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Too busy to actually live? Tell me about it.  

Every day’s the same around here.

Wake up, usually right before my 4:40 a.m. alarm…that I set at 10:30 the night before. (Yes, that’s a glorious six hours and 10 minutes that I so generously gave myself to rest.)

I look at the clock through one eye, debating the merits of getting those extra twenty minutes of morning quiet time. I get up (if I’m being really good), or I reset it. Either way, I’m out of bed by 5.

I always intend to just sit there and breathe for a few minutes. Maybe meditate, maybe journal. But there are lunches to make, professional enough looking clothes to put on, writing or exercise or bills or whatever the plan was to do before heading off to work.

There are kids to get dressed and packed up and dropped off.

There’s the traffic to beat, parking spots to snag, the walk from the car, the email, Facebook, Google calendar, who am I kidding, Facebook again ritual.

Then there are those divine few moments of quiet before the phones and the emails and clients and paperwork begin where, again, I have every intention of just being.

But the computer’s right there, and so is that office to-do list from yesterday last week 3 weeks ago. There are appointments to make and time off for said appointments to negotiate.

Soon, I’m sucked into the work day not to be seen again until 5.

I surface at the end of the day as if emerging from the deep, dark sea, and make my way back to the car where there’s a list of errands to run on the way home taped to my steering wheel so I don’t forget (again).

At home, there’s dinner to cook and so many little cups of milk to pour. There are sticky hands and faces (and feet) and tangled hair to deal with. There are bedtime stories, decisions to be made, and discussions to have (or avoid for one more night).

It feels like all day is just a pile of busy I have to dig through before crashing, hopefully, this time with more than six hours to sleep before getting up and doing it all again the next day.

And, as I lie there in bed, my first moment of solitude in eighteen hours, there’s a little space. That moment of pause before the planning and reminding and worrying and predicting start up.

It’s a little bit where I realize how amazing it feels to just be and vow to do that more often.

The moment is often fleeting, either because I pass out or move on to that mental commentary of replaying conversations, analyzing progress, and assessing choices.

Busy begets busy, I guess.

I have to wonder sometimes if I’ve become so busy that I forgot to live.

We can forget to do that, you know. We forget how much of living is in those little pauses that are so rich and so full of promise.

Those are the spaces where dreams are born, epiphanies are made, and lightbulbs are turned on. They’re the moments we notice the beauty in life, messy as it appears to our otherwise gotta-keep-busy mind.

But in that one little moment, if you’ll allow it, is everything.

Life has been happening in those moments all day, you were just too busy to see it. With all of the chaos, the bustling and bussing and bargaining, life was going on.

Underneath the buzz of making it all fit, there’s that place where everything is as it should be.

Or were you too busy to see it? 

Were you too busy to greet the day this morning? To smile at spouse sleeping beside you?

Were you too busy to pet the cat? To thank your body for your breath?

Was the morning too busy for you to enjoy your breakfast? Like, really taste it and everything?

Did you bask in that golden hour right after sunrise and hug your kids, hard, even though it totally embarrassed them?

Were you too busy to nod at your vehicular neighbor at that stoplight you couldn’t wait to get through? Too busy to sing in the car? Too busy to park a little further away to enjoy a stroll before work?

Were you too busy to feel the earth under your feet and to thank your heart and lungs for getting you up that flight of stairs?

Living gives us a whole new to-do list, but it’s one that takes no time. In fact, it doesn’t keep us busy at all. (Warning, it does set us free.)

We’re absolutely addicted to busy. We glorify it, putting it above, apparently.

Joy’s written off. Cast aside. Smirked at. It’s patted on the head and sent away so the grown-ups can get back to their important grown-up work.

Imagination is told to get its head out of the clouds and back to the real world. “Be sensible,” we tell it. Be reasonable. And get back to work.

Curiosity is shushed. It’s told to stop asking so many questions as we give it a big stack of busy work to finish by the end of the day. “Do as you’re told,” we say. Listen to authority. Settle down and pay attention.

I wonder how I got here as I catch myself instilling the same loyalty to busy in my children.

We can sing after you take a shower.

We can read after you brush your teeth.

I can listen to your story in just a minute.

Oh my goodness, do I adore their spirits. How I hunger for the imagination and courage and liveliness that comes so naturally to them.

But, oh, do I resist it too. I resist the pull back to those little moments to live this beautiful life I’ve spent so long painstakingly orchestrating. Because I’m too busy.

I do the whole in-a-minute thing all day long. But what actually happens in those minutes? I have to wonder if that’s really my life.

 Is real life really so busy? 

Or is all of the busy just an artificial rush of adrenaline? Is it just the road to happiness that we’ve been sold on? What we’ve come to believe makes us good people?

I’m sure not all of it is. We do have real work to do and real-life concerns. There are real problems that need real solutions. And we do need to pay the bills somehow.

But even when you’re so busy you didn’t notice that January became March, it did. And you were alive, whether you know it or not.  

So every now and then, take a minute. Maybe go crazy and take two.

Pause, breathe, smell, smile, laugh, love, question.

Live your life – it’s going on with or without you. @ralph_leslie (Click to Tweet!)


Leslie Ralph helps working (and otherwise busy + overwhelmed) moms work a happy lifestyle. With her signature blend of happy living projects, positive psychology tips, and delicious meditations, she’ll get you bringing back the balance, transforming chaos into cozy, and savoring time with your sweeties. To get you started, she’s whipped up a 2-Minute Revitalizing Meditation for you to enjoy on the house at http://www.ayearofhappy.com/revitalize.


Image courtesy of Antonina Bukowska.