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B is for Busy

B is for Busy
Published in The Messenger 9.12.07
Does your nine-year-old need a daytimer? Does your preschooler need a personal assistant to keep up with his play dates, athletic endeavors and cultural enrichment classes? Do you have a mini refrigerator in the car for “meals on the run”? Do you fall in bed at night wondering where the evening went and why there are dirty dishes in the sink from a meal you don’t remember eating? Welcome to America. Land of the free and the busy.
I’ve been busy before. I didn’t like it. Nobody in my family liked it either. Some of you have more emotional stamina than I do. I’m not a nice person when I’m too busy. I’m a deeply-flawed individual in that when I get busy I say stupid, irrational stuff. Examples: “Hurry boys, just get some dirty socks out of the hamper and shake them.” “Look in the dryer for my car keys. Forget it, I found them in the fridge.” “Has anyone seen my organizational book?” “Would you boys just KEEP QUIET while I work on this speech about a loving family life?”
When I ask, “How are you?” people rarely say the standard, “We’re fine.” It’s usually, “We’re busy.” They sometimes say, “I guess you’re busy, too.” There’s a look of surprise when I say, “No. We’re not busy. I’ve been busy before and it really didn’t work for us.” I’m one of those women who can’t do “busy.” Yeah. I get grouchy and mean-spirited. It kills the romance in my life, too. I have to steer clear of “busy” like a diabetic steers clear of sugar.
I’m not trying to inflict a cure on those of you without the disease. But I figure some of you may be busy and not handling it so well. Maybe you feel trapped on a treadmill of endless obligations and commitments so that you’re doing a little more yelling and a little less sitting on the porch. One dear friend said that her most frequent words to her children were, “Hurry! Get your shoes on!” She didn’t want those words to be her legacy. Why should children be in a hurry so much of the time?
Now when people ask for my volunteerism, I ask myself this question, “How would participation in this activity affect my attitude and my family?” Can I participate in this activity or lead this committee with a joyful attitude or will it become a burden? I’ve started saying “no” more than “yes.” It’s become quite apparent that God can run the community and the universe without my constant input. This is both refreshing and humbling.
I am convinced that small children need time to play in the yard and use their imaginations. School is emotional and draining for my boys. Afternoons and evenings are needed down time. We have chosen not to enroll our boys in extra-curricular sports until they are quite a bit older and more mature. That may be the most controversial confession I make all year. We aren’t being judgmental; this is just a personal choice that works for us. All four of us have learned to cherish daily rest and relaxation as a valuable commodity worth protecting.
As an American family, busyness will always be a temptation for us. Endless obligations and opportunities will be crouching at our door and sometimes we’ll let too many of them in. I’ll return to losing my keys and my patience. When I do, remind me how great it is to sit on the porch with the love of my life and a cup of coffee. Remind me how fun it is to watch the boys run through the yard pretending to be pirates. Remind me that maybe the most exciting place I can take my family … is home.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. She can be reached by e-mail at

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