How are you?
I’m asked this at least a few times a day by people ranging from the letter carrier to the grocery store clerk.
I’ll tell you how I am. I’m BUSY.
It’s a popular response. All of us are, perpetually, busy. We often make vague references to the day when we won’t be so busy. We might allude to the upcoming vacation during which we plan to do nothing but read and snooze. In the meantime, we’re…busy.
I’m not entirely sure when we became so busy. Perhaps it was around the time Betty Crocker decided to market a “just add water and stir” cake mix in 1947. In order to convince us that we needed this miracle of chemistry, the marketers sold us the notion that we were far too busy to bake a cake from scratch. They didn’t try to convince us that we were lousy bakers, which might have been far more accurate…at least in my family. But rather that we simply didn’t have time to measure and mix. It’s a marketing gimmick that was so effective, so ingenious, it’s been used ever since to sell everything from bathtub cleaner to heat-and-serve lasagna.
And of course, all these timesaving products come with a price tag, generally a heftier one than the made-from-scratch version. Which makes me wonder if part of the reason we’re so busy is that we have to work so long to earn enough money to pay for the time-savers.
But we don’t just pay for our busy-ness at the cash register, but with our mental health. There’s a difference between a full life and a busy one. A full life leaves us feeling satiated — fed from within.
A busy life does exactly the opposite. It depletes us. If we feel anything at all, it’s often an emptiness. And when we catch a glimpse of that emptiness, we’re so frightened by it that we rush to fill it. Often with more stuff.
Busy-ness simply masks the hunger in our lives. Not for more, but for better. Not for a full calendar but for a full life.
Only you can answer what a full life looks like to you. But I doubt it includes microwave dinners and a new living room set.
Yep, I’m busy. But not too busy to realize when I’m being sold a lifestyle that banks on my being too busy to stop and actually think about what I’m buying. Or being sold.