Here is an extract from an email I received the other day. It raises a really good point.
I read about your book and the notbusy idea for Lent and am hugely attracted to it for many of the reasons you list on the website about how busyness eats away at us. I’ve been really conscious for example of how having a smartphone for the last three months has changed how I live, having access to the internet, email, twitter at all times … how much I love it, but also how profoundly distracting it is.
The reason I wanted to contact you thought was I don’t feel I can with integrity put ‘I’m not busy’ on my twitter profile, or wear the wristband – I feel I am busy and to say otherwise simply wouldn’t be true! So this is why I wanted to contact you, because I think you have a very important message and guidance to give, but I’m not sure if I can ‘sign up’ and say ‘I’m not busy’.
They also added: I don’t feel called to give anything up, but just to find a way to live well, in a more grounded way, with the busyness, or fullness of life.
My answer? Essentially I see ‘busyness’ not as a state of productive effectiveness conducive to a personal or spiritual flourishing, but as continuous state of semi-panic. It is for this reason that I am comfortable with people who have a lot to do putting on the wristband. Indeed I am wearing one myself and sporting a ‘twibbon’ and I have plenty on my plate. But I am not thinking that really and truly there is just TOO MUCH TO DO.
The wristband, as I see it, is only secondarily a statement to others. It is primarily a statement to me. Whenever I catch a glimpse of it I think, ‘take care,’ ‘moderate your pace,’ ‘keep things calm,’ ‘make sure you don’t rush past someone you should speak to,’ and most importantly, ‘give people time’.
These are messages to the busy-busy me. In the language of my little eBook they are my effort to keep busy only in the old style and to avoid the ‘busyness syndrome’ which involves a craving for activity and distraction and the fear of waiting, silence and the sound of a ticking clock.
Finally, are ‘busyness’ and ‘fullness of life’ the same thing? They can be. But for many the word ‘busy’ does not code ‘fullness of life’ but ‘out of control life’. So while the word can be okay, it can also be toxic. And it is for that reason that I hope that more and more people, including my correspondent, are able to become #NOTBUSY while remaining fully alive. Wearing the wristband is not really important, but I have found that it does help me.