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.