I grew tired of fighting, tired of hustling, tired of striving and being told my identity is in my to do list. So I quit, I quit busy and tried to find a new way of life. | amandabixler.com

WHY I REMOVED BUSY FROM MY VOCABULARY

 

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday night, the end of the first week back at school, my spring semester of junior year of college. I was at home in my apartment and let’s just say it had been a week. I was trying to go to bed early, figuring that if I got a good night of sleep then the stress, the fatigue, the anxiousness and worry would disappear.

I was a music major and filled to the brim with stress and overwhelm, completely burnt out. Many factors contributed to this feeling – the music program at my university was the second most difficult major. And in the music world, you had to say yes to everything. Yes to that performing ensemble. Yes to more private lessons. Yes to the gig. Yes to accompanying someone for their recital. Yes, yes, yes. You also had to be involved in several ensembles and classes that only counted as one unit, meaning a “full-time load” was about four academic classes, private lessons, two or three or four ensembles, plus all of the school work and extra practicing that went along with it. Oh and then there was the part-time job, the friendships and roommates, the church services and volunteer work. The list went on and on.

And then there was the competitive factor. Everyone was busier or more stressed out than someone else. Statements like, “I was up until 2am working on a paper last night” were followed by one-upping, “Oh really? Man, I was up until 4am and I had a research paper and a presentation to prepare.” Everyone was busy – “busy” and “fine” being the top responses given when someone asked how you were. It wasn’t so much the fact that everyone was overwhelmed (though being in a community of stressed out people does not  help your own attempt to combat the stress) – it was the lack of grace associated with everyone’s busyness.

It was the fact that everyone’s busyness was a point of pride, not lament, a point of competition, not a need for change.

And so, I found myself on that first Friday night of spring semester alone in my apartment, worrying about the previous week, stressed over if I could actually make it as a music major. Before I knew it, I couldn’t breathe. I struggled to sit up or catch my breath or move. My chest felt tight, my emotions felt high, my muscles were in a peak “fight or flight” mode. After several moments I was able to drink some water, catch my breath, and slowly calm down. I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a bus, every muscle sore and maxed out.

It was my first panic attack and it was all I needed to say, “I’m done. I’m not playing your game anymore.” The next week I changed my major, dropped some classes, and slowly began reorienting my schedule and priorities.

Yet while the busyness competition wasn’t as prevalent in my new degree, it was still there. And it still exists today. I see it in the classmates of my current master’s degree, I saw it in coworkers and friends, I see it in the world around me. Our world has tied a direct line to equate how busy you are to how important you are.

This is a lie that has taken a lot of counseling, prayer, godly wisdom, and encouragement from friends to combat. You and I, our identity is not in our to do list, not in our resume, not in our list of accomplishments. Those are all good things, for sure I love a good productivity hack or tool. But spending a day relaxing, reading, and not being busy does not change my worth.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

Socrates

“Busy” is now no longer my answer when someone asks how I am doing. It’s not even on my radar. It’s not a part of my vocabulary. To me, replying “busy” as a response is so much more than a singular word. It reflects not only my to do list, but it impacts my frame of mind and stress level. It’s more than just reflecting my schedule, it’s adding to the anxiousness or stress I might be feeling. By exercising discipline and not responding with ‘busy” (and trust me, this has taken a lot of practice, muscle memory and habit formation – and I still mess up at times and feed the desire for others to acknowledge how busy/important/self-righteous/etc I am), I am reminding myself that life isn’t more that I can handle, that God’s grace is more than enough, and that I can choose thankfulness and joy even when my schedule feels full.

And sure, I still experience seasons of full schedules. But I refuse to play the competition game. I refuse to buy into the lie that I am more or less important, depending on how full my schedule is. And I refuse to give into the social norm that if I can somehow outdo your stress, I am worth more than you. So now, while my schedule may go through seasons of being more full than other times, my frame of mind is not busy. It’s not part of my vocabulary. There might be a lot of my to do list, but myself, as a human being, am not busy.

