Has our society always been obsessed with "busy" or is that a new thing these days? It is an exhausting but easy trap to fall into at times. I know people who thrive on it. I also know people who think they are thriving but they are really just trapped in this cycle of busy and avoid down time like it's a plague. I think people are afraid of having down time and being still. I personally love down time. I need down time. I would marry down time if I didn't already have a fabulous husband. Sara, without down time, is cranky, antsy, and not very creative at all. She is a bit of a downer.
Being still doesn't always come naturally. Our culture of glorifying busy takes its toll on how we view stillness. We often feel guilty when we don't have something to do or somewhere to go. We often feel like we should be checking something off of a list or completing one of those projects that we've been meaning to do. We feel like failures if we are still. We foolishly obtain our value from how much we have to do and how much we accomplish. We are in constant production mode.
The other night, my oldest son had soccer practice. The fields are far enough from my house that it doesn't make sense to drive back home after dropping him off, so I stick around the area until practice is finished. Sometimes I will run errands and sometimes I will take advantage of my time alone. This usually means browsing the bookstore, checking the clearance racks at Target, or plopping myself down at Panera with something delicious to drink. This particular night, I chose Panera. I left my iPad at home to avoid Internet distractions. I took my phone (so I knew when I had to leave), my journal, and a crochet project. I sat down in a comfy chair near the fireplace and I pulled out my journal and favorite pen. I started to write and then became very self conscious. There were people all around me and I was waiting on a waitress to bring my drink. I started to find myself picking up my phone and checking work emails periodically. I wasn't even reading them; I just felt obligated to appear busy. In that moment, writing in a journal seemed too frivolous of a way to spend my time --- especially when people could be watching!
I decided that I was being completely ridiculous and that our glorification of being busy is equally ridiculous. I put down my phone and started writing. I wrote about being still. I wrote in incomplete sentences and just let my brain release its thoughts through my pen. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I ignored grammar and spelling. I wrote about how I feel when I don't have anything I have to do. I will often occupy that time with reading blogs and playing on Facebook or Pinterest. It distracts me from being still and listening to how I really feel. I spend time on the Internet under the guise of "looking for inspiration". Really I am just avoiding stillness and avoiding being in the present. I wrote about marathon TV watching while I am doing laundry and working on a crochet project. I wrote about that uncomfortable feeling I get when I tell myself I am going to put down my iPad on a weekend afternoon with no plans.
I wrote about how we have put "busy" up on a pedestal. We tie some of our value to how busy we are. The busier we are, the more justified we feel. The people who are busiest and appear to have it all together are valued above the people who have free time and don't feel bad about it. Having free time and not filling it with some sort of task equates to laziness in our society. We are constantly pressured to do more, do it well, and look good doing it. Busy = Well Liked. Busy = Needed. Busy = Better. Busy = Important. Don't get me wrong, we are all busy some times and that is definitely okay. The problem I have is the incessant need to be busy at all times. It's not necessary and it's exhausting.
It starts young too. In high school I was involved in a wide variety of activities and I usually was in a leadership position. I played sports, was involved in student senate, multiple committees, chaired a student council conference, sang in show choir, participated in academic clubs, performed community service, took piano lessons, attended school functions, took AP classes, and consistently remained on the honor roll. From the ages of 14-18, I lived by my day planner. One time, my dad said that he realized I was taking on too much when my high school boyfriend asked me to go out with him one Friday night. My response? I told him I had to write it in my day planner in pencil because I wasn't sure what amount of time I had free. I literally penciled him in for a date. Poor fella.
As I have gotten older and also lived with a chronic illness, I have learned to value being still and finding down time. I am trying to instill the value of being still in my children (not an easy task with three boys). There is value in structure and having a schedule too, but my boys need to know that their value isn't dependent on that. The unstructured time is when we can relax and spend time with family and friends. In my world, that is a priority. If we become too busy to spend time with the important people in our lives, then we have lost sight of something truly valuable.
Hope you find some time in your Sunday for stillness and peace.