I Am Not Busy
I have been thinking about busyness since my Randi Zuckerberg post as well as Raven Rambling’s post about realizing why she overschedules herself. She writes about how she overcommits in order to feel needed, and I realized reading it that I do the exact.same.thing:
It makes for a very busy life, but I like to be busy. Nothing makes me more content then getting shit done – even if I’m sick, I keep on trudging. It makes me feel useful, and I need to feel useful … I don’t actually enjoy being so busy…but I need to be busy for my own peace of mind. And I need to be busy because it makes me feel useful… and I need to feel useful because I usually feel like a useless, infertile, non-mothering woman.
That is me. Except that I would say that I need to feel useful because it staves off this feeling that if I’m not useful, I’m without worth. If I’m super busy, it means I’m worth something, right? It means people find value in me and my skills. It turns me into the equivalent of a dollar.
You know, dollars: you put dollars in your wallet and would feel bummed if one fell on the ground and was lost to the wind. Whereas if a penny dropped to the bottom of your purse or out of your pocket… oh well… not a big deal. Being seen as a dollar is so commonplace that it’s totally attainable. I’m not looking to be the best or the biggest or the brightest: just someone with some basic value.
Image: Moneyblognewz via Flickr
I mean, yes, hopefully to Josh and the twins and people like that, I am more than just a dollar. Maybe I am a million dollars or priceless. But to the rest of the world, the greater world, I want to be a dollar.
So I try to make myself feel valuable by saying yes a lot. Sometimes it feels like I don’t stop from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. But I also know that’s how I want to see my life.
It’s the story I tell myself about my day.
Because I’m not busy by Randi Zuckerberg’s definition of busy. I can fit everything in. I get some me-time. If I want to grab dinner with a friend, I can make that happen. I do a half hour of yoga every morning. I have a lot of time with the kids. I mean, we still have time to sit down and read books together in the afternoon, an activity that takes a shitload of time when you think about it. Josh and I take two hours or so of downtime every night to watch television or read a book or… do other things. And I work about 9 hours a day.
I go through busy periods, but I would never tweet about the Writer’s Dilemma. Busy periods, like first-pass, are all limited in scope. Two busy weeks where I have to buckle down and put in more hours, and then… back to normal life. Which is apparently not busy.
And yet, Raven Rambling’s post spoken volumes to me because prior to reading Zuckerberg’s tweet, I would have said that was overcommitted. But am I, really, if I can fit in many different facets of life? Maybe not.
I don’t think most people want to live with their life battery on empty. Few people have the stamina of someone like Barack Obama whose every second is accounted for and squeezed for its possible usefulness. I mean, the man can’t even change into his pyjama bottoms at 4 pm. What sort of life is that — wearing real clothes until night time?
In a Daily Dot article on busyness, the author states,
Busyness has become a status symbol of sorts, one that we use to promote our worth to the rest of the world. “Almost everyone I know is busy,” wrote the New York Times’ Tim Kreider in 2012. “They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.”
Yes, it’s a status symbol regardless of your job — everyone wants to appear as if their existence matters and their presence is needed. Would people have sat up and listened if Randi Zuckerberg said, “Hey, people, I’m not busy at all right now.” Nope. She wouldn’t have sounded like she mattered. I mean, if you’re a someone of value, you must be busy, right? So the moment she says, “I am so busy,” we all nod and answer, “Me too.” Because if not, aren’t we sort of saying that Randi Zuckerberg is more important than the rest of us?
Maybe she is? I don’t know. I’d sort of be okay with that.
The point of that Zuckerberg post is that we all need to take a long, hard look at how we spend our time and be honest about it. Can we really not spend time with our friends, or did we spend so much time on Facebook one afternoon that the day got away from us? If we hadn’t checked into Facebook at all, could we have grabbed coffee with a friend for an hour?
I can say, with my life, the answer is almost always yes.
Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point.
There are times when I get busy and I can’t return a phone call or see a person. I work during the day, so many of my hours are spoken for, and I live by the twins’ schedule in the hours after that. But if the other person is flexible and the commitment isn’t time sensitive, I can shift things around and figure out how to work it all in. All five of those things are a priority; it’s just that sometimes one thing on the list trumps other things on the list. But yeah, if you look at my week overall, I get to all of my priorities.
(Remember, you may look at those six categories in the other post and say, “Feh, exercise is something I just don’t care about.” So then you’d only have five priorities. Or the six you come up with may look totally different from mine.)
Back to Randi. Does Randi Zuckerberg really never have time to see friends? Or does she look at the friends she has and think, “I can get more out of life right now going to a cool event for work than I can having yet another slice of pizza with Mary.” Poor Mary. But the point is that we all make decisions with our time, and sometimes I think those decisions are the kind I speak of above: to make ourselves feel busier than we actually are in order to stave off some other feeling. And other times, it just feels yucky to think that we’re not making someone or something we love a priority, so it’s easier to say that we’re just too busy for it.
You know how some restaurants tape their first dollar to the wall? (You know, the classy joints.) They do it to remind themselves of how far they’ve come. From one dollar to a thriving business. Maybe I need to do the same thing: tape a dollar bill over my desk because it’s all perception.
I know I am a dollar. I know I do my job well. I’m not the best or the biggest or the brightest, but if someone hires me to do a job, I complete the task and turn in a strong product. I think I have value when it comes to my friends and family and community. Sometimes I have a lot to do, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m in a period of time that is more thinking than accomplishing. It’s all part of the process.
I don’t know if I’m busy or not. I suspect that I’m not based on other people’s answers. But I’m also okay with that. I sort of like not being too busy. It means that I get to do all the voices for Hunger Games while reading to the kids, and I do an awesome Effie Trinket. It’s worth at least a dollar.