June: What Busy Feels Like

I’m always busy. You probably are, too. We zip from project to project, destination to destination. We multi-task and feel guilty we can’t do three things at once instead of two. We put memo pads beside our beds in case we remember something else we need to do in the middle of the night. We keep magazines or mail to peruse in the bathroom. We brush our teeth while we’re devising our next contribution to the Word game we’re playing on our iPhones.

My life’s been like that. But June? June was a new leap forward. In June we sold our house, tried to buy another, failed, divided our belongings into three categories, rented a 10′ U-Haul, contracted with a moving company, then proceeded to let them pack and store the Florida stuff while we moved the NY stuff ourselves. Oh, and in between?  I wrote whenever I could, answered email and tried to blog. In the middle of this?  Did I forget to mention the knee surgery and physical therapy? Or all the retirement celebrations for my husband who completed 39 years of ministry?

So it’s been a crazy, busy time, which is why Southern Exposure lagged. And frankly, I paid the price. For two weeks after arriving in New York, I was so exhausted that lifting one foot to put in front of the other was a challenge with no reward. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to stare into space and remind myself why we made these changes. I wasn’t mourning. I was just, well, tired of being busy.

I’m delighted to say that two weeks of limited activity has done the trick. I’m looking forward to finishing my book and enjoying life again in between chapters. I’m looking forward to finding another permanent home, and just as much to not having a deadline to do so.

But really, it takes a month like June to remind me how important it is not to be busy.

There was a wonderful editorial piece in the New York Times on the last day of June, which was symbolic for me. Tim Kreider in The Busy Trap tells us that people aren’t busy because they have to be (those who really must be complain of exhaustion, not busyness) but because they’re responding to their own anxieties and fears. I love his final line, “Life is too short to be busy.”

Life really is too short to be busy, particularly for a writer. How can we write if we don’t spend at least half our time filling the well? But wait, isn’t that true for stay-at-home mom’s, too? How can they be patient, thoughtful parents if they’re so busy running their kids from place to place they don’t have time to listen to them?

And isn’t it true for doctors, who these days don’t have time to listen or ponder a difficult diagnosis? Or the lawyer who’s so busy preparing multiple briefs and keeping track of billable hours he/she loses sight of the human side of the legal equation?

What about you? How does your “busyness” keep you from moving to a more thoughtful, values-driven life? What keeps you away from the things that really matter? I plan to spend July asking myself that question. But not while I’m doing a million other things. That would surely defeat the purpose. Maybe I’ll find some quiet places to sit and simply think about what I can let go of. That would be revolutionary.

How about you?

If you haven’t commented to enter my 70 Book Giveaway, you have until July 31st. Everything you need to know is right here. I’m delighted to say the first winner of  a package of five books has been chosen and contacted. Congratulations Beverly Silvestre, whose comment was chosen by random.org. The next winner will be chosen tomorrow. If you’ve already entered, sit back and enjoy the summer breeze. You don’t need to be busy again. You’ve done your part.


  1. Becky in Georgia on July 3, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Wow! Love the quote, “Life is too short to be busy.” Thank you for a post to think about!

  2. Barbie K in NC on July 3, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Loved the quote as well as well… Finishing up Sunset Bridge, will need new books soon, hint hint wink wink! Thanks for the chance!

  3. Debbie Hearne on July 3, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Emilie, thank you for taking the time to write such a great blog! I don’t know how you have time to even think! Bless your heart (I mean that sincerely)! When I become too busy, I become overwhelmed to the point that I shut down and that’s not fun! Take care and concentrate on healing!

  4. Pat Pollock on July 3, 2012 at 8:09 am

    As a teacher, I can’t believe the first six weeks of “vacation” are gone already–and no quilting! I have been so busy finishing up the school year and preparing for the next school year that I haven’t had time to have fun. Thanks for the kick. I needed that!

    • Emilie Richards on July 3, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I can see this blog and NYT’s article hit home for many of us. I think my biggest problem is guilt, and Pat, you and I–and anyone else who suffers from this–just need to remind ourselves that we’re allowed to relax and enjoy this life. Particularly since we have a one-time shot at it. In fact, it’s our DUTY to have fun! (Whoops. . .)

  5. Beverly Silvestre on July 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing this article. This is a great reminder to make a decision to take time out, slow down and enjoy your friends and family.

  6. Susan on July 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you for these thoughts. We are working/packing for a 3 day,2 night river kayaking trip and it is very busy for that. We plan every detail. Most nights I think about sitting down but I want to just go to bed.My mind is busy there too as I’m drifting off to sleep. I have to force myself to stop, think and refocus. This confirms I need to do this more frequently & seek out moments jsut for this. “Life is to short..” I’ll bring this up at the next fireside late night chat session.

    • Emilie Richards on July 6, 2012 at 8:37 am

      It’s good advice that’s hard to follow. I’m trying, but with a book deadline in my future (not nearly as much fun as a kayaking trip, but equally taxing, I guess) I’m having trouble. I need more time just sitting and watching the world go by. I think we have to plan it. Does that defeat the purpose? Hoping not.

  7. Susan Roberts on July 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I always wondered what retirement would be like – how I coukd handle the transition from my busy life to a life with bothing to do. What a great surprise the last two years have been. I am just as busy now as i was before i retired but i am busy doing what i want to. Busy with my grandchildren, my volunter work , busy reading and traveling. Retirement isn’t a rest but its great fun

    • Emilie Richards on July 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      I hear from lots of retired people that they’re busier than ever. There are so many things we put off doing and hope to do later in our lives. I am so glad you’re enjoying your choices.

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