Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oh, So There's the Line

Sometimes I think about people in that general sense of "people are weird" or whatever.  Everyone is different, we all have our quirks and our triggers for things that push us over the line from "Sure, I can deal with that" to "Nope, I'm done now".  I sort of started reflecting a bit on some of my own pet peeves, and on where my lines and boundaries fall and I realized that someone can easily shut down any hope of making progress with me with two simple words.  Turns out hearing "I'm busy" pushes me straight over that line of giving a shit about anything you have to say after that.  I think not only because it's an excuse for why you didn't do something, but beyond that it's a crap excuse.  It pushes the responsibility off of the person and places it firmly on the things that have left them so "busy".

In reality, everyone is busy.  Everyone has things that demand their time and everyone has an order of priorities.  If my life is exploding and I have a million presentations at work, plus a show that I'm working on, those things take priority in my life for a while and maybe replying to an e-mail from a friend, or calling my sister, or organizing a game night just don't make it to the list during the week.  But, I have to recognize that although I have stuff going on, that doesn't make replying to that e-mail, or giving my sister that phone call less important even if I can't get to it immediately.  Moreover, it doesn't mean that what I'm dealing with is more important than my sister needing to hear from me, or my friend really needing some advice in that e-mail.  My time is no more valuable than anyone else's, and I think that's something a lot of people don't recognize when they throw out comments like "I'm busy".  If you took the time out of your day to send me an e-mail, then you gave up your valuable time to connect with me and tossing out a comment like "Oh, I've been busy" then supposes that my time is more valuable than yours.  That I am somehow so important and my attentions are needed so much more elsewhere that I do not owe you the courtesy of giving you my time as you have given yours to me.  It's kind of bullshit.  It places the "busy" person into a place of self importance.  They are so important and what they are doing in their "busy" life is so much more important than everyone and everything else, that one simple word can erase any responsibility they had to those around them.  Now I have to forgive you for neglecting something you should have been doing because well....you're busy.  Obviously.  How selfish of me to want to be fit into that busy schedule.

This isn't to say that I'm not guilty of pushing things off when they're not top of the priority list.  I do it all the time.  The difference is that as soon as I have the opportunity to address the things that I have been putting off until a more convenient moment, I actually DO THAT.  I don't know if everyone does.  I think that a lot of people sit around and say they're busy and accept that it's enough.  I try to never say I'm busy when I talk to people.  If I've neglected getting back to someone, I try to say things like "I know I took forever to get back to this, I apologize.  I got caught up in show stuff, but now that I can take a minute to breathe, I wanted to check in", or "Hey, I know it's been a few days.  Haven't forgotten about calling you, I just haven't had a quiet moment to hop on the phone.  I will call you tomorrow".  I take responsibility for the negligence, and even if I offer up a reason for the gap in response time, I always put the responsibility on my own shoulders.  In the end, I'm the one who said that other people weren't top priority in this situation, so I am the one who has to own up to the failure of addressing things in a timely manner.  It's on me, and I make sure people know that.  And then, in future, I try to do better.  I try to change the pattern and not let people who are important to me fall by the wayside in the wake of other responsibilities.

The word "busy" gives people permission to take others for granted.  It gives them permission to not speak to friends for months at a time, or to not connect with family, or to neglect anyone they feel isn't a top priority.  Everyone will have to understand because, well.....busy.  Busy busy busy.  People begin to believe they're so utterly important in their own life that they can't see beyond that to what other, equally busy people, might need.  Or, what those people might be doing.  Maybe you're so wrapped up in your own self importance that you miss out on some really great things.  You might have a friend who learned piano and is participating in their first concert but you didn't know about it because you didn't answer their call because...busy.  Or you might know someone who is really interested in starting a book club and they want your insights and your participation but you couldn't participate because....busy.  And most of the time, we're not legitimately busy.  We find things to be "busy" with to feel important in our own small world.  If any one of us needed to find the time to do something that was outside of themselves, something that benefited someone else or something that embraced a friendship, they probably could.  Yes, schedules are hectic, and life is messy.  Sometimes you're not going to be able to meet someone for coffee on a whim, sometimes those things have to be scheduled, but I'd imagine that if prompted, everyone could find time to schedule them at some point.

So basically what I'm saying is that I don't buy that you're busy.  You're probably not more busy than me, or anyone else on the planet, and if you are, that still doesn't mean you have zero time to devote to people you care about, if you actually care about them.  The next time you mess up and you leave something lingering out there too long, or you choose not to take a call from a friend, don't tell them you've been busy.  Tell them the truth, own your negligence, and then do better.  You'd probably find you have a lot fewer people in your life who feel like you don't give a shit.


Anonymous said...

Good blog. I don't think anyone is ever too busy- you can always find at least 10 minutes of downtime in the day, it's just if you want to make that time. After reading this now I'm not gonna tell people on the phone that I was too busy, I'll just tell them I didn't want to talk to them, lol.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could edit comments- I meant good blog entry.

Becky W said...

I could not agree more, and I talk about this all the time--how much I loathe to hear "I'm busy." It's right up there with the complain-fest that transpires during conversation when one person says, "I'm soooo busy...." and lists off all the things going on, which usually results in a "busy competition" when each person one-ups the other to battle for the prize of "most busy." As such, when someone tells me "I'm busy," what I hear is, "I'm more important than you."

We bring our busy-ness upon ourselves. We sign up for most of the things going on in our lives--our work, our various activities, our family lives, etc. And we decide how to prioritize it. What I always say is, "If it is important to you, you'll find a way." You, Becky, see it is important to call your sister back, so you find time to call her, even if it's not immediately. What bothers me is when someone does not find that time, but blames it on "all the busy-ness" in their lives rather than owning up to the fact that they did not prioritize it. Just admit it--it isn't that important to you.

I try never to say "I'm busy." That's a lame excuse, and it sounds like, "I'm more important than you are and you aren't worth my time." Instead, I give it a timeline, like "Let's get together next week."