The Busier the Better?

PlannerSomething has come up repeatedly in this week’s prayer. I wonder if it’s something that might resonate with you, too.

A bit of context: we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about presence in our Lenten small group. Are we present enough to those around us? Do we pause in our days to recognize God at work? Do we rush past the beauty of the world around us?

Last week, someone said something to the effect of: “We hold onto our busyness as a badge of honor.” And that stuck with me.

Because I am wonderfully guilty of exactly that.

So, this past week that statement has continued to rise up in my prayer. Yes, I say to myself. I do hold onto busyness as some marker of value, of contribution to society, of justification as to why I do this or don’t do that.

Right now I’m in grad school and I work a full time job and hang out with friends and spend time with my wife and my extended family. I write papers and bounce around ideas and write this blog. And at the end of the day—sometimes 9:30 PM, sometimes 2:30 AM—I fall asleep thinking, “Man, I earned this sleep.”

But what is that really pointing to? Sure, all these things are good things—we wouldn’t hang them on our busyness badge if they weren’t. Of course our busy days are full of work and volunteering and running from one coffee date to the next. That’s why busyness is a badge of honor: we’re so busy doing good. And that’s how we earn our good night sleep; that’s how we earn our place among our friends and colleagues and society.

And how guilty I feel when I’m not busy. There must be something I should be doing. Those days before grad school—surely, that was a time—I felt so incomplete; I needed to be more. So many people around me juggled this and that; why shouldn’t I? I must be lesser; I must not measure up to their impeccable time management skills, their desire to give so much of themselves.

Is that a healthy way of proceeding? Perhaps not.

But my week of reflection has posed a new question: what if instead of our badge of honor hinging on being busy, it lifted up exactly the opposite? When friends, family and colleagues ask after your schedule, instead of saying, “I’m so busy,” and feeling some odd sense of satisfaction, what if the response was, “I am wide open; my schedule is clear.”

Does that sound weird to anyone else? Does that not inflict some sense of guilt? I know it does in me, and so perhaps that points to an important challenge.

I’d like to say these last few days of Lent will be an opportunity to tackle that challenge head-on, but I’ll be quite honest: I’m just too busy. But I will say this: I’ll keep that challenge in mind as I continue to process all that my Lenten prayer has revealed.

And I wonder if you, too, will recall your own Lenten challenges as we look ahead to the days of Easter.

 

Eric Clayton

Eric Clayton works at Catholic Relief Services as part of the U.S. Church Engagement Division. He holds an MA in international media from American University and a BA in international studies and creative writing from Fairfield University. He currently lives in Baltimore with his wife and hedgehog.