It seems there are different sides to being busy that can make it both a good thing that can drive achievement, and a bad thing that can have negative effects on one’s own well-being, writes Asther Bascuna-Creo.
BY Asther Bascuna-Creo
When I was young I was fascinated how the hot weather during the summer months in tropical Philippines would bring out a line of ants going across my mother’s well-polished floor. Well-meaning adults around me, perhaps seeing my fascination with the little creatures, seized the opportunity to impart an important life lesson – about the value of being industrious, hardworking and keeping oneself busy at all times.
Clearly, busyness has its virtues. So I found it odd when my mother, who loved to decorate the walls with framed quotes, placed a rather unique one near the front door of the house. It boldly read: “A woman’s work is never done, nor thanked, nor paid for”. It wasn’t hard to get the message behind it, and I started to question whether my mother was in fact an overworked housewife trying to run a household with four young children. It seems there are different sides to being busy that can make it both a good thing that can drive achievement, and a bad thing that can have negative effects on one’s own well-being.
I was able to realise the full impact of busyness when I myself became a mother and started to raise my kids in another country. My husband and I moved our family to Australia, where we were faced with the pressure of raising our family, making a living and creating a home. This made us busy. With the added self-imposed pressure of trying to establish our ‘worth’ in our new land, we became extremely busy.
There’s nothing like a voice in your head and the pressure to prove your worth that keeps you moving at treadmill pace. That voice drives you to always strive to be perfect, to never accommodate for any possibility of mistakes and to always want to control every aspect of life to make sure everything goes smoothly and as planned. There was no space for trusting God and letting him do his wondrous works.
All that busyness also kills another thing – the capability to marvel and be in awe of the small things. How many times did I miss the sunrise from my kitchen window because I was so engrossed tackling the previous night’s dirty dishes? How many rose buds have I failed to notice because I was more focused on pulling out the weeds which I felt disgraced my suburban garden? How many connections with work mates did I forego because I was so adamant in tackling my work list? How many bedtime stories have I missed reading to small children because I was in a hurry to get back to the computer?
In Luke 10:38-42, how much did Martha miss because she kept herself busy in the kitchen while Mary sat at the foot of the Lord to listen to his words?
With the grace of God I came across the words of Benedictine oblate Christine Valters Paintner at the pinnacle of my busyness. Christine wrote of sacred rhythms for creative renewal – that to fully live we must embrace each moment in our lives and accept the lessons learnt from the wisdom of the seasons; just as there is a time for awakening, so too is there a time for creating and a time to “retreat and nourish ourselves”.
Much like the different seasons in nature, so too do our lives go through different stages of growth: the new possibilities brought by spring, the fullness of summer, the release and surrender during autumn, and the restoration and incubation of winter. We have milestones in our lives, seasons in the year, and moments in the day where we go through the full cycle of new possibilities, fullness, surrender and rest.
It began to make sense to me that there is a balance to everything – and that rest is an important part of the full cycle. This is a refreshing alternative to the mindset of ever constant production that afflicts our busy world. Our constant pressure to do something, create something, prove our worth makes us neglect the time for rest and the regrowth that happens during fallow times. Always in a hurry, always running, always ticking things off a long list, always in full production mode, like well-oiled machines in a factory line. No time to slow down and fully experience and learn from each moment.
In these modern times of busyness let us redefine the parameters we use to define success. Is it the accumulation of material goods that keeps us working till late to be able to pay our bills? Is it the fancy title with the corner office that comes with long hours away from our family? Or is it about having all or none of these and making it work for ourselves and our family, but with greater awareness and focus on our relationship with others as well as with ourselves?