Monday, August 22, 2016

Be Too Busy to Be Busy

So I pull up to the preschool drop off line this morning and the little one, all of four years old now, starts squirming. She remembers this moment from last year......this is the moment Mama drops the charade and allows her baby girl to do what every young kid was designed to do and craves to do with every fiber of her little being....

.....run amok in a moving vehicle without a seat belt on.

This careless, reckless behavior is our little tradition. We pull up, I unbuckle her, she jumps out of her seat, and she wanders around the truck free from restraints and dictatorship and discipline as we crawl closer and closer to the front of the line. Sometimes I'll tap the breaks and she'll giggle her butt off as she slides back and forth on the seat. Sometimes she'll sit on my lap and steer. Sometimes I let her play with the radio and she'll always end up on a song she knows and she'll look at me with wide, happy eyes and start shakin her little tush. This is her wild child time, guaranteed, every morning before preschool.

Today was particularly exciting because it was the first day of preschool. She was peering out the back window and waving at all of her friends, almost unhinged at the idea that yes, Rosie really still does exist after all this time. Once her buddies got bored and stopped waving back, my little one occupied herself by waving at everyone and anyone who passed by. Some parents. A pastor. The gardener guy. And one man carrying a folder and moving at a purposeful speed.

"Mama," my baby said. "Mama, that man didn't wave at me."

I just looked at her, wanting to see what her reaction would be. Would she cry? Would she smile anyways? Had she become so emotionally developed that her feelings were now capable of being hurt by strangers? I held my commentary, waiting.

Her big blue eyes follow him into the building and she pressed her little lips together. "He's just too busy," she said with a frustrating sigh.

She immediately began hopping up and down on one foot and asking me for chapstick, unfazed, the man already forgotten...but I fixated on her comment. I looked toward the door the man had disappeared into and couldn't help but wonder how many waves I'd missed in my years and years of being busy.

I think all too often we tell ourselves, "Smell the roses? I'll get to it." We let our responsibilities rule our lives and our obligations take up our free time. I still behave as if I'm invincible, walking around with all the time in the world, decades away from my deathbed and that pivotal moment when it's all gonna come down to how many roses I actually stopped to smell.

The balancing act of me time and free time and her time and his time and work time and play time is so exhausting and overwhelming I end up dedicating myself to the most pressing need at the moment...and more often than not, that's making money. I can't tell you how many times this summer I've told my beautiful babies I cannot lay down with them, or read more books, or talk, or play, because Mommy has to work. Or clean. Or cook. Sometimes I feel validated. We all need money, right? My job allows them to have a good, stable, secure life. They need a clean home. They deserve fresh, healthy meals. But I'd be a liar if I didn't tell you I sometimes get horribly stuck on the question, "If this was the last day of my life, would I be happy with how I chose to live it?"

Now, I get it. It's not realistic to live every day like I'm dying because if I did it would be liquor-laced ice cream, dolphin rides, and living out of a van while driving cross-country and singing along to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

But I do believe there are ways to improve our current mentality of being "too busy" to be happy. Being busy doing things you don't enjoy is quite literally the definition of busywork. Busywork isn't as productive as we think it is and at the end we're left feeling like we've wasted so much precious time. I am fairly certain we'd all rather be smelling pretty flowers and waving at children than working and washing clothes and being submerged in the mundane and impossibly trivial parts of our lives...but how do we make that happen? How do we reverse the dynamic? How can we become too busy doing the things we love to be busy doing the things we hate?


Like any good procrastinator and/or slacker, I have to schedule new habits into existence. That's right. If I want to start a new physical fitness program, or write more, or even, yes, spend time with my kids and chickens, I have to place it on my calendar. That's what makes it official, you see. Not my deep desire to make those things happen. Not some otherworldly support or push in the right direction. Nope. For me, new habits only truly begin to take shape when they've got their own little color-coded square on my Google calendar.

You might not like calendars. You might like journaling. You might like refrigerator poetry magnets. You might like affirmations. You might like phone apps. You might be one of those insane highly-regarded internal thinkers who can just make their mind up about something and then whammo, it's your new reality. Whatever your flavor, reversing a habit and creating a new way of interacting with your life requires reminders. Lots and lots of reminders. So get your Tumbler feed ready and your motivational pictures printed and on your wall...you'll need them.

Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean every single time) I try and change everything too quickly. Instead of delicately maneuvering myself into a better future, I cannonball into it from 3,000 feet above. I want to spend more time with my kids? No problem. I'll just plan 10 to 50 activities for us to do over Christmas Break and volunteer for every single position available at their schools and spend hours yelling at myself when I don't hit every item on the kid-friendly summertime bucket list. That's the way to do it, Jen. Be a better mom by lighting yourself on fire.

The better way? Think big-picture, act small scale. Realize that the little things, even something as simple as a three-minute conversation with your pre-pre-teen before she goes to bed, can drastically change how connected you feel. You don't need to go crazy making all the changes for all the things all the time....start slowly, with small things, little by little. Take five minutes away from work to make yourself tea or eat a banana without looking at a screen. Actually sit down and focus on your food instead of trying to schedule appointments and check email and check Facebook. Leave your phone in your purse while you pump gas. Let yourself do one thing at a time every now and then. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander. Give yourself permission to become completely engrossed in one simple thing at a time...and let that thing be the thought, person, or activity that means the most to you at that moment. Get busy being simple.


Of course, old habits die hard. I can't even tell you how many times I've revamped my goals and tried to be a better mom, a better gardener, a better friend. I am constantly needing to bring myself back to the roots of who I am and reevaluate what it is that makes me happy. I kinda feel like this is normal....I mean, as we change, we grow, right? And as we grow, our needs evolve....I no longer need to marry Leonardo DiCaprio to die a happy woman, for example. Things change. Things change, Leo. 

Don't stress if you fall back into old habits. When you find yourself again tied down for all the wrong reasons, take it as a sign that it's time to check in with yourself and identify what makes you happy. Maybe you're falling back into old habits because you're sad, or bored, or simply not paying attention. Whatever the reason, forgive yourself, get back on the Busy Living wagon, and roll on.


This little dance called Work-Life Balance is a tough one to learn and an even harder one to practice. We're surrounded by compromised ideals and a slew of propaganda specifically tailored to make us feel bad for not doing it all, all the time. The result? We fight to do it all, all the time, and we miss the important stuff...you know. Like blue-eyed kid waves. And hott boys at traffic lights. And roses that need sniffing. But hope is not lost. We simply need to teach ourselves how to dance in a world designed for dying. We need to be too busy living to be busy wasting time on things we can't extract joy from. We need to fill our lives with moments where we just take our seat belts off and dance.

What about you, dear readers? How do you find balance? What areas are you trying to work on? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you for reading :)


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Jen

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