We hate getting a busy signal. We talk about someone being a busy bee, and we often claim we are too busy. Keeping up with the Joneses no longer feels like striving for the McMansion with a white picket fence, two kids, and a dog. Whatever your family or housing situation, lately, I feel like keeping up is about being busier than your neighbor. No one is forcing anyone to be busy, but there is this unspoken expectation that every minute must be filled or…or…or who knows, but it will probably be catastrophic.
Perhaps I’m the only one with the issue and I just revealed a personal complex, but I don’t think so. I don’t want to be busy anymore. When I was in my teens and twenties I loved having a full schedule that hopped from one activity to another. Now I require rest, but I still fill my schedule to an unmanageable capacity. I want a full life. I just no longer want to be constantly watching the clock and rushing from activity to activity.
The other night I sat outside with a neighbor who I’ve met a few times and we chatted for hours, uninterrupted, unworried about where we had to be next. There was this sense of calm and I felt like I was missing something from my childhood. It was freedom—the feeling that my time is unencumbered. I realized that even when I was busy in my youth there were periods of rest. And, in my childhood, there was no phone to buzz and beep at me reminding me about everything I’m forgetting.
I’ve come to appreciate something unexpected in my parents. It’s not just their advice, ability to listen, constant support, and friendship that I admire but their ability to relax. Both my parents who worked fulltime, had children and hobbies knew how to relax. We watched back-to-back movies at my mom’s. My dad would read or take us out on his boat. They’d “waste” the day laughing with friends. Lounging in summer seemed a regular occurrence. I remember sitting on my grandfather’s deck with him while he smiled watching the trees blow in the wind. He was so happy. A couple days ago I noticed the wind and it was beautiful. It reminded me of my grandpa, and I remember that when I’d caught him watching the wind that day I liked him for loving the wind so much, but I couldn’t understand how it made him so happy. Since then I’ve read his WWII letters home, I’ve had more experiences and now wind is watchable, beautiful and impressive. But I’m still not good at relaxing. I recognize the wind and I move on. I find that I’m jealous of my parents and grandparents for their ability to chill out. I want to sit and watch the wind for more than five minutes.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to travel, work, run, or spend time with friends. I want to do it all, just a little less of it. I want windows of time between appointments. I want empty Saturdays that only get filled on a whim. I want to stay in bed passed seven in the morning. I want my life back from the rush and the buzzing computer I take everywhere.
This won’t be easy for me, but here are some things I’m going to try:
- Saying No. If I just have too much on the schedule or if I really don’t want to do something, I’m going to pass.
- Attempting to let things go—meaning the cleanliness of the house. I’ve been working on this for years. I’ve gotten better, but I can only let things go for so long.
- Purging and buying less. I’m not a big shopper, but stuff creates clutter and it’s a reminder of what needs to be put away or worked on.
- Actually putting relaxing items on my calendar, whether that’s a massage, time for reading or taking a bath. I’m going to put relax on the schedule.
- I’m going to stop prioritizing my phone. I don’t know how it happened, but I’ve caught myself more often rushing to check it whenever it makes a noise. I’m stopping. Maybe I’ll have hours where I don’t check it, but I’m just going to worry less about missing something. Very few things I do can’t be resolved later.
And, please, if you are a good relaxer, I’m open to suggestions.