Friday, September 24, 2010

Bizzy Schmizzy

Rachel Brady

The busiest time of my life was the winter of 2006. There was my day job in the research lab at NASA. I taught three fitness classes each week in the evenings. I was on a home-cooking kick and spent inordinate amounts of time making up advance menus and shopping lists each week, plus making those meals. I had 5- and 3- year-old daughters, and a newborn son. I was a nursing mom. (Anyone who questions why that last part matters has never been the exclusive food source for another human being.) That year was my first triathlon season too. I did everything I could to participate in group workouts with my tri training team. And, I was finishing my first novel.

I'm tired just thinking about 2006.

The thing is, at the time it didn't occur to me that I was busy. In fact, I've been living more or less the same lifestyle since then, just with a different mix of "stuff," and I didn't figure out I was busy until earlier this year.

I began to understand it when, each time I went to my fridge to add something to the calendar, some other thing was already written there. These weren't always my events, either. My kids are 10, 8, and 4 now and have busier social lives than I do. Birthday parties, lessons, sports . . . you know the deal.

I decided to wipe my calendar. While I was at it, I wiped theirs too.

I dropped a few fitness classes. Vowed to take a one-year break from races. Didn't sign the kids up for sports or music lessons. (Still encouraged birthday parties, though. Those are fun.) I started saying no to requests to go to events I didn't want to attend. That was hard at first but got easier with practice.

My hiatus from Busy has fundamentally changed who I am. It afforded me an opportunity to really evaluate what is important to me. Strangely, my days are still full. Just with different things. Folks often say that if you haven't worn something in a year, you obviously don't miss it and should donate it. I think this is true for all our Busy Tasks too. Not doing some things I used to do, and not missing them, has made it pretty clear what I need in my life and what I don't.

Don't get me wrong. I still swim, bike, and run. I just don't pay $80 to do it on a specified Saturday morning with a number pinned to my shirt. And I still teach those fitness classes, just way less often. My kids are back in sports. Sometimes one or more of them decides to take a season off. That's fine.

The other day I asked myself what was most important to me. What things am I doing when I'm happiest? When I feel like the best person I can be? When I feel calm, or strong, or just when I feel like me?

It's a short list: Engage my kids. Read. Exercise.

So these are the things I do. I can't fit them all in, all the time, but you can bet I'll be doing any one of these things before I bog myself down with useless tasks that are only disguised as important.

I recently read an article on my favorite website, ZenHabits. Leo Babauta summed it up better than I ever could, and I hope you'll take a look.

My wish for the Stiletto Faithful is that we each determine what is most important to us and design a life centered on these joys.


  1. This is oh so true! I didn't realize how BUSY I'd become until I lost my job in downturn. I'm now a happier, healthier retiree spending time with those important to me and doing what I love--reading, writing, and a little bit of volunteering.

  2. Rachel! Great post. I learned a very important word this year: NO. Oddly freeing. I say it for myself, my kids, my husband when life gets overcommitted. My question to you, is how you still do so much, write, raise kids, and look like a rock star pretty much every single day? Maggie

  3. I love this, Rachel. My 10 yr old is struggling and I'm going to use some of what you wrote about to help her figure out what things she does when she's happiest and when she feels like she's the best person she can be.

    I agree, taking a break from busy is a fantastic idea and way to re-ground yourself.

  4. Thanks for the comments, ladies. Maggie, I heart you for the rock star comment. <3 (That's my ascii heart.)

    I've been so un-busy this summer that I have not written much. I've journaled more, but haven't been in the novel. Writing is one part of my life I haven't figured out. Is it work or play? It feels like work, but doesn't pay the bills. So that means it must be play. But if that's true, then why do I feel guilty if I'm not doing it?

    This is my verbose way of saying I can't answer your question. :)

  5. Great post. When you have kids at home you can't help being busy. Looking back over the years I have no idea how I did what I did.

    Important to me now:

    Fun times with husband.
    Fun times with family. (Heading to a big family reunion in about an hour, can hardly wait.)
    Fun times with friends.
    Church and church friends
    And of course, writing.
    (Not in any particular order.)


  6. Great post, Rachel. And obviously something many of us think about -- I know I do.

  7. Rachel, making time for myself and the things I love is something I think about everyday. I thought having gone through breast cancer would make me calmer and more Zen. It hasn't. But it has made me realize I can't keep up such a frantic pace all the time anymore. I don't even have kids (well, I have three furry kids but they're so easy!). Still, my days are full from sun-up to sundown. I tell myself, "Just be sure you're doing things you love. Say 'no' to anything you truly don't want to do." Life is too short, and I want to spend more time writing, goofing off with my husband, taking care of myself, seeing friends and family. You're starting to figure these things out much earlier than I did! So good for you. You're way ahead of the game. :-)

  8. It's funny. 20 years ago, my girlfriends and I seemed to be in competition to see who could be busiest. We wrote in our Franklin Planners and compared notes on how many things we had on our plates, how late we got to bed, how tired we were, etc. Then we got married and had kids and really got busy. Still, we talked about how many events our kids had, how many lessons they took, and so on. The ultimate compliment was "How do you do it all?" Finally, I answered that question honestly. I did it all by doing it poorly and feeling guilty about it all the time. So now, like you, I'm seeing the beauty of doing less. Thanks for the inspiration, my Zen friend.

  9. Great post Rachel. A few years ago, someone told me only do what makes you happy and the word "no" is powerful, use it and you're life will never be the same.