The moment you awake it begins: meals to prepare, children to dress, emails to return and a to-do list that never ends. There are possibly countless words to define this state of frenzy, yet the word “busy” seems to fit perfectly.
In a recent conversation with a close friend who is also a mother to small children, we spent at least an hour comparing our daily overwhelming schedules. In these moments, “busy” feels like some strange form of adult success — or at least some stand-in for productivity. I felt exhausted after our talk, and was forced to remind myself that being “busy” was never a life goal. I realized that “busy” is simply a state of mind —a state that often causes stress, low energy and unhappiness. I needed to redefine my definition of success and this hectic path I willingly accepted as normal. There would be no shiny gold award for most overwhelmed and worked. At the end of our lives, we will all be the same amount of awesome dust.
I asked myself: how much joy was I bringing into my life and what efforts if any was I taking to actually enjoy the sheer blessing of being alive? I was confident that life should be filled with more than exhaustion and I quietly reassured myself that I am here to build relationships, experience life, go places, create things, laugh often and help others. Admittedly, it’s difficult to exist in a state of “busy”, while balancing family and learning to consistently nurture my well-being. This complexity has shown me the importance of taking time to outline and revisit values and ways of being that I consider to be most important to my personal growth. Is it having calm mornings? Is it learning the art of saying saying “no?” Or is it practicing better forms of self care? Particularly for mothers, we must remember that just because we can doesn’t mean we should, the key cause of “busy” is simply trying to accomplish too much.
It’s easy to pack the weekends with errands, household cleaning, social activities, schoolwork, and more. We must remember that weekend time is sacred. In fact, time in general is something we cannot get back. And what better way to spend one’s time than by staring lovingly into the eyes of your spouse? Sharing a laugh with your children? Reflecting on the blessings bestowed upon us by our Creator? While productivity is certainly important, we must remember that our bodies have rights over us — this means that we must not labor without taking time to rejuvenate and restore ourselves.
While spending the entire weekend in a hammock with a favorite book is unrealistic for most, it’s important to remember that rest and relaxation are essential to problem solving, and spiritual balance. Slowing down and doing less are easier said than done, and they require a radical shift for most of us. It requires that we distinguish our inner life from our outward productivity. Slowing down and pausing, especially when your plate is full, is like using a secret weapon. In many cases, it can feel counterintuitive to how we think we should respond when there’s so much to do, but it is the only way to navigate this “busy” world in a sustainable fashion. Therefore, I challenge us to remind ourselves daily, that sometimes slower is better. The idea that the quality of our lives, our well-being, our happiness, and our sense of joy and fulfillment are enhanced when we do less, not more, is a radical departure from social norms.
Yet, conversely, we are all too familiar with the stress and exhaustion we create for ourselves when we’re over-scheduled and over “busy” because we’ve said “yes” one too many times. What simplicity looks like for each of us will be different, whether that’s living a pared-down lifestyle, or taking on fewer obligations. Perhaps by doing and having less, we can open ourselves up to experiencing and feeling more.
Rashida James-Saadiya is an Oakland based writer, visual artist and cultural educator. Her work addresses otherness, aesthetics and the complexities of womanhood in America. In addition, she is a founding member and co-editor of Voyages, a quarterly online journal exploring the complexities of Africana Arts and Culture, through progressive literature, and creative thinking.