Over the weekend, Graham and I pulled out our calendars and looked at the next month in amazement. October is packed, you guys. If you include the dog (and we do), our immediate family has four birthdays this month. Whoa. After we wrapped our minds around the parties and visits, trips and practices, we pulled the lens back even further to look at the rest of 2017—we may never come up for air again. The last quarter of the year is my absolute favorite, but if I’m not careful, I’ll exchange the joy of birthdays, the awe of autumn colors, and the peace of Advent for the hustle of busyness, exhaustion and disconnection.
But I want to tell you that I AM careful not to make that deal. Because last year, just after the birth of my fourth child—a surprise gift that has infused our family with joy we didn’t know was possible—I knew I had to slow down. To enjoy my last baby. To be awed by all the things that passed my by as an anxious new mom the first time around, and an overwhelmed mom of multiples the second. To not miss the chaos of a house full of children, no matter how difficult it can be in the moment.
Only when I began to deliberately decelerate did I realize what a stranglehold busyness had on our family. “Busy” is a word I’ve used to bow out of social situations, phone calls, family obligations, and requests from my children. Busy has kept me up late, woken me in the middle of the night, stolen family dinners, damaged relationships, and malformed priorities. Busy is the armor I wear when I don’t want to deal with how I really feel: uncomfortable, defensive, and isolated.
In her book Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist writes “Who’s the boss, if not us? Who’s forcing us to live this way?. . . It can be hard to grasp the idea that we have some say over the size of our lives—that we have agency and authority and freedom to make them smaller or larger, heavier or lighter.”
For me, slowing down meant leaving a full-time job for more sustainable part-time hours, bowing out of leadership and volunteer roles I had long-held, and not signing my children up for fall sports. It meant limiting my hours on social media and spending more time with a book in my hand (I have read more novels and non-fiction books in the last six months than I have since college). It also meant penning handwritten notes to friends, going on dates with my husband, and looking my children in they eye when they asked something of me instead of providing my default distracted reply: “Just a minute.” Last week, I got on the floor with my 10-month-old and watched, uninterrupted, as she explored the world around her. It was wonder-ful.
Research professor and best-selling author Dr. Brené Brown says, “If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” Amen, sister.
This fall, if I find myself unable to see the trees change color because of the speed at which I am moving, I’m gonna free up some space.
If I go a week without holding my husband’s hand, I’m gonna free up some space.
If I can’t find joy over an upcoming holiday event because of the half dozen commitments already on the calendar, I’m gonna free up some space.
If I don’t have time to get on the floor with my babies before their childhood flashes by, I am sure gonna free up some space.
Can we make a commitment together this last quarter of the year, girlfriend? Let’s unseat the deity. Let’s unravel the stranglehold of busy. Let’s quit putting it on a pedestal and using it as an excuse to relinquish control over our choices, our schedules, and our joy. Will you join me?
You can you begin by changing this one small thing: The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, resist the urge to say, “Good. We’re so busy.” or “You know, just busy.” This one teeny, tiny adjustment in how you respond can make a difference in your mindset, your perspective, and your priorities.
My journey over the last year is proof that you can hit the reset button on your life. It may be a change noticeable to no one else, but I promise the freedom you’ll experience from lightening your load will be worth it.