// What has been your experience with this? How are you finding rest this week and saying “no” to this busy culture around us?

RELATED: Finding Rest

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15 thoughts on “WHY I REMOVED BUSY FROM MY VOCABULARY

  1. I have really been enjoying Graham Cooke’s quote: “You can do anything more to make God love you more. You can’t do anything less to make God love you less. He loves you, because He loves you, because He loves you.” You can’t “perform” for Him to earn His love. That is the truth that we should be delighting in, not in our significantly busy-than-you schedules.
    Well said. I love how you are truly enjoying how loved and valued you are. ~

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    • I do love that quote as well! It is such a good reminder as the world (especially the western world it seems) constantly feeds us lies that our worth is tied to hustle, hard work, and proving ourselves.

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  2. I really needed this today. Ironically, while I blog about intentional living and subverting the pressures of “normal” adult life, I’ve gotten so BUSY with blogging that I feel constantly overwhelmed and inadequate. I’ve been thinking that I need to take a step back and walk my own talk for a little while. I think I’m going to take a week off posting on the blog next week, and use the time to think about how I can make some changes. Thanks for the encouragement!

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    • I’m so glad this was encouraging to you! But I definitely feel you and can relate – it’s fun and pretty chic right now to write about things like simplicity, minimalism, rest, and slowness but much harder to implement those practice. I hope you do indeed take some time off, take a deep breath, and are able to refocus on what your work is.

      Blessings!

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  3. Great post! I so vividly remember that “busy” culture when I was in college as well. It bothered me so much that I decided to take a legit Sabbath once a week, every week. It was usually Saturday, and I flat-out refused to do work – no homework, no meetings, no study groups. Nope. None. Just me and Jesus and some resting and relaxing and – gasp! – sometimes even fun, too!

    Best thing I could’ve done for my college self and I always recommend it to students first going off to school.

    It seemed impossible when I first started, but it eventually became an extremely crucial aspect of my college life.

    Great post!

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    • It’s so crazy how prevalent the competition and busyness is in college! I’m so proud of you for recognizing that craziness and being disciplined in taking a day off. Truly, that’s the only way I’ve been able to survive the past four years of graduate school!

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  4. Due to health problems I have, over the last years, cut back drastically on my activities and yet still find myself answering ‘busy’ when asked how I am. Later I wonder, “really?”. I never connected it with feeling of worth, but I completely agree. I feel such guilt that I’m not able to work and do all the things other 30odd year olds can but that doesn’t mean I am worth any less. thank you for this reminder!

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    • Of course! I feel like it’s such the nature of our culture that it’s hard to fight against that – but the truth is that our worth is found so much more in who we are and who God says we are than in what our to do list or schedule reflects. Besides, isn’t it so much better when we are working and living from a place of rest and peace than hurry and stress??

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel the same way, I use to find myself saying I was too “busy” for something and stressing myself out. I was trying to do the most but thankfully through God and friends I’ve learned to lessen my load.

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    • Good for you! I find it helpful to also just really be able to zone in on what I’m good at, what I enjoy, and not feel the pressure to be all things to every person. it is such a gracious gift when we can operate from that stand point.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. OK, can we be friends, seriously? You sound like my twin! I’m so glad I can read a post where someone can say that being busy all the time isn’t OK. I completely agree with you 100 percent. Being busy all the time doesn’t define our self-worth, in fact, it runs us down and we never get to stop and be present in our everyday lives. Instead, practice “the art of resting.” The pastor at my church talked about that, because even God rested on the 7th day after he worked & created The Earth. Hope you will check out some of my posts! 🙂

    xoxo
    Kathryn
    Down-Home Damsel

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    • I’m so glad you can understand and relate! It’s certainly still something I can struggle with – buying into that lie that if I say yes or talk up my stress, then somehow I’m more important. But it’s so unfulfilling! It only leaves me feeling crummy and lifeless. Sabbath, instead, is one of the most life-giving things we can practice!

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