My dishwasher serves my busy barometer.
If I run it less than once a week, I’m too busy. I’m eating too many meals at work or out. If I run it every few days, I’ve got a good balance going on.
For the two years after I moved out, I only ever ran it once a week. It was all I had known since I moved out on my own, so I assumed it was normal.
I’d always eat breakfast and lunch at work. Sometimes I’d eat dinner at my desk, or I would grab something on my way from work to an evening commitment. This meant I could go days without using a bowl or a spoon. Nevertheless a pot or pan.
But I left that job. For many reasons, but one of which was the demand to be busy, the fact that busyness was glorified. People, myself included, would brag about all the work we did on the weekend. We bragged about the “second shift” we worked, emailing each other for as late as our eyes would stay open.
And once I left that job, that lifestyle, I was running my dishwasher every few days.
And while it felt nice to be eating more meals at home, it was also a blow to my ego. While everyone around me was donning their “busy badges”, I had to turn mine in. I didn’t want that life…maybe I couldn’t handle that life.
And that didn’t feel great. Because being busy is a status symbol. It’s celebrated and glorified. How often do we answer the question “how are you?” with…
“My life is insane right now. I can barely keep up!”
“I’m just so tired. Life is so busy.”
We want people to know, to think, we’re busy. We want to be the busiest. Because we somehow associate busyness with success and hard work.
Why? I think it’s because we believe that the opposite of busy is lazy.
Which is a lie.
The opposite of busy is space. I’d even go as far as to say the opposite of busy is freedom. Space to focus. Freedom to align our time with our values.
And while it’s still a work in progress, I’m intentionally trying to not to fill up every minute of my life.
Since I’ve made this intentional change, I’ve noticed a few things…
I’m not a zombie. Not only do I make time to sleep, I’m also sleeping more soundly. I’m working from a place of rest, instead of resting from too much work. And I work so much better now. Go figure.
I can better tell you what I want to do with my life, and what I think is important. I have space to read, pray, write, and talk it out. I have space to process without distraction.
I write for me. Not only this blog, but I’m journaling more. And I’m falling back in love with writing.
I eat better. I’m making healthier choices and also expanding the kind of food I eat. Like spaghetti squash. Seriously, where has spaghetti squash been all my life?
I can say yes to people. When a friend had a rough day and needs to talk it out over coffee, I cay often say, “where can I meet you?” When my cousin needs me to look after her kids, I can usually say, “I’d love to.” When my friends were moving to Africa, I could say yes to cleaning and prepping and to babysitting the kids. Not only was this helpful, I could soak up time with a family I love before they left for three years.
I have room for spontaneity. I can go build a snowghost. I can go to Trivia Night with my parents when they are short players. I can head to a friend’s cottage with little warning. Some of my most favourite adventures have happened when I wasn’t planning on them.
I have hobbies and interests. I have things in my life that get me excited and inspired.
And while this is all good, making the choice to live with more free time didn’t come without sacrifices. Higher salaries typically go to people who work in crazy busy jobs. It means saying no to things that are sometimes hard to say no to. And even though I’ve processed all of this, I still sometimes feel like I’m not enough because I can’t quite compete in the busy game anymore. I don’t get to own the “busy badge” status symbol that is so valued by society. So even if I don’t feel that the opposite of busy is lazy, the person I’m talking to may very well think I’m lazy. And I hate when people think I’m lazy.
But it’s a choice. It’s my choice. And part of making a choice is owning it, the good and the bad.
And let me throw down this caviet. I realize that my current season of life makes choosing a non-busy lifestyle relatively easy. I know this gets infinitely harder with a spouse and kids. But I still think it’s possible for families to match their time with their priorities. It takes more work to figure out what your priorities are. It probably means saying no to more things than a single person has to. I’m sure it takes more creative time management. ButI think it’s possible. I know families that do this. And they are not lazy families.
Because the opposite of busy isn’t lazy. It’s freedom.