Monday, May 23, 2016

What I've Lost by Being Too Busy

Now there's nothing special about my personal brand of busy-ness. Many people I know have their days over-stuffed like a closet in a kid's room - bits and pieces sticking out, not sure what's actually in there anymore, and hard to close every night. 
What I want to share is my experience of being busy, and what it has stolen from me, this year alone.

You must first know that when I am presented with an uninterrupted stretch of time, I feel a bit deliriously happy for a few seconds, until the guilt and panic descend. I go through a frantic list in my head of the places I'm possibly supposed to be - school event? Lesson? Driving one of the kids to something? Meeting? At NASA or the UN solving an insurmountable problem? 

Once the heart rate slows, the guilt takes over. If I was a proper human being, if I had any sort of drive or ambition at all, I would be using every bit of time to improve the world. If I have a rare morning to sleep in I count the calories I would have burned if I got up earlier and did a workout. It's very hard to watch a movie without writhing in self-loathing and has become impossible to sit down and enjoy a book. I just flip pages or "work" at reading with a furrowed brow, fight or flight written all over my face.

I could go on, though obviously my point is that this is no way to live. It's simply not sustainable in the long run. I strongly believe this in theory. 
In practice however, what should I have taken out? 

To give some context, this what I do. Weekdays. 

6:25 alarm.
Coffee, hopefully exercise (cough - about half the time - cough), get ready for work, get kids out the door with me, assorted forms signed and lunches and gym strip and barely averted crises...brings us to...

8:30 Work in preschool or doing speech with elementary, alternate days. 

12:00 Eat lunch quick at home or while driving to neighbouring town (temporary elementary location during large-scale renovation of school)

12:25 Work in Grade 2 classroom. Not even going to go into it. 

3:25 Pick up kids from school or go to Arts Academy to teach voice/piano lessons.

5:30 Run into grocery store to find supper ingredients or supplement said ingredients. May buy lunch stuff. May have to run to drug store. Bank? Post Office?

6:30 Supper

Clean-up, laundry, kids here and there at lessons/sports/bible study/practices you-get-the-picture.

8:00 Couch is calling me like a long lost love ...
Honestly can't remember what usually happens about now...
Oh yeah I go for a walk quite often. 
Help kids with homework.
Family stuff. 
Hang up clothes to dry. 

11:00 pm Cajole kids to go to bed...remind them of the suffering and tragedy that was getting out of bed this morning. Limited response. 

    *      *       *
This is probably a pretty typical day for most people; I'm definitely not claiming special "busy status"!  

Throw in recitals, worship team practice, shopping, cleaning, committees and meetings. Some people might thrive on this. Not me. It feels like an extremely slow, agonizing death. Why is that? 

What does it cost to keep this up? 
In no particular order:

1) Creativity. When I do have time I don't have the heart to make things. Things like music, stories, baking, singing. This feels like a loss because time races by, year after year, and there was so much I dreamt of creating. 

2) Time with friends. I have a few wonderful friends, and family that I call friends. I'd like to spend quality time with them. Not quick texts to see if they are still alive and kicking, but actual visits, sit-down, tea and coffee, soul-to-soul time.

3) Being there for my kids. I miss track meets, being a parent helper or driver. I have to hear about it all afterward. Wondering if they have a water bottle or enough change for supper on the trips home. Of course it would be odd to be at EVERYTHING (and a helicopter parent I don't want to be) but once in a while? Yes. How many times do I get texts while I'm trying to teach lessons? "Mom, ....?" I don't even care that it's unprofessional, I leave my phone on and have a quick peek to see if it's emergency-worthy. Nope, all is well. "Okay, let's hear that piece again, from the top...1234..."

4) Being available. After awhile, people stop asking you things because they know you're too busy. Which, if we're being honest, can be good and bad...

5) Good Food. Let's face facts. I haven't cooked an interesting meal in a coon's age, whatever that is.  I want to - I can't do it. What should we have for supper? Whatever I can pull together fast. Dylan has been cooking more these days, and hey, he's been far more creative than I have. Thanks man. 

6) Health. Hi, I'm stressed and strung-out. I live on B-vitamins and Advil. True story. You'd think I'd be skinny by now. Nope. People tell me all the time that I look tired. Or that I look like I'm limping. "Yeah, I've been shot....just haven't had a chance to see the doctor yet." 
Am I tired? Did I sleep? These are what people call Rhetorical Questions.

7) Enjoying life. I've lost much of the ability to enjoy simple things in life. Books, listening to music, beauty, nature. When your mind is too busy everything is like noise. 
When I do get to go to bed I can't sleep. 
When I talk to someone I stress about what I said and if I said it right or if I'm messing everything up.
I drive too fast. 
I can't stand people doing things slowly. Almost came unglued on an elderly driver in a construction zone, and waiting in line at the drugstore is a special kind of torture. 

What's wrong with me? I'm afraid of slowing down because I might go off the rails. I crave silence but when I finally have it - it's deafening. 
Why am I telling this to you, my friends and the world at large?
Well I'm trying to come to some decisions about what I will do and what I won't do. But I think my decision maker thingy is broken. 
One of the biggest pieces that go missing, gradually, through being too busy, is identity. My identity is what I do. If I am not doing, I cease to be. Can I handle that vacuous unknown? Every label I remove leaves less of me. Please, leave on all the labels so I don't disappear. 

I want to live braver than that. 
Here's to being my actual self. 
Here's to freedom, as always.