“So how are you doing?” I asked an old friend the other day.
“Busy! I’m just so busy at the moment. It’s crazy trying to find enough time in the day to get everything done. I don’t know where the time goes. How about you?”
“Oh, keeping busy too I guess.” I vaguely hear myself mouthing the boilerplate response.
The land of the crazy busy people
I often feel as if I went to bed one night and woke up foggy headed and disoriented in the land of the busy people. You know the kind. Outwardly they appear as if in a perpetual rush. They’re surrounded by an aura of nervous, chaotic energy as they go about their daily business of running red lights, texting while driving, tapping their foot impatiently in the checkout line, intently replying to that next super urgent email on their smartphone, so focused they barely look up to mumble “Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip” to the bemused Starbucks barista.
They tell you how much they meant to call you, but they’ve been running around like a chicken with their head cut off. Work has been insane. They promise to call soon, once their meditation class finally finishes. They say that it’s such a shame they don’t see you more often. Let’s make a date for coffee soon.
I’m always left bewildered by these interactions. Is this crazy busy routine is just a clever ploy to avoid me?
The second thing that crosses my mind is, “Why is the simple business of going about your life so damn complicated?” Because as far as I’m aware, none of these folks are busy solving the problems of the world or a front runner for the Nobel peace prize (present company included).
Of course, there are things I could be doing but don’t (which I regularly beat myself up about) like working on yet another marketing campaign for my business or writing a new training course or perhaps even writing a fabulous new blog. But despite these things, I sometimes find myself bored.
But bored is taboo these days. We’re not supposed to be bored. If we’re bored, something’s obviously wrong, because our Facebook statuses and Instagram pictures would indicate we’re all leading highly exciting, fast paced, idyllic lives full of meaning and purpose and god only knows what else.
I’ve often thought about answering the “How are you” question honestly when I’m having an off day. I wonder what reaction I’ll get from the other party if I tell them I’m “bored and uninspired.” It may be similar to the look I got the other day at the liquor store when I was restocking the bar and mentioned to the cashier I was just picking a few things up to get me through the weekend.
I often wonder, “How did crazy busy become our new normal?” As a child, I recall those moments of boredom that inspire you to light Barbie’s hair on fire, and your mother in an act of desperation locks you out of the house and turns you out into the street to play with the other bored neighborhood kids. As a young adult in college, I recall procrastinating on my studies just like everyone else so I could go out and party with my friends. As a young professional I would go to work during the day and out with friends at night. Occasionally I’d find time for a trip to the gym where I would pretend to work out but would really be scanning the joint for hot men. I don’t recall feeling any more or less busy than anyone else.
Embrace your inner sloth
And then I realized this conundrum of not being busy all the time was starting to keep me busy.
The other day I found myself bored in my office and decided to do a little research:
having a great deal to do.
“he had been too busy to enjoy himself”
synonyms: occupied, engaged, involved, employed, working, hard at work
Idle. My eyes stuck on the word idle. How interesting the opposite of busy in an American dictionary is idle, as opposed to peaceful, still, calm, serene or any other zen-like adverb. My mind instantly flashed back to memories of my grandmother shaking her bony finger at me, fifteen years of Catholic schooling, and the phrase, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
(of a person) avoiding work; lazy.
synonyms: lazy, indolent, slothful, work-shy, shiftless, inactive, sluggish, lethargic, listless
without purpose or effect; pointless.
“he did not want to waste valuable time in idle chatter”
synonyms: frivolous, trivial, trifling, vain, minor, petty, lightweight, shallow, superficial, insignificant, unimportant, worthless, paltry, niggling, peripheral, inane, fatuous
Appearing “sloth-like” was not an aspiration throughout my days at parochial school. Besides, it was one of the seven deadly sins after all.
I sat with my newfound revelation for a couple of days. And then I decided that maybe being a sloth isn’t so bad. After all, they do look quite zen-like and peaceful in those little cages at the zoo.
Maybe they know something we don’t.
When I think back to my childhood, I must admit at certain points it wasn’t very sloth-like. When I wasn’t at school dodging the nuns and reciting verb conjugations in Spanish under the watchful eye of Senora Pena, my days were filled with the torturous tasks my father would dream up for me and my sister, all designed to keep us busy and come to think of it “occupied, engaged, involved, employed,” and especially “hard at work.”
My least favorite was spraying wee-sach (it’s some sort of thorny weed) at the ranch my family owned in central Texas. Normally Dad would pick the hottest days of the year for such a task. He’d load us up in the bed of his little red Ford ranger truck, complete with a large spray can of some sort of heavily poisonous liquid. Then he’d drive us around the pasture and stop so jarringly that we’d often be flung from one side of the bed to the other. He’d then point out the window at the offending plant, at which point we would jump from the bed of the truck and spray it as quickly as possible. It was important to be quick, because sometimes Dad would start driving before we’d be back in the bed of the truck. My sister was lighter and more agile than me and was therefore better at mastering the art of jumping into the bed of a moving truck.
I never really got the hang of it, truth be told. And I never really did understand how this constituted quality family time, although my dad swore it did.
It’s a similar confusion I feel when my pregnant friend with four kids tells me she’s thinking she may stop making her own soap due to the two-hour roundtrip journey each week to buy raw milk, because she’s tired all the time.
Somehow I don’t think these are problems the sloth has. I think the sloth would settle for Dove.
Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!