I can’t speak for the rest of the world but in Calgary we love the phrase “I’ve been so busy”. It’s our go-to response. Recently, I started to take notice of the feelings behind the infamous “I’m busy”. The people who say it sound overwhelmed and exasperated by their busyness.
In Calgary, “I’m busy” seems to be congruent with “I’m good”, and it receives a standing ovation. “Wow, that’s amazing! Good for you!” If we answer with I’m busy‘s counterpart, “I’m not too busy these days”, we are met with a less enthused and more sympathetic response: “Oh. Relaxing is good too”.
In a conversation with my tribe, we resoundingly agreed that busyness is a way of saying “I’m doing good” or more interestingly, “I am up to BIG things”. The distilled meaning of the opposite means “I’m not so good” or even, “I’ve not been productive”.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems Calgary morally equates constant activity (busyness) with worthiness and productivity. It reminds me of the quote: “If you’re not thriving, you’re dying!”
What a slippery slope
It’s twisted, right? We’re either in over our heads or bored out of our minds. Isn’t there a happy medium?
For me, this speaks volumes to where our societal values lie. Busy implies that someone has made tangible and quantifiable leaps, hits targets and checks things off a list. They are achieving. But what about our non-busy counterparts? They may not be able to tangibly pinpoint and quantify what they have accomplished; accomplishments are more fluid for them. That’s not to say they’ve not made significant accomplishments, but maybe it speaks to the TYPES of things they are accomplishing.
Busy does not equal worthiness
Lately, I’ve learned the value of NOT doing a.k.a white space time. This became completely obvious in my first float session at Float Life. I lay suspended in a soundless cocoon of saline serenity. Think of the Dead Sea — I was literally floating around completely sensationless for 60 minutes. I meditated and by the end felt I had been on a mental journey.
The effects of my float session were noticeable days after my session. The work I had been struggling to figure out seemed to click, resolution in relationships became more clear… everything started to make sense again. And I didn’t DO a damn thing.
My “white space” time, afforded me the breathing room to let ideas percolate into something I could understand. I had the seeds to sow some awesome plants, but the stress of trying to achieve was suffocating my natural creativity. Without my white space, I could not have formulated the connections between all the information I had gathered. My synapses had been fried by the activity of over-stimulation and prevented any new creativity sprouting.
This white space time is integral for me to process information, and it reminds me of my past-life in University when I was cramming for midterms. I was so consumed by DOING and making my study cue cards that I was not retaining anything more than a spoonful of information. It wasn’t until I integrated naps and slept well (read: did nothing) at night that my memory consolidated. I could remember and understand the information. It’s totally true of busyness and white space time.
Oh! And while I have your attention, let’s touch on one other covert message in asking others “what have you been up to?” There’s a stark difference between WHAT you are doing?, and HOW are you doing? When I ask “what have you been up to?” I’m not necessarily asking for your checklist. I want to know what’s really going on with you! Your checklist doesn’t tell me anything about your experience as a person — what you’re thinking, feeling, and how it all affects you. Let’s talk about THAT! “What have you been up to?” is a segue into “How have you been?” — that’s where we can really connect in conversation!
In my life, I’ve consciously removed the word busy from my vocabulary. I don’t want people to assume that go-go-go is the norm for me, or that it is normal to begin with! I don’t want the world to assume that my being “busy” is a preoccupation from the things that matter. “Busy” is a cover up for lack of presence, and that’s not how I want to show up.
How do you want to show up?
I aspire to share that stillness and quietness in white space is INTEGRAL to producing and doing, especially for entrepreneurs. There is an unspoken and underestimated value in stillness and allowing ourselves to “just be”. The information you’ve gathered starts to sink in, the world stops spinning, and you can start doing fluidly and effortlessly again.
Let’s be real, busy is just a perception. Let’s shift it, shall we?
P.S. Fun fact: none of my content would exist without my allocated daily white space. 😉