I'm not sure if this is a recent trend, but it certainly seems to be a growing one. Lately whenever I ask someone: "How are you?" the answer is a resounding, exasperated: "Busy!"
There is a glorification in the word busy - as if it is a badge of honor, something to be proud of. Does being busy mean that we're important? Does it mean that we are in-demand? On the contrary, it usually means that we are overwhelmed, stressed out, and agitated.
Thomas Edison said: "Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."
Busy connotes that we have not just a lot to do, but too much to do. While "busy bees" are focused on one task, making honey, busy humans are generally more scattered, trying to keep up while typically falling behind. When we're busy we tend to have our attention divided in an effort to multitask and get things done.
For a moment, let's put all that "busy" aside and consider how being busy affects our relationships. Since our first relationship is with ourselves, how does this "busy" label feel? Anything that follows the words "I am" defines us. Do you think a busy person is more valued or valuable? Is a busy person more worthwhile or worthy? Why do you choose to define yourself as busy? We need to deeply understand that we are not what we do. Being busy doesn't justify your existence on this earth. Being busy is really a distraction that takes us away from understanding who we are. When we know who we are, so we don't have to be busy, we can be fully present. We don't feel busy, and we don't feel stressed. Instead we feel present, calm, and self-controlled rather than externally controlled by the many tasks and activities we have taken on.
Being busy affects our relationship with those around us. When we say: "I'm busy" the person we are talking with most likely will take this as: "I'm too busy for you. I have no time for you. My thoughts are elsewhere." With that response, it's easy to see how anyone would feel that the "to do" list has been given priority over the relationship. Those two words come off as dismissive - and even rude. "Busy" is a 4-letter word in more ways than one.
The truth is, we all have lots to do. Saying you're busy doesn't make you special. But being busy is really a state of mind. We don't need to let all the stuff we have to do define us. We have a choice where we put our attention. We have a choice in how we prioritize things. We have a choice in how we spend our time and how much effort we put into anything we do.
So before we get into "busy mode" let's consider where we are putting our attention. Are we too busy for our family and friends? I don't think so. It's not too difficult to take a pause for something, or someone, that is important to us. When we are asked how we are, that's a cue to focus on what is right in front of us -- that person, that relationship, that moment. Instead of saying "I'm busy" -- replace that thought with "I'm present."
When we say "I'm present" it sounds more like: "I'm here for you, you are important to me, and you have my undivided attention." Now isn't that better? When it comes down to it, we don't remember all the things that occupied our time and seemed to be so pressing. But we do remember the people we love, and the moments we spent being fully present with them. And they remember that about us, too. That's special, that's what life is really about.