Having lunch with my 13-yr-old last week, I asked him a question of where he wanted to be in five years. What kind of person was he aiming to become? Did he have goals for himself?
His answer surprised me, since he said that he wanted to be more like his older brother:
“Everyone likes Casey. My [12-yr-old] friend, Zarec, said it best: ‘The reason Casey is so much fun is because he seems like he is really having fun when he is with you!’ Most teenagers aren’t like that. I guess I want people to feel that fun from me.”
He wasn’t envying his brother, but admiring a trait he’d like to emulate. I like it when my kids think. I don’t know if he realized that his thinking convicted me, but I realized how “not fun” I live some days of my life.
A Disease called Busyness.
I think it is amusing when I ask my kids a question like, “How many times have you flossed this week?” and my eight-year-old will say, “I haven’t had time.”
Haha!! If you don’t have time when you are eight?…
Don’t we each feel that way though – whatever we are doing seems important enough to feel BUSY?
As an engineer (before motherhood), I
- drove 50 miles each way to work
- worked in three plant locations involving travel
- volunteered at church directing the children’s choir
- sang in the adult choir, and filled in as accompanist at times
- taught piano lessons on the side
- picked up kids who needed a ride to church
- played on a softball team 30 minutes from my house (part way to work)
- played in a county band
- made meals from scratch
- worked out every day
- flossed my teeth :)
- stayed involved in elections, attended weddings and baby showers, traveled to out-of-state family, practiced instruments and other things that happened on a non-daily routine
I am sure you could make this list for yourself.
“It is not enough to be industrious, so too are the ants,” said Henry David Thoreau, “but what are you industrious about?”
For me, I have LOVED to be busy my whole life. In highschool, my mother would continuously say (to my back as I was leaving the house), “You are burning the candle at both ends; it cannot last!”
I wore it like a badge.
My highschool yearbook looked like I was trying to be Jan Brady (or was it Marsha?) with all of my activities: Shakespeare Club, high school musical, jazz band, church plays, babysitting, softball teams, marching band, (county, district and state bands), Science Fair competitions, indoor drumline, National Honor Society, nursing home visitation, and winter ski club.
I could have sung the Veggie Tales song to any friend who asked for time, “I’m busy busy! Frightfully busy! You’ve no idea what I’ve got to do!”
- Makes us lose sight of direction.
- Robs our happiness.
- Masks our growing further from whom we were meant to be.
1. Busyness makes us lose sight of the direction we intended.
I like to list those activities of my engineering days, because it is clearly eclectic, and pointless for where I am today. What was my goal? We have twenty-four hours in our checking account to spend, 365 days a year. We cannot add to that number in any way. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Romberger, taught me a valuable lesson on busyness, when she had us actually keep an account ledger of our time. We took a lined piece of paper, and labeled each line with fifteen-minute intervals of time. Then for one week, we were supposed to stop every fifteen minutes and write down what we were doing. I remember being shocked – even at that young age – of things which I had no intention of doing that took my time! (Maybe I should do this today? I cannot figure out what happened to my 11am to 2pm yesterday!!!) If we could look back at our account ledger for the last six months of time, we would likely be able to predict where we will be in five years! Our hourly account ledger tells where we are headed. Does it have the direction we intended? It is “what we are industrious about” that matters.
2. Busyness robs our happiness.
Recently I had a day when I got miserably tired. You know the kind? Once my daughter, exhausted and teary at age seven said, “I am so tired, my heart has been at the edge of a cliff, and it just went over. Wah hah hah”– That kind of tired.
When my heart, “went over the edge,” I analyzed the day I had had:
- I had gotten up early for a good workout and Bible time,
- Then went to have coffee with a friend in need, arriving a little late.
- I came home shortly and did some homeschooling work with the kids, then let them work on their own assignments while I
- Volunteered playing piano at the high school where my oldest son attends.
- I came home and paid the cleaning lady quickly before leaving in a hurry,
- To drive my daughter to homeschool youth theatre practice, while eating lunch out of my lap.
- I volunteered with music for that group for 2 hours
- I came home in time to say hello to my teens before dropping them at the soccer carpool.
