I am so busy. I am so tired. My back hurts. I can’t keep my eyes open. I’m grumpy. I’m annoyed. I’m unhappy.
You know the feelings that you push down into the back of your consciousness? Just out of reach so that you can get through another day of to-dos and colour-coded calendar appointments.
When does busyness become distracting, even harmful? When does busyness become too much a part of your identity? I’ve realized that busyness has become my mode of life, just who I am. I’m the busy one – the one who is always on the go, the one who has so many places to be and so many people to see. That’s me. Always stressed out, always tired. The idea of prolonged stillness and quiet makes me uncomfortable. I see my schedule as a challenge to be consistently maximizing my productivity. And to be honest I like being that person. It’s comfortable. The practice of taking a break is hard for me.
After several nights of tears incurred by the familiar task of completing my term papers, I needed a reality check. I was burnt out.
Going into Lent this year, I was introduced to a psalm that I had never paid much attention to before. In Psalm 46 the command to “be still and know that I am God” firmly called out to me. And so I started to think about how I could practically do this in my life – to be still. During Lent I tried to take about 30 minutes before bed to read a psalm, write out my thoughts, and then to sit quietly. I was so surprised by how fruitful this actually was for me! But then of course my initial fervor gave way to my typical busyness and the habit died down.
To put this principle in practice another way, after many conversations with wise people, I decided to try to ‘take it easy’ this summer. I chose the job that offered less hours. I put some social commitments, mainly several weddings, ahead of a few employment opportunities. I decided against taking a summer course. I did all of this because I knew that if I was going to finish my degree well next year, I needed some rest. Not “oh I have 5 minutes between appointments” rest, but actual rest.
The job that I chose has a flexible schedule. This means some weeks I work every day from 7am to 4pm and other weeks I work four hours a day. It has been challenging adjusting to the rhythms of this job as it can be both fast paced and mind-numbingly slow all in the same day. I take the slower bus to work and I pull out my book there and back. Some evenings are fuller than others, but Nick and I have had a few days after work where we just ate dinner and stayed inside and read together or finally got to putting up those pictures we bought several weeks ago. I forgot what reading for fun was like. I always want to open up my book any chance I get. I’m enjoying the story and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m reading for no one but myself. There is no test, no quiz, nor any presentation. The freedom to go for a walk, take a nap, or tidy around the house – it’s all a little foreign to me. I have time to meet friends for coffee or have someone over for dinner and I will admit that it’s not entirely comfortable. I feel guilty for having space in my schedule, for not being on the go all the time.
In July I will run out of my hours at this job, and have nothing to do. No youth commitments, no job, and lots of time. This is a frightening prospect! This journey of slowing down is a strange adventure. And I have to ask myself whether this task of finding time to rest will truly become habit by the time school starts up again? Am I just being still because I don’t have much to do? How do you be still when there is a lot going on? I haven’t quite mastered that yet. Knowing myself, I feel like it may be more of a lifelong journey rather than a quick-fix summer plan.
I do know one thing, though, busyness cannot be who you are. It is not healthy and it suffocates joy out of your life. Our schedules shouldn’t be so full that we feel guilty taking a moment to ourselves, or that we can’t pencil in time to see family and close friends. We shouldn’t be so in our own calendar that we miss what’s happening around us. My common refrains of “oh but in a month I’ll have time to…” or “when this is done I’ll make sure I…” don’t cut it. Life is too short for those kinds of excuses.