You Don’t Own The Definition Of ‘Busy’

We are all pulled in too many directions—just in different directions.

No one person or category of persons has cornered the market on “Busyness.” Although there are plenty of people who would like to believe they have.

Florence Nightingale asked, “Why do people sit up late or get up so early? Not because the day is not long enough, but because they have no time in the day to themselves.”

People zip off emails or texts during their vacation time, not because they want to, but because, too often, it is expected.

As we drive to work, we think about the friend who has cancer, whom we haven’t called in a while. We worry about our pet, who has been diagnosed with liver failure, and needs a caregiver while we’re at work. As we’re monitoring a sick parent’s health, or that of a sick child or pet, we often put off our own healthcare needs.

When we think of busy people, we think of CEOs, doctors, nurses, teachers, police, and military. In truth, we are all pulled in too many directions. As a result of the increased reach of technology, our brain structure is actually changing. When we hear an alert from our smart phone or PC, even if we choose not to answer it, our brains are put into “alert” mode, where it stays until we answer the message from one of a thousand possible people that may or may not be a priority (e.g., financial advisor, parent, friend, offspring, reminder of a medical appointment, solicitor, someone asking for a donation, a survey from your local grocery store, or your local coffee shop reminding you that it’s pumpkin spice time of year!).

A few months ago, a book jumped off the shelf into my hands, Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. I devoured the first 30 pages even though each page is meant to be read one day at a time. I was searching for answers. How do I do all that I have to do?

In my book, The Female Assumption, I write about how I took a month off of my job to care for my sick mother. This came right after I’d received the biggest promotion of my life. Also, at a time when my daughter was being bullied at school, although I didn’t know it yet. And I was enrolled in two night classes to finish a Bachelor’s Degree I had chipped away at over a 20-year-period.

As I type this essay, I have not one, but two injured shoulders. I’m supposed to do daily physical therapy on both arms, but do I have time? No. And so the pain lingers, and it limits my ability to live my life normally. I skipped last year’s mammogram because I was in the midst of leaving my job of 11 years, and trying to get my first book published. It’s now 19 months past due, and I haven’t made the appointment for this year. There’s also the skin cancer check-up I vowed to have done every two years. It’s been three years, and I don’t plan to make an appointment any time soon.

When I get up in the morning, the first thing I want to do is get my coffee and take a walk, but do I? No. I have three email accounts, two Facebook accounts, my own website, Twitter, and a cell phone that beckons me throughout each day.

You might think I’m a highly disorganized person. This is not the case. I’ve been trained in time management, plus I think I have it in my DNA. I have a Daily Planner that reminds me of my mom’s monthly blood tests, birthdays, graduations, weddings, visits from out-of-town guests, appointments with contractors to fix our bathroom, but nowhere in that calendar is time for “Me.” Unless you consider getting my hair done as “Me Time.” Which I don’t.

As a writer, what I’d like to do is write. But I don’t have time. My Facebook posts border on the definition of true expression—my posts are more like sound bites of my creativity. The reality is, social media is where I build my audience, since I’m a virtual unknown, new to the scene of writing. Thus, I must post, tweet, and blog. Ugh, my poor, ignored blog. My goal is to blog at least once a month, but do I? Not always. Because I’m too busy being squeezed by the To-Do’s of others. And when I say “others,” I mean people I love, people to whom I want to, need to pay attention.

In the interviews I conducted for my book, I interviewed a teacher who does not want her own kids. She has heard from her co-workers who are mothers, “You just don’t know what tired is.” Really?! So then the female entrepreneur who volunteers to lead her state’s chapter of the Special Olympics, while managing a busy practice, and being a good boss, friend, daughter, aunt, and sister—she’s not exhausted? Because she doesn’t have her own kids?

It’s incorrect to think that you own the corner on “busyness.” You don’t. You may feel pulled in a million directions, as I do, as many people do, but unless you’ve walked in the shoes of each person on the face of this earth, then please, I beg you, please refrain from assuming that you’re in the category of “the busiest.”

As my friend and author, Janina Williams, says, “We’re in this world together.” We are all pulled in too many directions—just in different directions.

Melanie Holmes is the author of the newly released book, The Female Assumption: A Mother’s Story, Freeing Women from the View that Motherhood is a Mandate. Follow her on Facebook.

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