Living Life, Not Busyness
by Paul Galvin, MBSR Teacher
I claim to seek a life of balance, however, I seem to prefer a life of busyness. When I step back and examine my life, I can see myself pursuing tasks and making commitments that exceed my available time and resources. This truism about my life is both surprising and yet fully supported by the environment and culture I have chosen. This choice is killing me.
I am surprised by my choices because I have espoused a life of non-doing full of afternoon naps and walks in the woods for no particular reason except to walk in the woods. In truth, I do not nap very often and I spend more time walking in a parking lot from my car to my office. A walk that I extend by parking a distance from my building to “add” steps to my day. On these walks, I used to see a bumper sticker on the car of a dear colleague. It contained the word “busy” circled with a slash through it. I loved this bumper sticker and would say “yeah” to myself when I would walk by her car. When she bought a new car, the bumper sticker disappeared from the parking lot, and my brief revelry as I walked into work was over.
The truth, it feels good to be busy. I love the rush and excitement of being fully engaged to the point of being overwhelmed. Committing and overcommitting to others and tasks seem to be my norm. I am lucky enough to choose my area of work and I have derived much of my identity from what I do as teacher, organizer, and leader. In the short-term, the busy approach has had benefits serving me well in the eyes of others with praise, promotion, and more work. The long-term effects of the busy approach are not so beneficial. I busy myself to the point of a doing machine, blocking me from being a human being. Each moment of only doing and not being present is a moment of my life lost to me.
Knowing and continuing to explore this once secret striving for busyness is liberating. It is like knowing that cookies are in the cupboard and then choosing not to replace them once they are gone or only eating them on special occasions instead of being a staple of my diet. I now realize I can be with others without doing something for them. I can be present to my life without covering it up or distracting myself. I realize that living a life of balance is not saying “no” to others or tasks as much as it is saying “yes” to my life. A life of good work is not the same thing as a life of busyness. Good work comes from the inside and is measured in quality, not quantity, as it aligns with who I am. My life is already important; I do not have to create busyness to make it important.
(Originally posted for the [Sounds True MBSR Blog], November 2013)