Try it: Taking off the badge of being busy

When people ask you how you are, is busy a common answer?  What does being busy do for you? How else can we define our lives, other than with our juggling act?

As I sat down the edit the first draft I had written for my family’s holiday card, I brought my journalistic eye to the words on the screen:  

“This year has been busy and blessed.  The kids remain busy with sports (describe). The summer was active and busy with trips to (put in names). Wishing you health and happiness in 2024.”

Do you notice how often “busy” appeared in every line of my copy?  I sure did. 

It was true that this year was incredibly busy with 3 kids, a new role at Stanford, TV work and all the aspects of life in between. Yet, it is hard to recall a time in my life that wasn’t busy – whether in school, working life or family life after – life has always been hectic.  Likely for you, too, right? That’s modern life.  

So why is this the word I fall back on so often to described me, my children and our lives?

The question drew me into reflection.  How often do I lean on the descriptor of busy in my life? Over the next few days, I saw how naturally it came up in conversation: 

“How are you?” I am asked.

“Busy,” I state.

“How was your weekend?” Someone inquires.  

“Good. Busy!” I say.

How busy helps us

What I have learned in both therapy and personal work is that we only participate in behaviors that benefit us.  So, acting and sharing that I was busy helped me in some way.  I also knew it was just a default thing to say. Yet, an on going area of development for me is being more intentional with my language. So, I got curious – how did this serve me?

When I sat with it, I saw that I wear busy like a badge of honor.  Like it is expected of me: to always be in motion, achieving and working towards something.  What I see is that if I am busy, I am doing my job as Shibani. I am earning my keep in society.  I am advancing things – whether in motherhood, health or work.  It reflects progress towards a finish line I can’t identify nor will ever come.  When I am busy, I perceive myself as hard-working, a good person and conscientious mother. This is the message I am trying to share.

A TRY IT challenge to swap saying ‘busy’

But busy is not who I am. Nor is it who you are.  It is a reflection of what we are doing, at best. How can I better reflect this? What else can I say besides that I’m busy?

This is what inspired my new TRY IT challenge.  In conversations this month, I want to share more about myself. Not just when I write my holiday cards but also when am asked how I am doing.  I want to define myself in new ways. But what else can I say?

The opposite of busy is stillness, rest, quiet.  Saying this doesn’t feel comfortable to say, much less reflect how I live. To say that I am chill, resting or taking it slowly feels incongruent.  Instead, I rehearsed and prepared other responses, like:

I’m great. I’m excited by my new job and figuring out how to make family and personal life work in a new way. 

I’m ok.  I’m struggling with prioritizing all the demands of the season and exploring how I can say no to some things or schedule times to just rest. 

I’m dragging. My child was sick last night. 

I’m excited! Today’s match should be intense.

Things are great. It has been a monumental year. I’m looking forward to closing out the year and spending time with family. 

In all of these examples, I find another (ad) verb or adjective to land on, another description of my life and add a few other details about it. I also try to be positive (when I can) and stay present and real.  I want to convey bigger themes than being busy but also be honest in the reality of my life.   This isn’t perfected yet.

Every circumstance will require different answers. Sometimes you don’t know people well enough nor have the time to share much other than, “I’m good.” Yet, when I can, I look forward to being creative and deliberate in answering questions around my life – and avoiding the overuse of the term ‘busy.’ I want to share more of myself and my life, and it starts with me acknowledging other aspects first.

For my holiday card, I still used the term busy – but only once.  I diversified to wording that included wording like “our trips created adventure and awe” to not only satisfy the journalist in me, but also reflect the true essence of the experiences of our life. 

If you, too, are someone who defaults to busy, let me know you explore taking off the badge of busy and share more of yourself. 

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