“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~ Socrates
I wore busy like a badge of honor. Up until about ten years ago, my overpacked schedule and lopsided priorities seemed normal. I didn’t think it could be any other way. I believed the “good life” would come through my accomplishments, amazing organization skills, and the “yes” answers I gave to any and every request.
An unacknowledged lie drove me to pursue something I already possessed, but didn’t know was mine - my own worth. Like a woman bounding down a street lined with potholes, I raced past empty places within me, hoping to outrun inadequacy, loneliness, and fear.
I held myself to unbelievable standards. Getting it right was my way of keeping quiet inner pain at bay. My perfectionistic performance brought accolades I craved. Your approval shored up my shaky sense of self-worth.
I see all this clearly now, from my rear-view mirror. At the time, however, I didn’t stop to feel or evaluate how I was living. I merely kept running on empty. The people most precious to me often got the dregs of what I had left to give. Things were unmanageable, but that only meant I needed to try harder, do better, and plan more effectively.
The Busyness of Motherhood
I went from being an overwhelmed graduate student with a full-time job, to living the hectic lifestyle of an entrepreneurial mom with an infant and a foster child. My newborn son’s round-the-clock needs consumed me. I felt like I was constantly either nursing him or changing his diapers, always hoping to somehow squeeze in a much-needed shower.
Meanwhile, our foster daughter had demanding emotional needs and a visitation schedule with her biological parents to maintain. My sporadic spiritual nourishment during this season mostly came from the occasional verse I managed to grasp as I cruised through the kitchen to read from the Bible I kept propped open on the cookbook stand.
The early years of motherhood pull a new mom in numerous directions. My overdeveloped sense of responsibility made me believe I could take on fostering, leading church events, and managing my part time job while maintaining a calm center.
The First Brake Pedal
When my oldest son was only two years old, a group of women decided they wanted to do a summer Bible Study together and invited me to co-lead them. They chose the study we would pursue together. To my astonishment, I found myself preparing lessons centered around “Beating Busyness” by NavPress.
This short, eight-session study came power-packed with wisdom. For a girl who barely ever said “no,” the irony of leading this particular subject was not lost on me. Dutifully, I determined to engage with the material for the sake of the women in this group. God has His ways of leading us to our most needed lessons, even if He has to arrange for us to teach the very thing we need to learn.
One of the most poignant and lasting takeaways for me from this study was the chapter called “Why Am I So Busy?” I’ll tell you right now, this was a question I actually had never really paused to entertain.
The term FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) hadn’t been popularized yet, so many of us do-gooders and yes-girls simply went on burning ourselves out without ever asking ourselves why we were so busy or what we could do to make things different.
That study cracked through my veneer. God set my feet on the path of moving me from crazy-busy to a life lived with intention. Along the way He met me in those hollow places to bring healing as only He can.
As I grew towards sanity and wholeness, I started becoming aware of a trend in conversations between moms. The topic naturally drifted to a common feeling of overwhelm. It seems most of us assumed this simply came with the territory.
In fact, just this week a woman asked me what book I was writing. I told her about Slow Down, Mama! She said, “Who has time to slow down?” We both laughed. So many of us long to simplify our lives, yet feel trapped in our whirlwind of commitments and activities.
I think there are two types of busyness. On one hand we can be occupied with all the right things – full, yet content and sane. On the other hand, we can be overly busy. In this overwhelming busyness, we take on more than we ought. We also stay involved and say yes for all the wrong reasons. In the coming chapters we’re going to examine six of the biggest root causes of busyness.
My goal for myself, and for you, is to continue to choose lives full of purpose while minimizing the frenzied life that comes from overfilling.
The study we went through that summer asked hard questions. As we continued to look at various roots of our busyness, I squirmed with internal discomfort. It’s one thing to intellectually know you are busy. It’s entirely another to open the curtain to reveal what’s really driving the heart behind all the frenetic activity.
Many years later, while I was writing this book, I gave a rough copy of the first three chapters to another published writer I respect. What you hold in your hands today has multiple revisions due to the interaction I had with her. As she read through, she asked me what it felt like to live the overly busy lifestyle I used to live. I shared my heart.
Tears came as I remembered the pain of living so strung out and constantly depleted. I finally responded, “I wanted all this. I wanted everything I have gained by slowing down. I wanted to know I was worth loving for who I am; that I mattered.”
She sat back and smiled like a surgeon seeing the patient successfully come out from under anesthesia. Even this many years later, the pain of the life I was living is that raw to me.
You may not be in up to your neck, running yourself ragged while forgetting important events and commitments. Perhaps you aren’t missing the people and moments you most want to savor. Maybe you are just a little overextended or you feel the need to slow down to make more of your life. Much of what I am writing will apply to you even if you don’t suffer from the extremes of overextending yourself as I did.
I share my experience here to let you know I understand. I comprehend what life feels like when we are hopelessly busy. I have been taken from that place to an entirely new way of living. We don’t have to settle for the hamster wheel.
Before we look at the roots of our busyness, we need to spark our hearts and ignite our “why.” When you know the reason you want to slow down, you will be motivated to do what it takes to get there. Let’s start by talking about what matters most.
Make This Chapter Yours:
After reading Chapter One, what stands out that I want to remember?
Do I relate to any of the experiences Patty shared?
Are there changes I already feel inspired or motivated to make?
What support do I need to make or maintain these changes?