Aug 26, 2015

Busy, Can't, and Other Words I Hate

Patience is a virtue I've been entirely lacking in lately.  And while there are a lot of things trying my nerves (that I may or may not be responding graciously to), I particularly want to discuss the whole "busy" thing.

I'm fed up with it.  Not with being busy, but with using busy as an excuse.

News flash!  EVERYONE is busy.  You're not special.  Your busy-ness is not more important than everyone else's busyness.

If someone asks you... (note: I'm using the general "you" here, not referring to you lovely readers who are some of my favorite people and probably never do this shit).  Anyway, if someone asks you to do something for them, you have a couple of options.

You can say, "Oh, sorry, I'm too busy" which is really just the polite way of saying they're a lower priority than whatever else you're doing.  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  Not everything can have equal priority and you're not obligated to put someone else first before your own ambitions or comfort.

You can say, "Sure thing!" and do it promptly.

Or you can say, "Ok" and then drag your ass and never get around to it or do it at the last possible second.

This last one pisses me off.  Unless the thing takes up a substantial amount of your time, there's no reason to keep putting it off.  Yes, you're "busy."  But you know what?  Taking the 5 minutes to do the thing will get it off your to do list, make someone else happy, and add +5 to your integrity for actually following through with something you said you'd do.  And if you're like the majority of our population, you're never going to be less busy so putting it off accomplishes nothing.

If you really don't have time for it/are unwilling to make time for it, then just say no in the first place.  It'll save everyone time and aggravation and if your friend is a good friend, they'll understand you have other priorities.

Let's talk about people who are not busy.

This is a choice.  These people have made choices that have lead them to a place where they don't have to run around like recently beheaded chickens.  Their lives aren't magically easy and things don't just fall into their laps.  They might have decided they don't need all the pseudo accomplishments the rest of us spend our time seeking.  You might even think they're lazy or lack ambition because they choose to relax and enjoy life instead of constantly working towards the next thing.

But that's part of the trade-off, in order to not be busy.  And I bet if you really analyze your own schedule, you'll find plenty of things crammed in there that really aren't that important.  Busywork, in a manner of speaking.

I don't think it's bad to be ambitious.  I think it's fine to keep your schedule crammed with goals and accomplishments.  But it's not fine to make those choices and then act like you have no say in the matter.  It's your life, you're in charge, and while things do happen that are out of our control, the way you approach those things, and the choices that you make day-to-day are the things that will determine how "busy" you are.

Busy is a choice.

Oftentimes so is "can't."  We say we can't do things all the time, but that's usually as big a steaming pile as busy.

We can't sprout wings and fly.  That is true.  But to say you "can't" go sky diving or take flying lessons?  Not so much.  Those things are expensive, some might say prohibitively so.  But I'd bet, that if that was really your life's ambition, you COULD find a way to make it happen.  You might have to get a second job, cut back on other expenses, and do a shitton of research to find a way to make it feasible for you.  But in most cases, I'd bet there is a way.

The truth is that, as much as you might want to do those things, they're not your life's ambition, or, at the very least, they're less important to you than living comfortably day to day, and buying Christmas gifts for relatives, or eating out, or having nice furniture, or getting a degree, or whatever it is you spend your money on.

And that's fine.  But don't say you "can't" do it.  Just admit to yourself that it's less important to you than the other things you are doing and the other places where those resources are currently allocated.

Just the other day Ryan said, "It'd be nice to do more off-leash training with Luke.  Too bad we can't."  Can't?  Why is that?  He elaborated about the lack of open space.  I mentioned the many state parks we have within driving distance.  He then said we didn't have the time.  Which brings us back to "busy."

The truth is, we definitely could do more training with Luke.  We could also take him to the dog park every day, give him baths every week, and do a training session with every meal.  But we don't because to Ryan working long hours and rising rapidly through the ranks at his job is the higher priority.  For me it's client projects and school.

I don't think that makes us bad people.  Could Luke's life be better?  Probably.  But it could also be a lot worse.  Besides, I don't think he cares that much about self improvement or being better trained.  If anything, it probably makes him happier when he doesn't have to pay attention to our commands and is free to sniff and pee on everything.

Last night I was tired and I got upset that I "couldn't" go to bed.  But that was a lie.  I could have.  But I chose to keep working on client projects in order to meet my deadline.  It's so easy to get caught up in what we can or can't do, when really what we mean is that we aren't willing to put up with the consequences.

And when it comes down to it, busy and can't are both ways to avoid accountability.  I do think sometimes "busy" is polite.  Your friends would hardly appreciate if you said, "I'm not attending your party because that is a lower priority than ______."

