“Ugh, I am sorry I’m so late,” she says, plopping her purse on the table and throwing her phone inside. “I’ve had such a long day. I had to get the kids to school, then had this meeting, then this other thing, and I was called in for another something or other, had to pick up the kids, make dinner, acknowledge my husband. I’m just…so…BUSY!”
I listen intently to her rattle out her to do list. I find myself nodding ever more feverishly after every sentence, my eyes widening, my hand reaching for imaginary pearls to clutch.
“Yes! Drop off the kids!” I declare.
“A meeting?!” I gasp.
“Dinner?!?!” I groan.
When she is finally finished and we’ve traveled through the shattering weight of every tedious moment that has plagued her day, we sit in silence. After a long pause, I sip my coffee and sigh, “well, I guess that’s life now.” Our eyes lock knowingly, our sisterly bond avowed.
A few years ago, I saw a bumper sticker. I don’t recall what the car looked like or what else was affixed to it, though I suspect there was a COEXIST one as well. However, I do remember the feeling it gave me as soon as I saw it. It said, in simple letters:
Stop Celebrating Busy
“YEEEEESSSSS!” I remember screaming to myself, holding back an affirmatory honk in the driver’s direction. “Let’s just STOP IT ALREADY! WE NEED TO STOP CELEBRATING BUSY!!!!!!!” Realizing I was stopping traffic, I sheepishly put my foot back on the gas pedal and turned up the volume on my radio. “Steve Inskeep, you agree,” I whispered while merging onto the freeway.
Let me explain my enthusiasm. First, I’d just recently started making my own coffee and was still a little rough on the ratios. In other words, I had served myself an entire pot of coffee in one dark, dark, very dark cup. To say I was feeling sprightly zippy peppy would be an understatement.
Second, I’d very recently come back from a girls’ trip. Of course it was a wonderful, refreshing, delightful time with dear friends who helped me push the reset button on my otherwise confusing life. However, I also noticed a trend where we all took turns describing the demands on our time. “I’ve got so much on my plate,” one would say while browsing through state-shaped cutting boards at a gift shop. “If only my husband knew how much I did everyday,” another would declare while sipping chardonnay. I found myself in a mental bind. Part of me was grateful we felt safe enough to share our struggles. Another part of me noted that this whole weekend was about escape, and we sure as heck didn’t seem all that busy while tasting artisan olive oils and nut butters—so why complain about it now? Another, other part of me noticed that it was starting to look a little like a competition. The last part of me was frantically trying to hide my phone as notifications came buzzing through. Not now, Candy Crush. I know I’m on level 295.
Last, I think glorifying busy is a harmful extension of a society that values money over most other things. I won’t get political beyond that statement; I know you already have your favorite outlets for that discourse. Some blog by an over caffeinated mom who gets excited by bumper stickers is not the time nor place. But I do think we should take a look at why we brag about our full schedules and if it doesn’t have to do with some kind of bottom line.
I don’t deny that we are busy. An entire empire is built on this premise. Companies, individuals, organizations throw wads of cash at “consultants” who have some iteration of some time management tool to help us stem the never-ending tide of to-dos and should-be-dones. What I oppose is that we place so much value on it. (Or maybe it’s that I want to walk around with a hands-free mic in a hotel conference room, shoving my 49 Ways to a Handled Life© into the laps of middle managers at $17,000 a pop. What was that about a bottom line?)
I also don’t deny that people like to commiserate. It feels nice to know that others experience similar challenges. The freedom to share vulnerability is the basis of healthy friendships. We must remind ourselves that healthy friendships also include belief in each other’s worth. We don’t need to declare our value via an itinerary; your friend already believes in your importance.
So the next time I’m on an outing with friends, I will do my best to remind myself that time is not a commodity, nor am I.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Share in the comments!