourselves on the back for being able to handle more and be more productive than our less busy counterparts.

One thing I love about summer is that people seem more cheerful, more relaxed. Workplaces are probably a little emptier, accounting for people on vacation and people out doing other, more relaxing things. I spent the Lenten season making an effort to expand my boundaries, and I’ve spent the last two months making an effort to work out more and keep my house more organized. Perhaps, for the summer, I will make a different kind of effort: to relax. To not be so “busy”, particularly with things that really don’t merit that sort of priority.

My husband likes to remind me, in those moments when I am feeling overwhelmed with “busy-ness”, to handle “one thing at a time”. In my mind all those things jumble until I feel I can barely breathe from the weight of them. But this summer, I will try to breathe deeply. I will not measure my own success by the length of my to-do list. I will handle one thing at a time, and I will try to focus on those things that are not just urgent, but also important.

And perhaps I can learn something from my toddler son: in a way, he is busy. But he is busy reading a stack of books, sorting M&Ms into color piles, and stomping through mud puddles. Perhaps that kind of busy schedule isn’t so bad, and actually invites us deeper into God’s rest.

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Kimberly McClung DeVries was raised in a minister’s family, first overseas as missionaries and then in Georgia. She attended the University of Georgia to receive a degree in telecommunications, worked briefly in that field, and then went to law school instead, also in Athens. She has worked as a public defender and for a legal aid agency, and now resides in Mississippi with her husband and two boys. Kimberly is trying to grow by pushing herself out of her comfort zone. To that end, she has a toddler and a baby, both boys, works full time as a lawyer, and is also helping her husband survive his PhD.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email