Monday, March 9, 2015

Banning Busy


I'm sure you've heard of the campaign to ban the word "bossy," right? I don't have hugely strong opinions on this movement as I was never called "bossy" as a child and was actually the exact opposite of bossy most of the time. I was the spindly little girl frozen to her mom's leg avoiding eye contact. But that's another story altogether. What I wanted to write about was a different "b" word that I recently declared would henceforth be banned in our home: busy.

I didn't really mean to take a two-week break from writing this blog but it happened because I was preoccupied. Preoccupied with my work, preoccupied with a lovely girls getaway with my mom, preoccupied with trip planning for Japan. I had other things going on that took center stage and I wasn't feeling particularly inspired to write and that's how it happened. I refuse to say that I was too busy. (Cringe.)

You see, I think that the word "busy" has lost its meaning. The truth is that we all have full lives. Even if we're not busy in the traditional sense--taking 5-minute showers and gulping down coffee and eating chopped salads on the go and sprinting from meeting to meeting--we're all busy in our own ways. Perhaps today's calendar isn't full but there are looming pressures or self-imposed deadlines. Maybe an emotional problem is consuming you and your brain is filled with thoughts that tug and don't let go. Maybe your attention is tied up with a big life change and you schedule in deep breaths and prayer in your free time. Maybe you really are running between meetings.

We could all claim busyness and we do, including me. But I'm calling myself out on it. As the daughter of a writer/editor I was taught from a young age that overused words and expressions quickly lose their value, and I for one don't want to be a user of empty meaningless words.

One of the worst things (I think) is when the "busy" card is used to explain away an unanswered text message or email. We live in the age of easy communication--it's never been simpler or more user-friendly to stay in touch, to craft a quick response to a friend or family member who asks a question or writes just to say hello. I can understand being too busy to send a letter in the mail but I refuse to believe that anyone is too busy to send a text! (They don't even require proper punctuation!)

All of this said, I try to be understanding when I am presented with the "b" word which for me mostly happens in my piano studio. A lot of my students are adults with jobs and families and are studying music purely for the joy it brings them, which is a rare and wonderful thing. I feel privileged to have these kinds of students and when they tell me they've been too busy to practice as much as they'd like I tell them it's ok and that we can sightread duets or listen to recordings or talk about music theory or work on scales.

It's not that I don't hold them to high musical standards because I do. But I'm a reasonable person and I recognize that having a two-year old and a husband and a full time job can be demanding. When musical enrichment, not Carnegie Hall, is the goal, I believe it's my job to be kind and to teach something valuable every single lesson, regardless of how much time was spent at the piano during the week. (My younger students don't get off quite so easily but amazingly, all of them do practice without me having to prod them.) (Prod I will if that ever changes.)

So what do you say--will you ban busy with me? If for nothing else than to sharpen our usage of the English language. Say you've been preoccupied! Active! Engrossed in the pleasures and demands of your life!

Anything but busy.

(And please, let's not say any of these things as an excuse for not replying to a text. Everyone has time to at least shoot off an emoji.)


  1. I know, I feel like this word contradicts all that you stand for! :)

  2. Great post, Kate. I'm with you on the ban!

  3. Agreed! Begone, "busy"! (and that article on punctuation totally explains my "heyyy"s !)

  4. Following your blog certainly enables one to remain grounded in how they construct their reality. It's a pleasant way of reminding oneself of how one can be creative with simplicity, and to simply be mindful.


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