- Making the family dinner took a little longer than expected, so I didn’t get to sit down.
- I ate dinner from my lap while driving to an evening orchestra practice at church which I had been looking forward to.
- I came home and the younger kids wanted me to read to them before bed, but
- It was late
- And I was tired.
- Chris wanted to tell me about his ideas, and spend quality husband/wife time, but my body had had it!
- And I was tired.
- It was late
I felt like saying, “Do you know the kind of day I have had?!!!”
Then I actually thought about the kind of day I had had:
- I had started with exercise and quiet time in prayer.
- I had spent time with my kids.
- I had given of my time and talents in volunteer work.
- I had played in an orchestra at church – a kind of worship for me, cleansing of my soul, once a week when my schedule allows.
- I had eaten healthy – even from my lap – since I had prepared the meals.
That day would have been called “rest” back in my engineering days (and most of my “normal days” now), but clearly, the happiness had been robbed.
I ended too tired to read to my kids.
Volunteering had become a chore when it affected my meals!
Any of these events taken separately would have been a blessing, but all together, they were a strain.
A thief came in to rob my happiness through the door of my calendar.
The sad part is that most people have busyness robbing their happiness and they do not recognize the cause, only its effect.
3. Busyness masks our decay.
If we are not growing right, we are growing wrong!! There is no staying the same.
Growth in a specific direction takes specific intent for growth. Growth in a bad direction takes no work at all.
If I want to be a healthy weight, it takes massive intent and work.
If I want to gain weight, it’s a piece of cake! (Pun intended! :) )
Growing in a right direction requires tending to the calendar, not just riding along in an “unattended car”. Keeping ourselves busy disguises itself as productivity, when in actuality it is often masking decay.
I believe this decay due to busyness is very evident in marriages:
Nobody plans for a marriage to decline to a status of “acquaintance management,” but lack of planning is the root of the rot. Personal busyness usually does not involve the spouse…who frankly has his/her own reason to be busy, leading him/her in different directions. Our busyness often is exclusive of those who are closest to us, leaving what matters most in our hearts, out of our mind while we RUSH – often trying to serve the very ones we ignore. While we think we are working to get things done, things are becoming undone within us…as individuals and in our relationships.
Rest is not the antithesis of productivity.
“Tending” to our growth, personally or professionally, means we know when we need rest, too. Rest can actually halt the decay cycle. My husband wrote a whole book on the importance of rest! (Maybe I should rest from writing and read it again! He says, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation.) Rest allows time to think. Unscheduled time allows planning for the future.
If we have every minute filled with who we are, it will be difficult to find time to become whom we are meant to be!
Leave space!! Just because there is a blank in the calendar does not mean it needs to be filled! (Okay, I am screaming, “Preach it, sister!” to myself in my head – because I am SO preaching to myself. I suppose I better close this letter before my “self” starts answering.)
One last note: According to author Bryan Caplan, secondhand stress is a leading complaint among kids. In an “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than 1000 kids in grades 3-12, asking, “If you were granted one wish to change the way that your mother’s/father’s work affects your life, what would that wish be?” Who could have guessed the kids’ answer would have involved their parents’ attitude?! When asked to “grade” their parents for “appreciating me for who I am, “ or “making me feel loved,” or even, “attending important events in my life,” the parents scored well. But “controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry” got the worst marks on the parents’ report card! They feel our stress!
Okay, I do not remember that lady interviewing my kids, but wow! She might have been here. It’s not that I “blow up” at my kids. I have even worked on many systems to avoid the repetitive nagging. But, I often wonder if my kids are going to say my most commonly said word was, “hurry!”
I don’t want them to remember me as the “hurry!” mom. I want them to feel the fun I have with them. I want them to remember me as the mom who loves them and who loves Jesus, and who stresses only in things eternal. I think my infliction with the Disease called Busyness may be masking my most important message…to my kids, to my husband and to myself.
To be continued,
- Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (K. DeYoung)
- Life Management for Busy Women (E. George)
- Be Still!- For Your Ears’ Sake
- Go Slow to Go Fast (write up on Month of Italy book by my husband, Chris Brady)
- Unattended Vehicles
Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.