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The Lies of Busyness

The Things You Never Knew: Part Two

"I'm good, just busy."

"I'd love to, but I'll have to check my schedule."

"I'm just in high demand these days LOL."

"I literally have so much going on this week."

What isn't a lie: These statements are true sometimes. People bang down your door to get you at their event or on their committee. Work hits a heavy season and you become overloaded with tasks and responsibilities. You have another child and have yet another schedule you have to make a part of your own. It's the week before Christmas and you have five parties between work and school as well as a community gift exchange, not to mention finishing your own shopping and present wrapping before packing and hitting the road for the actual holiday celebration. We are needed. We get busy.

What is a lie: Being busy defines us and adds to our personal worth.

Far too often I see Americans young and old bragging to each other about how little space they have in their lives. It doesn't sound like the bragging you hear when someone wins a competition or proves you wrong. It's much more subtle. It sounds like, "I've already had three cups of coffee today because I won't make it through the day without it." It looks like Instagram stories and Facebook posts titled "Weekly Photo Dump." It sounds like phone calls in the car. It looks like people who are unwilling to give you the time of day. It sounds like silence at the end of the day when you ignore the people in your home because you don't have enough left for them.

When we are children, time drags along. We play in the yard and knock on all the doors in the neighborhood to play tag or color with chalk in company. We wish for something to do, always. When we become adults, we make comments as though we long for the days we once felt "bored." It's like even though we supposedly grow older and wiser, we forget how much control we have over our every minute. We spend so much time on nonsense that we stop having time for what matters, and then we think more of ourselves for being so busy.

I think recent years have brought the other side of this American voice. People are crying out against over-scheduling, hurry, and restlessness, but too many of us still think it's the answer. More work means more success. More invites means more popularity. More commitments mean more pride and worth. It's all wrong. And it doesn't have to be.

In Morocco, the world must turn more slowly than it does here in the States. In Morocco, I could spend three hours at lunch and still get all of my homework done before the evening's club meetings and inevitable hangout times. I could go to the library after dinner to work on homework, talk to my friends until midnight without opening my backpack, and still find everything done by the time it was due. I spent weekends sitting in the sand conversing with friends as if it was the only thing left to do in my life. That's simply not something I ever experienced in the U.S. How could it be?

In the three years (YES THREE YEARS; I cannot believe it was that long ago!) I have had to reflect on my time in Morocco, I have been able to identify a few connections. I don't think Americans (particularly younger Americans) realize how much time we waste on things like checking social media, texting people we aren't around, watching Netflix, and playing games on our phone. We use games and movies and other entertainment as points of conversation as if they have meaning and build our relationships further. We have bought in to the electronic idea of entertainment so far we often cannot remember how to find good times together away from screens.

Plain and simple, I can count on one hand the number of times I watched something on my computer in my four months abroad. Turns out, real life and the people in it are far more exciting than fictional characters or people we will never be a part of. Moroccans have mastered community. Becoming "too busy" to spend time together rarely happened. As college students, we definitely had times we had to focus on Mid-term exams or final papers and research projects, but it was always preferred to work on these things as we sat together in silence rather than alone in our dorms. Spending time together every day was the expectation, and if you "couldn't join," you were the odd man out. Everyone else would come together to have a long lunch and build relationships without you.

I can hear so many thoughts and arguments hurling my way, so let me stop here to say: There are clear differences in the way Moroccans carry out life versus the way Americans carry out life. We cannot read a blog post and our whole life change. It would take years of groups of people choosing to engage with one another and with life in a different way, and that is no small feat. My aim is to share my experience and the ways in which my perspective changed so that, hopefully, you catch a glimpse of the way your life could look and choose responsibility over your schedule to find freedom.

The truth is, a lot of the time, what we call "being busy" isn't true busyness. It's unwise or irresponsible choices we make that fill our days with things that matter less than people. Other times, we think we're so cool for having to write another paper or work longer hours, but all that makes us is unreliable and unavailable to the people in our lives who need and want us most.

It's often a case of misplaced priorities. To be fair, I clearly wasn't about to say, "Sorry, I'm just too busy to go camping in the Sahara Desert with you guys this weekend." But what kind of "Sahara Desert Moments" are you giving up in your daily life? What laughs could have been shared and burdens lifted if you had stuck around for conversation? What relationship are you losing the chance to mend or strengthen? What memories are you forfeiting?

For a long time, I waved my busy flag with pride. I was working hard and seeing results and... neglecting friendships I then didn't have time to mend - some of which will never be the same because of it. Through my time abroad, God showed me how right life feels when the people in them get your time more than the screens, the books, the whatever. He showed me how much personal responsibility I have over my time and my choices. Since being back, I have seen in myself a tendency to run to entertainment when I have moments of down time. Years of choosing busyness over rest left me clamoring for hours of pure entertainment to find what I thought would be "rest." Turns out that was a lie too.

As an introvert, I absolutely need alone time. I need much more alone time than Caleb does, even. But what I led myself to believe for a long time was that all social gatherings were "busyness" and would drain me. Turns out, I can find ideally stimulating situations in which I can cook dinner with a friend or grab a long lunch together and feel even more rested than in time alone. This delicate balance will look different for everyone, but I encourage you to challenge the way you have always done things to find what's better.

In the last year, God has shown me how I can work without working myself into the ground, give my best without burning myself at both ends, and have space where I feel excited to pursue my goals and dreams. When I take ownership of my life and make wise time-management decisions, I can accomplish far more than I thought I could in a small amount of time. I can reach my goals and see dreams become realities. Give God the space and the time, and He can show you what this looks like in your own life too.

Stop believing the lies of busyness and choose to engage with the most important parts of your life. When true busyness comes along, remember to step back from it when you can and not to neglect those around you who love you most.

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