I have noticed lately how often people use the word busy or talk about how much they have to do. Busy has almost replaced the word “fine”, when responding to the question, “How are you?” Even my 3-yr-old granddaughter felt compelled to tell me how busy she was, although I wonder if she knows what the word means.
It seems there are high expectations placed on us by both society and ourselves to meet a certain criteria of accomplishments daily. I am amazed how much of a failure I feel each day that I don’t post, or go on Facebook, or accomplish much of anything. I keep looking for something to do, even when my body objects.
What does it mean to be busy? As I explore this word, I have found it helpful to name this part of me. I call him Fred. Now Fred is a noble name for a noble character. I am in awe of his drive and all he has accomplished. He enjoys being attentively engaged in his work. He is passionate and deeply caring of others and the world.
Unjust laws get changed because people stay engaged for days and years to change them. Babies get cared for and grow up to thrive because parents are willing to engage days and years into their wellbeing. Art is created because people spend days and years engaged with their muse to produce something of lasting beauty. All of these people are busy, but oddly they don’t speak of being busy. Instead they point to the joy and challenges of the work itself.
But there is another part of me, a part that crosses the line into meaningless activity. I call this part of me Fred Pusher. He gets so busy being busy, that checking off his to do list becomes more important than what is on that list. He forgets how to be comfortable not doing. He forgets how to be present to life and welcoming of interruptions.
Busy is a driving force of evolution, but it can also be a subtle form of violence. Although it can masquerade as competence and success, in truth busy often does violence to the earth, others, and our own selves. Robbed of reflective time and the ability to be fully present to life’s sufferings and joys, busy can become an addictive habit. And like so many things we do in America, it is not sustainable; it becomes something that just looks good on the outside.
So I have decided to throw a retirement party for the part of me I call Fred Pusher. I hope you will join me.