We glorify busy, and pretend to be stressed even when we’re not. Stop it. It’s expensive. It’s no fun to live like that.
The other day an old mate from my soccer days came over for a visit. We were sitting out in the garden catching a bit of warm winter sun, having a couple of cheeky ouzo’s.
We were just gossiping really. But it was more than that. It’s fun to reconnect with someone who knew an old version of you. It’s a mix of nostalgia and giggling at how ridiculous you used to be.
Like putting the first Windows operating system back on your computer.
The sun was shining, birds were chirping, the ouzo was biting. It was a sweet moment.
At that point my wife pops her head around the corner.
“Hey Jon, what are you up to?”
Now obviously this is a loaded question. She’s not just casually enquiring about how my day is going.
Maybe it was the ouzo talking, and I’m not proud to say it, but I fibbed.
“Just busy working on something love. What’s up?”
“Oh nothing. It’s alright.” And she wandered off.
I shrugged at my mate and poured another ouzo.
I pulled the ‘busy’ card on my wife. Nothing trumps “busy”. It’s the ultimate excuse. It says, I am occupied with something important and a little bit stressful, and unless you’re going to pull the ‘emergency’ card on me, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.
You can’t argue with busy.
But think about it. What if my wife had asked me what I was doing and I said:
“Just reflecting on the bitter-sweet and fleeting nature of life, love.”
“Just basking in the warm glow of an old friendship love.”
“Not doing anything love. Just being. Just being fully in the present moment as I embody my own little spot in the great circle of life.
None of that’s going to fly. There’d be something that needs doing. A tap that needs fixing. Washing to be taken in. Whatever.
Now I’m not saying that none of these jobs are important. They are. Jobs make life happen.
But we live in a world where ‘jobs’ trump everything.
But what are we living for? Is it for the sweet moments? Or is it for getting stuff done?
Surely if I said that I was in the middle of feeling a sense of transcendent oneness, that’d be enough to fend off any claims on my time. But we don’t value and prioritise such ‘feelings’. We prioritise jobs. We prioritise ‘busy’.
And this is what’s wrong with the world.
Think about it. Why do fashion models always look so surly? They always look like they’re on a very important mission. Probably something to do with Russian spies or killer robots.
They look busy. Busy is part of their allure.
But why is busy alluring? Because it means that they’re unattainable. They’re a step removed. If you went up to one tried to strike up a conversation, they’d be all like, “Get out of my face. I’m busy. I’m on the hunt for Russian robots.
We all want what we can’t have. And you can’t have someone who is ‘busy’.
There are different grades of busy of course. Models embody Bond-movie grade busyness. They’re in a very intense and stressful situation that demands all of their focus. No time for you and your discount track-suit pants.
It’s not the same as reading-the-paper busy. The more stressful the situation, the more potent the busyness. The more potent the busyness the more unavailable you are.
And so I pretended to be busy, and a little stressed, in order to be unavailable, and to keep control of our own precious time.
Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a lot of people do this. A lot of people pretend to be busy.
In fact, we’ve been doing it so long, that we’ve forgotten that we were pretending. We used to pretend to be stressed, now we just are stressed.
The world puts a lot of claims on our time. At work, at home, out and about. To maintain our own boundaries and control of our time, we pretend to be busy and little bit stressed.
“Don’t give that project to Jim. Can’t you see how stressed he is? He’s about to go Postal.”
Like well-trained models, we have perfected our busy faces.
But that’s the thing. The mind doesn’t understand pretend. It doesn’t understand the difference between real and make believe.
The studies show that if we make a pretend smile, we feel happier. If we strut about like a super hero, we feel stronger and have more confidence.
And if we pretend to be stressed…
… we end up stressed.
So while it might buy us some freedom and autonomy, it comes at a price. Pretend to be busy and stressed for long enough, and that becomes the flavour of your life. You’re not in a position to enjoy anything, because you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve got problems. You’ve got dramas. You’re too busy with your problems to enjoy playing with your kids, or eating dinner with your wife, or just sitting on a bench in the sun.
So next time you’re feeling busy or stressed, ask yourself, “Am I really busy? Am I really stressed?”
Chances are, if you’re reading this email, you live in a stable first-world democracy and you’re not actually that stressed in the scheme of things.
So stop pretending.
Of course, it would help if we all stopped glorifying busy. If we prioritised the things that actually make us happy. “Don’t bother him. Look at how much he’s smiling.”
But you can still go it alone. Stop pretending to be busy. Stop pretending to be stressed. And see how awesome life actually is.
ps – sorry, love.
Do we glorify busy? How do you keep yourself from getting pulled into the busyness hole?