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Busy

It is up to each of us to determine how busy we are willing to be.

If I hear one more person say how busy she is, I am going to scream.

This does not exclude me since I, too, have spoken those words.

We all keep saying how busy we are. We use the most offensive phrases to describe our busyness like we are dying a long painful death. We say things like “I am swamped at work,” “I am drowning in my to-do lists,” “I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” “I’m buried in paperwork.” Buried? Seriously? Can you hear the desperation? Can you feel the drama?

These are not the only exasperated, sighing utterances. We all say things like “I’m inundated with emails,” “I am totally overwhelmed with meetings,” “Can you believe how immersed in reports we can get” and just plain old “I am crazy busy.” That one is used when there isn’t even a specific task at hand. But it doesn’t sound pretty.

My favorite all-time lament is the one from retirees. “I’m so busy now, I don’t know how I had time to work.” Actually, that one makes me smile, because I have heard this for years from every retiree I ever talked with.

I believe these are people who were totally focused on work. They were deeply committed and dedicated to their employment and the related skills and tasks.

Now they have redirected their attention to other activities and are having the time of their lives. The fact that they are now able to breathe and choose what they want to spend their time on has opened all kinds of doors. They now have become intentionally occupied with activities and creative outlets they didn’t allow themselves before.

The definition of busy is actively involved in doing things. And I have heard that busy is the acronym for Because-U-Say-Yes. It is beginning to sound like busy is a choice. Now we are on to something.

Choosing what you want to do and when you want to do it could be for everyone whether you are employed full-time, part-time, retired, have five children, 10 grandchildren, or none of the above. What you do on a daily basis is see the pile of “stuff” that has to get done by week’s end and pour yourself into it.

Busy tends to be more about actions and exhaustion than choice, commitment and productivity. Busy is the product of constant motion, lists and filling our bandwidth at all times.

Maybe we all need to see our version of busy as the opportunity to fully engage in things, be attentive to each choice we make and enjoy the process. We might even want to incorporate the new vernacular of the 21st century, “chillax.” Yes, it is the combination of chill and relax. Use it; do it.

When people ask, “How are you?” if your first answer uses the word busy or any of the above-mentioned phrases, maybe it’s time to pause. Instead of your litany of all the noble and trivial things you are doing, you could say something about one or more of them.

How about, “I am enjoying the new project at work; it is a wonderful challenge and I am learning a lot.” Or maybe say, “I just completed my training for a triathlon and feel great.” Both of those things represent being really busy, but doesn’t it sound more engaged and in the moment? Isn’t it better to describe what your kind of busy is?

I can’t guarantee they won’t respond with, “Glad to hear you’re keeping busy,” but at least you tried.

It’s OK to be busy and enjoy the wonderful feelings of engagement. It is great to enjoy the process, and celebrate and announce the outcome. But chickens without their heads can’t see where they are going, much less where they have been — and that never ends well.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at kaystellpflug@gmail.com.