When Busy-ness Takes Over Your Life

A few months ago I read a post from an acquaintance about how busy busy busy they’d been. Doing this, doing that. No wonder we hadn’t seen them in ages. Plans were half made but never confirmed. Either something else always came up, or time just marched in and changed things in its own inimitable way. Plans juggled here and there eventually fell thru the cracks into an abyss and nothing was ever done.

We’re all guilty of that.

Many times we think our busy-ness is for all the right reasons. We had to volunteer at church for this or that. Or we made plans, but then this meeting came up and we felt guilty because even though we’d made those plans, this was important, too, and we couldn’t say no. We arranged to take our parents to dinner, but then someone called and asked us to help them with a project, so we re-scheduled our parents, hurting their feelings because they felt they weren’t as important as our friends. Or we “forgot” to discuss plans with our spouse and he/she had already made plans. “We’ll pick another night,” and it never happened.

Busy-ness. Or, busy-mess as I just accidentally typed. But it fits!

Remember the song “Cat’s in the Cradle”? That line “I’d love to if I can find the time.” The dad in the song never did, and because that’s how he was raised, neither did his son. It was always, “but we’ll get together soon. And we’re gonna have a good time then.”

We’re all busy with our lives. My old job took me away from home 11 hours a day, and I was always exhausted by the time I got home, and by the time the weekend came around I didn’t want to do anything. It wasn’t fair to me or my family. Fortunately that season has ended, and now I only have a short half hour commute each way, not to mention a job that doesn’t stress me out! But I’m still trying to catch up on the things I missed out on because of that situation. Some things fortunately waited patiently for me, and sadly, others didn’t.

Those are the things I miss the most. The ones I cannot recapture. The missed opportunities. We mean well. We say let’s do this or that, but we don’t always follow up. And then one day we realize people we really cared about are out of our lives. And we didn’t even realize it. Because we were all too busy.

That’s unfortunately how life is these days. We don’t make the time we need for ourselves, or for those closest to us, because we’re torn in so many directions by other things, and most times those other things really aren’t as important as we think they are.

Maybe the busy-ness is a substitute for something missing in our own lives. Maybe we think we’re only liked, only appreciated, only useful if we try to do everything everybody else wants us to do. But most of the time that thinking is at the expense of ourselves…and our friends and family. We can’t be everything for everybody all the time. Because then there’s nothing left for ourselves.

Nobody on their deathbed has ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’
— Rabbi Harold Kushner

Think about it. What’s important to you? Who’s important to you? Now what are you going to do about it?

Is your busy-ness going to keep you running in several directions at once, or are you going to take the time to slow down and re-think your priorities? Before it’s too late.

Take time to smell the roses, and the gardenias. Walk in the rain with someone you love. Enjoy a quiet dinner with friends and laugh at each others’ jokes until your stomachs hurt. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and renew a fading friendship. If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents around, go visit them. Play a game of catch with your children or grandchildren. Be spontaneous instead of filling up your calendar weeks in advance, with no nights free.

Those meetings can wait. Someone else can coordinate that luncheon. The world won’t stop if you say “no” to one more committee.

But your world will begin to change. And you’ll wonder why you ever let all that busy-ness take over your life. And suddenly, you’ll have a life again.

But I’ve Been So Busy…

“Yes, Dad. I know. I want to come see you, too, but I’ve got a lot to do right now. How’re you feeling? Oh, I’m sorry. What did the doctor say? Ok. Well, be sure to take those pills. I’ll try to get by on Sunday after church. It may be late afternoon, though, because we have to go to a committee meeting after service, and we always go to lunch with the group afterwards. Tomorrow? Well, I’d like to, but the grandkids have a soccer game and then we told them we’d take them all out for pizza. We don’t want to disappoint them.”

Glenn’s dad lived twenty minutes away from him. In fact, his dad’s house was actually on the way to and from Glenn’s job. His dad had dementia, and heart problems, and hadn’t been getting along too well recently. Glenn loved his dad, but it seemed he could never make the time to go see him like he said he wanted to. Other things always seemed to intrude, and then he’d forget he’d promised to do something for him.

In fact, his dad usually had to call him to see how HE was, rather than Glenn calling him. Plus, he really didn’t enjoy going to see his dad, because of the memory issues, and it seemed his dad always wanted him to stay with him longer than Glenn had the time to do.

Then one day a few weeks after that conversation, Glenn got a call from the hospital. His dad had been rushed there by ambulance with severe chest pains and difficulty breathing. He suddenly realized he’d promised to go see him, but never made it over there. Something came up…and he hadn’t even called to tell his dad he wasn’t coming.

Glenn headed to the hospital, swearing to himself if his dad made it, things would change. He’d go see him more, do things for him. Take him to dinner with the grandkids even.

But Glenn was too late. He’d put off doing what he should do one too many times. He didn’t even make it to the hospital in time to even say, “I love you, Dad.” He’d gotten this really important phone call as he was leaving, and in that fifteen minutes he was on the phone, his father went home to be with the Lord.

Glenn was filled with guilt. He started thinking back on how many times he’d visited his dad over the past six months. It didn’t even add up to once a month. If only he’d taken the time when he could…what difference would an hour or so have made in his important busy schedule, which didn’t seem so important right now. Last week it would’ve been a hassle. Now he’d give anything to have to rearrange that schedule to see his dad alive just one more time.

Too often we put other things in front of our loved ones. We think we have all the time in the world to see them, do something with them. We don’t want to interrupt our own lives, our own priorities, to make time for someone we really care about. After all, they’ll certainly understand. They know we care about them, but they certainly know how busy we are.

Hindsight is always 20/20, as I’ve written many times. If only we knew THEN what we know NOW, we certainly would have done things a lot different. But life doesn’t work like that. We all have choices to make in our lives; priorities to determine. Sometimes we make the right choices, and sometimes we don’t.

I will be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this at times. I think we all are. But to what degree do we allow ourselves to continually put ourselves and our own desires over those of our friends and family? Particularly our elderly family members? How often do we think, oh, everything is probably ok with them. I’ll check on them later; they know how much I care about them. I’m really busy with……right now.

Do they really know you care? Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes. How would you feel if the situation were reversed? Would you feel deserted? Abandoned? Would you be upset that people you thought cared about you didn’t care enough to check on you when you were having problems?

It’s easy to let the busy-ness of our lives take over and rearrange our priorities, until our lives become so self-centered we don’t even realize what we’re doing. Then it’s often too late to make amends.

Are you too busy? If you think you are, stop and figure out what you can cut out of that busy-ness of your life so you can make time for some things that really count. Call a friend who’s going through a tough time and see how they’re doing. Go visit an elderly relative who’s alone. Call some friends you haven’t connected with in a while and get together and catch up.
Tomorrow is not promised. Today is only what we make it, and I am going to put aside some of my own busy-ness for someone else I care about.

How about you?