When my husband Jonathan and I moved from DC to Alabama five years ago, the biggest culture shock wasn’t the Southern accents, but rather, the less busy pace of life.
It was the stunningly slow turns that drivers made into parking lots. It was standing still at a four-way stop because everyone wanted to let everyone else go first.
(As a New Jersey native, both of these drove me bananas. Just go already! You could not get away with these shenanigans in New York!)
But the biggest change of all was the sudden halt of my own busyness.
I went from a frantic lifestyle to a relaxed one. I went from thinking, “How can I fit a call into my schedule?” to, “I am not too busy to talk for an hour.”
And while the complexity of life here has increased since then, I’ll never forget those early days. I’ll never forget what it was like to be the new kid in town, to crave personal connection like bread and water.
Moving to Alabama meant going long-distance with every friend I’d ever made. It meant stepping off the fast track, nurturing longtime friendships and building new ones. It meant the excitement of starting fresh.
It also meant leaving plenty of unreturned voicemails.
It meant loneliness that could have swallowed me if I’d let it.
It meant seismic shifts to what Robin Dunbar terms my “layers of friendship”, with some cherished relationships strengthening and others dissolving.
Living a hyper-pressured life had made it easy to blind myself. “My friend and I are super-close … just too busy to get together!” In some cases friends had lived right around the corner, and still I’d told this story.
Sure, many good friendships don’t involve regular contact. Sometimes you see beloved people once a year and that’s perfect.
But if you can’t seem to find a way to meet the people on Tier 1 of your life mountain when you live down the block, then there is something else going on, something that busyness masks.
At the end of the day, we make time for what we value.
Safi writes about how an epidemic of exhaustion is destroying our connection with ourselves and each other. He notes that increasingly, the standard answer to, “How are you?” is, “So busy”.
But that’s a deeply unsatisfying response, isn’t it?
As Safi says:
“I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment.”
His words made me think about the risk of going against the cultural norm of busyness.
Make no mistake, being less busy brings vulnerability with it.
It makes us wonder, “If I dare to slow down and make space to nurture relationships, will others join me?”
In my experience, the answer is an emphatic yes … eventually. But in the meantime being less busy means leaving space for Life, and that is an act of faith.
Lately I’m realizing that “I’m too busy” is code for, “I don’t want to go there.”
I don’t want to look too closely at my own life.
I don’t want to share how I’m feeling.
I don’t want to go there.
So my challenge to you this week is this: Be brave. Risk it.
Look closely at the reality of your own life.
Tell someone you trust about how you feel.
Speaking of “going there” … after several years of work, I’ve finished a full (second? third?) draft of my book. It’s a memoir about recovering from perfectionism. It’s about being good, letting go, and getting real.
All 316 pages are in the hands of a great editor. So naturally, I’m terrified. 😉
But seriously, bringing a book into the world takes a village. Your help makes all the difference in building a platform for publication. So, I invite you to …
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Thank you so much, friends. It’s an honor to write for you.
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