When friends ask how things are going, I often reply, “Busy but good.” The truth is, though, I hate being busy. Back when I had only one tiny human in my life, I started reading a lot of minimalist and intentional living material. The principles resonated with me; simple did seem better! I pared down my closet, limited my schedule, and basked in the empty space.
Yet here I am four years later, with two kids, feeling hostage to my calendar and to-do list again. Many times I have caught myself wallowing in a pool of overwhelm and stress because of everything I have to do. Here’s the thing, though: I am choosing to be busy. The idea that I have to do things is a myth. Here are some of my brain’s favorite have-to’s.
I have to take my son to his therapy sessions each week.
Not true. I choose to because I believe those therapies are helping him develop important life skills and I want to be the kind of mom who gives my kid the best resources I can. This could apply to pretty much anything with my kids’ schedules.
I have to make dinner.
False. The truth is that I choose to make dinner because I want to feed my family and do not want to spend our money on eating out every night.
I have to sleep.
Sure, our bodies technically need some sleep. But any newborn mama will tell you that those boundaries can be pushed. That’s what caffeine is for, right? However, in the absence of a newborn baby, I choose to go to bed each night because I feel better when I sleep.
So why does it matter? Who really cares if we “have” to do something or if we “choose” to do something? Here’s why it matters to me. When my brain says I have to, I start playing the victim. I don’t feel in control of my life, and I just wait for things to be over with. When my brain says I choose to, I feel like I hold all the power, like I’m capable of controlling my thoughts and emotions in each situation, busy or not. In other words, whatever I’m choosing, I own it. It also helps me to know the reasons for my choices (see above). If I don’t like my reasons, I can own changing them.
There are times when I like the reasons, but my choices still lead to that dreaded state of busy-ness. When this happens, I tend to head down one of two paths: resisting the crazy or leaning into it. Resisting is definitely more painful. Because no matter how many times I wish I wasn’t busy, I’m still busy. Leaning into it requires more careful thinking, but I find it to be well worth the effort. Here are some thoughts that work for me when I’m trying to lean into being busy:
This is the part where things are crazy and that’s OK.
I can figure this out.
This is not a problem.
The important things will get done.
Make no mistake, friends. I’m still a big fan of minimalism, essentialism, and intentional living. If I can simplify, I do. I’m just starting to learn that there will be times when I choose to be busy, and that’s OK too. The moral of the story: do not be hostage to the “have-to’s.” We are already making choices; now it’s time to own them.