The Bullshit of Being Busy
(DISCLAIMER: Before continuing, let me set one thing straight: if you are parents of three, juggling jobs/day care/school trips, then yes, you have all the right in the world to say, “I’m busy”. What really blows my mind is the fact that most people I know in this situation, NEVER SAY THEY ARE BUSY. EVER. I commend you. I look up to you. You are a goddamn hero! The following addresses the other camp who says ‘I’m busy’ all the time.)
In August 2014, I was forced to stop working. I had neglected a health issue, which ultimately took me down. Going into forced time-off, I kept repeating to myself, “Gotta keep the iron sharp, gotta keep busy, gotta get back to work within a month hopefully, max 3 months!” As 3 months approached, I began freaking out. I wasn’t any better, I had to take more time off. Then 4 months passed. I lost the ability to be busy. I felt everything moving past me. I became depressed and chronically worried, feeling removed from society. Then 5 months passed, and something weird happened. I no longer felt anxious. The world didn’t leave me behind on a moving sidewalk, taking me far back to a point of no return. Everything was the same. My concept of time and purpose shattered.
I constantly hear mid-20's, 30's San Franciscans say, “Ugh, I’m so busy! I have so much stuff to do!” and then proceed to list off their busy day of work, chores, appointments, and overall who-gives. When this happens, I can’t help but fantasize about flicking their forehead. Talking about their high demand and activity to the world by saying, “I’m busy,” has become this self-perpetuated dick measuring contest followed by false peer admiration and empathy. This busy-culture needs to stop.
Constantly barking, “Ugh, I’m so busy!” doesn’t make you cooler. It just stresses everyone out. We choose the commitments we take part in, whether it’s social groups, classes, relationships, work, contracts, etc. Choices make up life! They make us human. So why has this generation taken the course of constantly complaining and denouncing their own choices with, “I’m so busy,” instead of positively celebrating them with pride?
The super talented Casey Neistat and the Farrelly Brothers recently made a video describing life, likening it to walking backwards on an airport moving sidewalk. Walk, and you stay still, stay still, and you go backwards, hustle, and you move forward. While I agree that the modern person generally structures their life this way (leading to busy diarrhea), I disagree that life is actually structured this way. The Industrial Revolution invented this concept of time and purpose, made it into a rigid, unforgiving framework. People are supposed to work X hours a day, from Time to Time, X days a week, and take time off on designated dates and holidays. Most people were also designated a purpose, and given little room for imagination. Although this framework has evolved over the last 200+ years, it remains a rigid variation of linear time and purpose. This framework practically immortalized ‘being busy’ as a badge of honor, and evolved into the vocal busy assholes we have today. But there’s hope. What if people saw time with more fluid space?
CONFESSION. I am one of the morons that says “I’m busy” way too frequently. I constantly default to saying, “I’m busy,” just to escape a situation or responsibility, when in reality it only internalizes more stress. Needlessly vocalizing this only brings me brief relief, followed by deeply seeded anxiety. When I catch myself in this death spiral, I have to remind myself of the following framework:
Time as Space. It’s a difficult thing to grasp. But man, does it free you once you decide to let it take the reigns. Your sense of purpose becomes so much more creative. Over the last year, I had the fortunate opportunity to learn and practice this new framework.
I now imagine my time occupying fluid space, like a liquid sphere. My choices in life occupy this space, with different balances and sizes of importance. I control the size of each choice. I control how I move between each choice, and how I flow overall within my sphere. This sphere has permeability to allow new choices in, and old choices out. My sphere exists within a larger ecosystem that holds other peoples’ spheres of time and purpose, people in my life. This mental practice frees me from the endless illusion of running backward on a moving sidewalk. My choices also become so much clearer and more intentional. Now, when a friends asks me to go out, instead of being trapped on an over-crowded moving sidewalk, where I almost always default to saying, “I’m busy,” I now choose whether I want to bring that sphere in, and temporarily remove another sphere. If I can’t immediately make this switch, I’m mindful of my vocabulary, changing phrases like, “Sorry, I’m busy,” to, “Sure, I am working on my project for the next two hours, I will meet with you after,” or “I will be working on on a project for the rest of tonight. Let’s go out tomorrow?” I’m communicating the exact same thing, only now omitting an unnecessary, subconscious self-sabotage on my mind. This stops the vicious cycle of damning myself and my friends with negative “busy” remarks.
Bill Murray commented at a 2015 Comic Con, “Try to be as relaxed as possible. That’s really the key to how I like to work. Be as relaxed as you can be. That makes people feel comfortable…You don’t have to get intense when you’re working. Just try to make the other person look good and then you don’t have to worry about yourself.” I want to eventually reach this state of calm and clarity. And I challenge everybody to begin making this shift as well. It’s difficult. Busy body assholes surround and tempt us everywhere, everyday. It takes me consistent, mindful practice of self-reminders, meditation, and awareness of how I respond and interact with social markers and signals. But once I view time as fluid space, once I see clear, intentional choices, once I realize I control my purpose in life, it’s pretty damn liberating.
Goodbye ulcers and diarrhea.
(All my writing reposted from my site, www.mymiddlenameischad.com)