But usually it's a way for us to lie to ourselves.  To make it not our fault that we didn't do the thing we wanted to do or didn't feel like putting the effort in.  And it's actually quite freeing to admit that.  Because you can reassess your goals.

Maybe, when you really think about what would be necessary to make it happen, you'll realize that it's not that important to you after all.

Maybe you'll make life changes to make it happen and actually achieve your dreams.

Either option is better than endlessly pining after something without ever doing anything to make it happen.

"Not my fault" is another problematic phrase.  Assigning blame is pointless, but taking responsibility for things and actually cleaning up the mess, regardless of who made it is important!  (along with the mature thing to do)  Sure, sometimes things aren't your problem to fix.  But when life is blowing up around you because you ignore all those "not my problem"s, saying "It wasn't my fault" isn't going to help with the aftermath.

I can see why people are afraid or reluctant to take charge of their own lives.  It's scary knowing that your failures and mistakes are your own fault, rather than something the world did to you.

But I promise, taking control of your life and admitting that you're responsible for it is one of the more freeing and empowering things you can do.  Mistakes aren't fun, but you'll quickly learn that they're not such a big deal if you tackle them head on rather than cowering in a corner hoping the problem goes away.

I'm doing my best to erase "busy," "can't," and definitely "not my fault" from my vocabulary.  It's not so much the words themselves that are at fault, but the evasion of responsibility implied.  I don't know about you, but I make much better decisions when I know I'm in charge.

And I'm happier, too.

What words do you hate?  What are other ways people avoid taking responsibility for their own lives?  How have you changed your own life for the better?

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  1. I hate when I ask someone how it's going and they say on you know, the usual. Just been busy. Umm haven't we all been busy living? I hate when people make excuses like they don't have time for reading or working out because they are too busy. No, you aren't any busier than I am. I just prioritize things to make sure I fit everything in.

  2. I'm one of those people from your never busy paragraph, I was like yes that's is me! I'm not busy because I have chosen not to be busy, I don't care if people think of me as lazy or unambitious. What I am is happy and what I see from most busy people, including me when I was one, is unhappy.

  3. I get so annoyed by this too! You're not too busy; that thing is jjst not a priority for you. People are like "I'm so impressed you have time for xx," but it's like, I have time because I make time because it's important to me! And you have things you make time for that I don't because those are important to you. It's a lame excuse to say you're too busy.

  4. haha i love what you said about people who aren't busy. because i am not busy, and i feel like sometimes people think i am lying or insinuating that neither are they, when really, i choose not to load my plate full of crap because it's more important for me to have relaxing and downtime. i get 'busy' at work, but i really can't remember the last time someone asked me to do something / meet them somewhere and i couldn't because i had something else on. i never do, and that is entirely my choice and i definitely shouldn't be made to feel bad about it lol. i could do more, i choose not to. all of this is a choice, like you said.

  5. Busy is a choice. When I over-schedule myself, that's my fault. Sometimes a series of things take place close together, and no, I can't help that, but I can choose to relax commitments in other areas. And when I choose to do all the things, I don't complain about being busy because again - it was my choice. Overall and ideally though, I'm interested in balance. I like a good mix of social, productive, and relaxing, and I keep those three things in mind when I look ahead at my week/month.

    I actually dislike when people say can't isn't in their vocabulary. It should be. We can't do it all and we definitely can't do it all well.

    I do think people use busy as an excuse to not say no - I'm at a point where I can say no with no excuses and stand on that alone. I also think people use can't for won't instead of just saying they won't or aren't interested.

  6. I can't deal with "busy." Actually I can, but I don't want to :) Everyone is busy, it's just where your priorities lie in just "how" busy you are (not you you, the general you). It also reminded me of the "glorification of busy" and these other things that I dislike hearing:

  7. Amen. I'm working on accepting that busy is a choice I make. Does it make me want to pull my hair out sometimes? Well, sure. I don't think there's anything out there that I could do (or not do) that wouldn't suck at some point. But I wouldn't be me and my life wouldn't be my life without some degree of busyness and so I'm willing to accept that those moments of frustration are worth the satisfaction that I generally get from the various things in my schedule. You're absolutely right about people with lots of free time - that's a choice that they've made, and while sometimes that's a choice I need to make too (balance is key!), I wouldn't be happy without my extra-curriculars (this is a recent revelation for me). With that said, I DO need down time and when that happens I do say no to some things, like social outings or cleaning my house, because real talk: I am my biggest priority.


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