“Busy is back,” the news blared. “Mask mandates are over. Airports are jammed.
Planes are packed. Billionaires are going to space. People are partying like it’s the ‘20s.”
Wow. As I heard all that this week, I could feel my anxiety rise.
Then the next story blared, “Vaccination rates are plummeting. People are stressed about returning to work. Some are refusing to even return at all.”
“We are,” the anchor said, “in uncharted territory.”
That, my friends, is an understatement. I have to admit: I don’t want busy to be back. I want to move forward at a different pace. I want to honor how this past year changed me and how it impacted every part of my life, because it did.
When I look ahead, busy is the last thing I want. In fact, busy is the last thing I think any of us need. When we live, talk, text, and work from a busy place, no one gets the best version of us. I say this from personal experience as a recovering busy addict. I was busy, and busy was me. I used to hop on a cross-country plane every week without even thinking about it. My bag was always packed, and my schedule barely made time for me to eat, much less regulate or pace myself. I was a poster person for busy. No one did that to me. I did that to myself.
The truth is that we all make ourselves busy for a whole host of reasons. I grew up with busy parents, so I thought this was to be emulated and admired. I never heard people talking about pacing themselves, slowing down, or taking a breath so that they could be strategic about what they were doing. I never heard people talk about needing time to rest. I looked at people who weren’t busy and wondered, “What are they doing with all their time?” I judged them and asked, “Could they possibly be getting anything done?”
I was so wrong about busy, and if this past year has taught me anything, it’s that resting and slowing down isn’t something to fear. It’s something to cultivate, to embrace, and to relish. I don’t care if you are in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, or beyond (and God love you, if you are beyond). What I’ve learned is that rushing or running through your life is a red flag, or at least it was for me.
When you slow down or are forced to do so by a pandemic, you come face to face with what is. When you sit quietly with yourself and only yourself, everything that you covered up or ran away from comes to the surface. All of a sudden you see and feel things you never saw or had the time or courage to see or feel before. You experience feelings you never knew you had, and you see your life in a Whole New Way. That can be both really good and really scary.
Covid forced all of us to adjust. Those who were on the front lines adjusted to a whole new reality, and those who were essential workers did as well. Those who were viewed as vulnerable had to do a mind shift. People who lost jobs had to dig down and dig deep. Parents and couples had to get to know each other in a whole new way. Even our country has changed. It’s facing a deep internal review of its own, and there are some who are cautioning about its demise. Many are cautioning about the demise of our cherished democracy and urging us all to fight against that happening on our watch. Some want things to be the way they once were, while others want to push the fast forward button. Some want it to amend its history and rewrite what’s been left out to help fix and heal us so that we can move forward toward a new tomorrow. It’s a lot.
People are in a hurry, I get it, but that’s when things can get sloppy. Just ask anyone who has sent out an e-mail or a text when they were in a hurry. Ask any parent who has tried parenting from a place of stress. Ask any boss who has tried leading from a place of exhaustion. Ask any doctor who has tried operating from a place of busy. Ask any political leader who has spoken off the cuff without giving themselves a moment to reflect.
So as the news blares “busy is back!”, I’m urging you to go slow and have the strength to resist that call to be rushed back into the fray. Resist being over scheduled. Resist being told you can’t get anything done if you don’t jump into the rat race again and compete 24/7. Think about taking the time to reimagine and redesign your life. If not now, when?
You have the strength to create a life that works for you: the you that you’ve become, not the you from before. You have the strength to build a life that works for your family, your company, and your health (just take a page from tennis great Naomi Osaka, who stood up for her mental health).
Several years ago I distinctly remember telling my friend Martha Beck (see her original essay below on how to redesign your life post-Covid) about all that I was doing and how I was such in a hurry with it all. She asked me one of those questions that stops you dead in your tracks: “Where are you going, Maria?! Where are you in a hurry to get to?”
Full disclosure: I had no idea.
So today I start my days with what I call “holy time.” It’s my quiet time within myself, with God, and sometimes with the family dog. I get up way earlier than I ever did before so that I can ease into my day. I go slow. I resist the phone. I resist jumping in.
I work hard to schedule less these days. I try to refrain from judging myself, comparing myself, or berating myself. Today I work strategically. I work with intention. I know why I’m doing what I’m doing (and to be honest: I’m still doing too much, but I’m taking things one day at a time).
I’m leaving room for the unexpected. I’m leaving room to be astonished (thank you to Mary Oliver for teaching me that). I’m leaving space to breathe, to rest, to notice, and to be available.
This past year, I streamlined and simplified. I cleaned up and cleared out everything that didn’t bring me joy or didn’t have a purpose (see Mitra Rahbar’s beautiful piece below on having the courage to throw out your old shoes, which hold old pain and old stories).
This past year, I stared head-on into the mirror and reacquainted myself with the woman looking back at me. I let my age sink in. I gave my aloneness respect. I honored my path, and I patted myself on the back for making it here to where I am now.
I embraced the reality that my children are grown and they have lives of their own. They are good, thank God, and I am free in a way I never have been before.
This is a new time in my life, the life of those I love, and in our country. I want to go slow. I want to notice. I want to honor all the hats I wear and put on the right one for the right moment. (You can read more about the "hats" we wear in Ed Mylett's original piece below.) I want to listen to how this time has changed others. I want to remember who I am today and make room for who I am going to become. That’s right. I’m a work in progress. I am unfolding.
Today I can honestly say that I am the best version of myself I have ever been. I still believe I can change the world for the better. I still believe I can find a cure for Alzheimer’s. I still believe that media can be a force for good, and that The Sunday Paper is a great example of that. I’m becoming an entrepreneur. (Yes, I am. More on that soon.) I’m learning the ropes of grand-parenting. My life is blessed. My life is ever-changing, and I’m open to that. That in and of itself is a change.
I can say that now and feel that now because I slowed down enough to notice everything. And guess what? It didn’t cost me my productivity and it’s helped diminish my overwhelm.
So try to slow down yourself if you haven’t already. Tell those who ask why you haven't responded immediately to an email “I’m practicing intentional living and working. Join me.” Make room and make space for the new. Open your heart, open your mind, and look in the mirror. Be kind. Astonish yourself with how you have changed, what you have survived, and with where you are going. Then smile.
I’ll see you in The Open Field.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, please let me honor who I’ve been and who I’ve become. Let me also honor who I’m becoming and know that every day is a chance to slow down and live my life with more intention and meaning. Amen.
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