Friday, June 24, 2011

The Busy Dilemma—I Just don’t get It

This concept of Busy-with-a-capital-B is so complicated I can write a whole book on it.  A single post is going to be a challenge.  I have always been frustrated by lives devoted to being Busy.  I used to believe it was a plague of stay-at-home-moms and homeschooling moms.  I would hear them guffaw at the title, claiming they are hardly ever home.  I wondered if there was some overcompensating going on, justifying not earning an income by being Busy, which is often confused with being productive.  Contrary to popular opinion, the two are not in any way synonymous.

Overcompensating may be the source of the problem.  But recently I have begun to feel that there is an insidious element of deceit hiding somewhere in the Busy life.  I can’t really put my finger on the source of the deceit, or just who is in on the lie. 

Maybe the lie is fooling the busy mom herself; maybe she is the victim.   She feels this long list MUST be done for her to qualify as a good mom/teacher/wife/Christian.  Sunday School, VBS, sports, homeschool groups, shopping, cleaning, cooking, schooling, AWANA, 4H…. The list seems to always be growing.  The kids need music, performing arts, sports and spiritual activities.  Don’t forget academics and life skills!  Sign them up for that!  And some families bother with community service, though none in my local circle are involved with that.  It is just another on the list.  If the list is not fulfilled, she has failed the man and children depending on her to ‘get it done.’  Homeschooling moms seem especially susceptible to the burden of exposing their children to everything needed to be fully formed adults by the age of 18.  Actually, many aspire to get their children in college by 16, so the pressure compresses further.

But there is the matter of the chicken and the egg.  Which comes first?  Is the pressure to do it all from the outside or from the inside?  She might feel the need to please all those she perceives are sitting in judgment of her.  Or she just might feel important and needed when busy.

So maybe the lie comes from the frantic mom.  As she is running from place to place, apologizing for being late and unavailable, is she sorry?  I was told by a busy mom this month that I had her heart if I wanted it, but she didn’t see how she could fit another activity (namely the one to which I was inviting her) to her busy schedule. I have her heart?  What does that even mean??  Another told me her heart broke to tell me no when I invited her to the same activity.  She went on to thank me profusely for all my wonderful work and couldn’t imagine where she would be if it weren’t for all the hard work I did.  Really?  But she had just backed out of the three things I was offering her.  Is her heart really broken?  Can she really not imagine what life would be like without me, even while she lives without me?  It is just silliness.  I was thankful the conversation took place on the phone, because I didn’t have it in me to put on an accepting face.

Frankly, I was insulted.  Am I expected to believe I own someone’s heart when she is running so fast she can’t even listen to my answer regarding how I am doing?  Why would I want to own her heart in the first place?  Am I supposed to believe that this lady actually thinks she can’t live without me?  Nobody believes that!  That wouldn’t even be healthy!  When exactly do we get to call ‘good manners’ flat out lying?  And when does an unbelievable lie qualify as polite?

Ladies list their activities with slumped shoulders and always end with exasperated sighs.  The game goes on all around me.  The appropriate response, I have learned from years of observation, is sympathy followed by your own slightly longer list.  To this the first speaker adds three more items she had forgotten to mention.  They are so put upon.  Sleepless, fighting illness, missing spouses and hardly able to remember what they did last week…This is the life!!  Right?

I know the common complaint is that ‘I just can’t say no!’  This is bunk, because I hear them say no all the time.  It is their own choice to engage in things that consume hours and days out of their weeks.  But it is part of the lie—woops, I meant life—to declare that ‘I have to be there because we can’t let the team down, I committed for the year, they need me to ….’  You fill in the blank.

Would you approach any of these ladies and share that you were sad?  Nothing tragic, of course, because these are fine Christian women who will diligently add you to the prayer list at church, the homeschool group and Bible study if anything so serious as cancer were the problem.  But what about just being a little down, maybe even lonely? 

Maybe that is it… The inordinately busy have so insulated themselves with bustle that there is no room (but there is a valid excuse) for service or meaningful relationships.  I could be wrong.  I got off the ride years ago, so I see blurs of color streaming past me.  Perhaps if I were to hop back on, I would see more.  But as it is, all I see is people coming and going, offering a prayer and a joke on their way.  Maybe a promise to get together soon.  It is crazy to me.

For a while my husband and I removed ourselves from the suburban rat race successfully. Our plan was to be consistently present at the few things we did attend and invite people to join us when they could.  We asked nothing of anyone, but hoped our own steadfastness would make us available for people’s needs.  Honestly, I think we made ourselves irrelevant because we had slowed down so considerably.  No one needed us.  No one even knew us.

So this year we have made a concerted effort to get back out there.  Not by joining 101 things, but by inviting people to get together.  We work around their schedules, since ours are comparatively empty.  It has been nice.  We are ‘out there’ more now than we were six months ago, while still in charge of our own calendars.  If any actual need arose, we would be able to drop or reschedule everything to prioritize that need.  I like that.

I don’t know that anyone will ever need us, though…  I don’t know that any of my friends would recognize a need if they had one.  I worry they are moving so quickly that they wouldn’t miss a lost limb until they’d made several revolutions on the ride.

Well, I said I had a lot to say.  I started writing angry—never a good thing.  I think I got it all out for now, until some messy-ponytailed momma laments being unable to spend time with me since I am so freakin’ awesome but she just can’t fit another minute into her monumental schedule. 

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