When I say we’re busy, it usually means we spent the day at the Science Center, then a birthday party, then a park day the next day, etc. Our business is usually fun stuff, family stuff. But when many people say they’re busy, it often means that they’re running around crazy, doing errands (many of them pointless), cleaning their house spick-and-span, and generally getting themselves so worked up that they need a Tums. Or worse.
I wish I could plead for everyone to lead a less hectic lifestyle in America. When I was younger, I lived a pretty hectic lifestyle, too. I cooked and cleaned for my family, I took care of two siblings, I took all advanced placement courses, led several student organizations, and worked full-time as at a “part-time” job. (You’ll find that fast food places often work teens full-time hours.) I also played two sports. I rarely slept and continued this habit into college, where I worked two jobs, and into adulthood, when I worked full-time, went to school full-time, and cared for a newborn premature baby with special needs. In short, I burned out bad—both emotionally and physically, landing myself in the hospital with plenty of actual physical ailments.
Yet we Americans claim we love to be busy, productive people, and we brag about not sleeping and getting things done. It’s practically our country motto—“Be busy or die!” What do you want on your tombstone, though—“She was happy” or “She was busy and had a clean house?” I’d much rather have the former.
Living in Spain showed me how much a more slowly-paced life can be enjoyed; indeed, other than right now, it was my favorite period in life. All I did was my internship, 15 credit hours of school work abroad, and language classes. The rest of the time I enjoyed the country and the friendships and the food, as most citizens in Spain do.
For our part in ceasing the busy-ness, we stopped working more than 40 hours a week. I started using my vacation time, setting limits, and refusing to work on certain days. My husband has since built his job around family time, opting for a morning position so half the day is with us. I continue working around our family time as well, for the most part. We spend much more time playing than we used to, and we love to spend this time with our daughter. Isn’t this what our ancestors worked so hard for—for us to have a better life?
They sure didn’t stop churning butter and washing clothes by hand so we could just fill up those hours with pointless busy-ness.