This blog has been on an unintentional summer vacation; it just happened because we’ve been so busy lately. I remember when summer felt like an endless stretch of lazy, warm days where anything could happen. Instead, this summer has felt like a marathon-length relay race, where Cliff and I pass the kids back and forth instead of a baton.
Just how crazy it’s gotten became evident two weeks ago, when on a Saturday afternoon we began comparing notes for the coming week’s schedule.
“So you leave for San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon,” Cliff said, glancing up from his iPhone. “And I get back from Atlanta that night at 9.”
“Okay,” I said. And then it sunk in: we’d not noticed that our work trips overlapped by six hours. Who, exactly, was going to pick the kids up from daycare? Thankfully, “Uncle” Joe came to the rescue and Maggie and Sam weren’t left to walk themselves home from daycare and eat Cheetos until Cliff’s flight landed.
But the point is this, this month at least, we can’t keep up with our schedules. We’ve both had multiple work trips, family get togethers, our regular church activities, and Cliff is in a play (which he also helped write) that debuts at the end of the month. Add in exercise, and grocery shopping, and sleep … and it feels as if we’ve hardly seen each other.
Busyness can be addicting. A recent blog from the New York Times, The ‘Busy’ Trap, has been getting a lot of buzz. Tim Kreider, the author, writes:
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Kreider goes on to say, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
I’m guilty of equating busyness with self-worth. I’m even guilty of feeling this way on others behalf – surely Cliff’s constant busyness is an indicator of his importance at his job, or in our community. But what we miss, in these over the top busy seasons, is each other. Our chaotic schedules may be a hedge against emptiness, but it sure doesn’t enrich our marriage.
Busyness is like cholesterol. We all have a little of it. But let it build up over the years, and it becomes life-threatening. Busyness is a marriage killer: you get too busy to notice each other, too busy to do thoughtful little things for each other, too busy to really listen. And after awhile, the busyness can create a gulf so that you feel like you’re living with a stranger instead of that person you knew and loved so well you pledged to spend your lives together.
It’s not just damaging to marriages, of course. Busyness turns callings into just careers. It takes your kids from 8 to 18 without really connecting with them. Busyness keeps you from pursuing that hobby that might have been fulfilling, that vacation that might have been refreshing, that conversation that might have helped someone change course.
Earlier today, I saw a Francis Chan quote on Facebook: “Our greatest fear should not be of failing, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
I’m really good at shopping on Amazon, squeezing in a grocery store trip between Maggie’s daycare pick up and Sam’s karate lesson, and wrapping up work email while the kids play at the park. I’m less good at actually listening to my husband or my children, leaving breathing room in our schedules, and fighting for a long, lazy summer.
On our part, we’re committed to making a change. Yesterday, while he was at play practice:
New rule: we sit on the porch to drink and talk every night in August. We have to make up for this month somehow.
Deal! I told him. And I mean it.