I used to be one of those people who wear busy-ness like a badge. I was constantly very busy, and I was sure to let everybody know it. But it wasn’t just a badge declaring my importance and indispensibleness (or, if we’re being real, trying to prove my worthiness to exist fueled by insecurity and lack of belief in my own inherent value), but it was also my armor, protecting me from expectations of anyone who might want more from me than I had to give.
Ah, those were the days. The days of overstuffing my plate and constant juggling until I burnt out from exhaustion or made myself sick and would be forced to take a break before starting the whole cycle over again. I don’t miss them.
I still have friends from those days who, when I hear from them, preface their e-mails with, “I know you’re really busy and I’m sorry to bother you, but…” I cringe and kind of want to cry every time I read that. It grieves me that I made people I care about feel like they can’t reach out to me, that I don’t have time to read or listen to them talk about how their lives are going, that I made them think my work, or whatever, was more important.
It’s been a while now since I decided to break up with busy, but it’s been a back-and-forth process, full of both progress and failures. It’s hard not to fall back into those old habits and become caught up in those old cycles. It takes a lot of mindfulness and intention and paying attention to what I’m allowing to use up my time and energy.
But I think this year, finally, something has shifted. And although my life is still very active, I no longer think of myself as being busy. I don’t even like to use that word. Instead, I simply think my life is full.
And it still amazes me how a simple shift in mindset can make all the difference.
What’s the difference between busy and full?
Busy is always running to catch up, to keep those balls in the air, to put out urgent fires. Busy is a response to felt needs, allowing other people to set your agenda and dictate how you spend your time. Busy is filling up every minute of your schedule, always on the move, no time to rest. Busy says look how important I am, how necessary, how needed. Busy is a way of staying distracted and numbing out to the things you’re afraid you’ll have to face if you slow down too much.
At least, that’s what busy was for me.
But full? Full has a limit. Full is satisfying. Full is a measure I get to decide.
Just like with eating, if you overdo it, you make yourself sick. But if you stop at the point where you feel full, you end up nourished and satisfied.
Having a full life means I do the things that are actually necessary but leave room for the “desserts” of doing the things that really matter to me, that nurture my soul and my people, that energize me and give me life.
A busy day might have meant getting started after breakfast, writing several thousand words on a book, cranking out a couple of articles and spending time on book marketing tasks until my brain stopped working and I couldn’t write another word.
A full day looks more like conversation over coffee with my husband, listening to a podcast while I cook and eat a healthy breakfast, doing some yoga or going for a walk or watering the garden or doing some housework, writing some pages in my journal or studying some scripture, and praying over my day before I even crack open my bullet journal to see what needs to be done. A full day might include writing an article (or a blog post) and then doing some editing if I’ve got time, and maybe taking a class or reading something educational before shutting down for the day by five to start winding down. A full day leaves room for unplanned conversations and helping my husband with his projects and stopping to watch deer or wild turkey out the kitchen window and taking time to drink my tea while it’s still hot.
And everything that needs to get done still gets done, and I get to realize that I’m not really all that important in the grand scheme of things, and that that’s a good thing, and it doesn’t mean I don’t have value or worth. And that, I think, is the key. Living life to the full and breaking up with busy hinges on realizing your worth and that you are not required to prove your value to anyone.
With all of that said, this has been a very full summer, and it’s shaping up to be an equally full fall. Here are some of the things that have been filling up my life lately:
To be clear, we are not homesteaders, but we aspire to be, and we’re doing what we can here on the property we’re renting to dip our toes in and learn what we can so we’ll be ready when we finally get our own place. Mostly this has involved watching a lot of homesteading channels on YouTube. We also planted a vegetable garden, which sadly isn’t going well, but at least it’s a learning experience. Learning to recognize and forage all the food that’s already growing wild on our property has also been an education. I’ve begun to experiment with fermenting by making my own apple cider vinegar, and I’ve been trying to rely less on the microwave and do more slow cooking. Learning how to make bread and how to can foods are on my homesteading skills bucket list, and I’m hoping to get around to those this fall, although we’ll have to buy a lot of equipment to start canning, so that one might wait until we actually manage to grow enough food to require canning.
Although we’re currently renting, we were given a great deal on the rent in exchange for maintaining the property and basically serving as caretakers. We have several acres to keep mowed and trimmed and we also agreed to paint the porches this summer (although Matt did all the painting — I just helped with the cleaning and prep work). It’s a big job made more complicated by the weird, rainy weather we’ve had all year, thanks to which we’re constantly having to scramble to mow before the next round of rain comes in and makes the grass grow like crazy so we can start all over again. I’ll spare you my rant on how I think keeping a lawn is sheer insanity and just say that I’m really ready for fall to settle in and kill all this grass already.
My freelance work has been holding steady at just the right amount, a fact for which I’m grateful, especially after such a long dry spell that spanned the end of last year and the start of this one. But I’m at full capacity without feeling overwhelmed. It’s not really leaving me time for creative writing, but that’s okay. I’m not really going to be able to get a daily writing rhythm going again until we get a break from the mowing, anyway. Hopefully, this fall and winter I’ll be able to get back into a morning writing routine and get another book cranked out.
With Deliverance of the Damned now available for pre-order, I’ve forced myself to move editing to the top of the priority list. It’s still happening in fits and starts, but it should be done in plenty of time for the November release.
Homesteading skills aren’t the only things I’ve been learning. I also recently completed a life coach training course. I’m still figuring out what to do with that and what it means for my career, but after struggling for a while with an unrealistic desire to go to grad school and get my counseling degree (you may or may not be surprised to learn that I’ve got a psych degree under my belt), it struck me that life coaching would not only be a more attainable goal, but one that also probably suits me better. I like that coaching focuses more on helping people come up with practical action steps to get unstuck and move forward. I’ve already been doing some business marketing coaching and really enjoying that part of my work. At any rate, I’ve got a lot of ideas, but a vision for what I’d want to accomplish and what a coaching practice looks like for me has yet to fully coalesce.
Doing things slow
Drying clothes on the line. Eschewing the microwave. Growing vegetables (or trying to). Sewing things by hand. Monotasking. Mindful breathing. Sitting down to drink my tea. Saving apple cores for more than a month to make ACV in a process that takes a whole ‘nother month. For someone who has always been all about finding the most efficient way to do things so that I could cram as many things as possible into each day, deliberately slowing down and taking my time with things has been a revelation. And when the days do get hectic and I feel like I’m scrambling to keep up, just pausing to drink that cup of tea is a restorative act of self care.
All the little things that matter so much
Morning coffee dates with my husband. Journaling to process my thoughts and complicated emotions. Playing and cuddling with my pets. Quick chats and long emails and touching base with online friends. Cooking healthy meals. Moving and stretching my body and remembering to breathe. Reading good books. Studying my Bible. Sitting on the porch swing and soaking up nature. Creative expression through crafting. Doing the little daily chores that keep our house clean and peaceful. Stopping to watch the wildlife. Making memories and cherishing our time here while it lasts. These are the things that fill me up and satisfy my soul.
Without these things, my life may be terribly busy, but it will never truly be full.