A New Curse Word

 relax your words,

We hear it all the time. Chances are we say it all the time.

I swear (hah!) it’s the curse of our era.

What’s up with you?

Busy

How’s work?

Busy

How are the kids?

Busy

What was your vacation like?

Busy

What’s next week like for you?

Busy

Ack!

We are busy, pulled in so many directions that we don’t have words powerful enough to describe how time starved we feel. Swamped, hectic, rushed, hurried, slammed, or crazy busy can’t come close.

I suspect that we aren’t busier, in terms of obligations using up our time, than someone our age might have been 100 years ago. Chances are those folks kept the house warm with coal shoveled into a furnace; worked long hours for poor pay in factories, mines, slaughterhouses or worse; traveled at low speeds to get where they were going; struggled to stay healthy in a population easily ravaged by flu, tuberculosis, polio, and other diseases; and put a lot of hands-on hours looking after their homes and families. Talk about busy.

But there’s something going on, because so many of us are constantly overwhelmed. I planned to have some handy studies to cite but the books I meant to consult, The Distraction Addiction and Time Warped were overdue before I’d gotten more than a few chapters in. (Partially the fault of more alluring library books like Someone, The Name of the WindAnd the Mountains Echoed.) And I was busy!

Since the sun’s magnetic field is about to flip, I’d be happy to blame our time hunger on a wavering magnetic sheet and extra cosmic rays but science tells us there’s not a noticeable effect.

Mostly, I’m tempted to point the finger at all those things fracturing our attention. I’m pretty sure that ample time for daydreaming and contemplation is essential to a sense of peace, no matter what’s going on in our lives.

Which gets me back to the curse word of our times, busy. I’ve decided that using it is a form of negative self-talk. So I’m not saying it anymore. It is banished from my vocabulary.

My friend Margaret is sure that our perception of time will slow down to a more manageable pace if we replace frantically busy words with words that describe a slower, more relaxed attitude. Maybe then our lives will slow down too. She suggests words like,

meander

amble

mosey

saunter

dawdle

You may be flinging yourself from store to store to get errands done. But consider describing it to yourself as strolling through stores, pondering some purchases, relaxing in check-out lines. A time-shift may just happen.

But give that attitude shift time, lots of room-to-stretch time.

no time, slow vocabulary, slow conversation, self-talk

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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98 Responses to A New Curse Word

  1. agtip says:

    Thank you for your curious verbiage. I intend to dawdle my way through the day. I get much more done when I go out in the yard and putter around. I have quite a number of unfinished projects out there. I go out and work a bit on this one or that one so that, ultimately, there will come a day when they are all done … if I take my time.

    • Putter! Forgot how much I adore that word. Here’s to more putterage in our lives.

    • Parris, I just moseyed over to your site. Sunk right into your writing style and the lure of your poems, particularly Viva La Revolucion and Pay Particular Attention. I want to live next door to you, lean over the garden fence to share vegetables, sit on the porch together chatting in the evenings. Why must you live so far away?

  2. Jeff Fike says:

    Busy is a word you use with people you don’t like. “What are you doing tomorrow” “I’m busy” is the answer you give when you don’t want anything to do with that individual tomorrow.

    My contention is that we really aren’t busy at all, we just simply are drawing boundaries with others in the form of “appearing busy” as that is more polite than saying, “I don’t want to spend tomorrow with you”

    • My frame of reference is people who are just juggling too much, feeling overwhelmed by how busy they are. But you have a really good point Jeff. Busy is also what we say when we’re avoiding people or tasks. So for those of us who feel chronically busy in every aspect of our lives, what are we avoiding?

  3. Lol. I used the word “mosey” the other day and my friends thought I had gone nuts. I will try along with you not to use THAT word as much. :)

  4. CCC says:

    If you’re reading this, you’re hardly busy.

  5. Kerry says:

    Laura, but now you’ve made me even *&%$-er by suggesting some great new books to add to my stack! ;) Beautifully instructional post, as always. Shared!

    • I’m awful that way Kerry. Let’s assume that sinking delightfully into a good book is another way of slowing down time. (My newest excuse!) Only problem? People see you reading and think you’re not b*sy, er, occupied, and would welcome interruption.

  6. jennpower says:

    Maybe the problem is that we all need to slow down. Take a minute or two to just relax, close our eyes, look at the world, have fun. I don’t think it’s the actual word itself, but we’re just so “rush-rush-rush-rush-rush” in society, it’s hard to keep up with everything, and if we do slow down, we feel like we’re missing something. (like that feeling when you’re off of work or school sick for a day or two). We don’t like taking days off because we’re worried we’ll miss something important.

    • You’re right Jen. I’m just skipping the word as a practice to help me live as mindfully as I hope to.

    • I definitely relate and also feel that even when I am doing something important like spending time with friends that I have to be making the most of that with the busyness of cooking for them or cleaning up the dishes! Learning how to simply sit still is difficult!

  7. I think we’re busier today than we have been in the past. I agree that the problems people faced a century ago were probably more physically demanding but I think technology, 24-hour news, the fight for business surivial have all added new pressures that our ancestors, and maybe even just our grandparents, never faced.

    The Internet exposes us to so many more options for things to do; increased wealth makes so many more of these options a possibility; social networking makes you feel inadequate when you read about the things your friends have done. In the competition for prestige amongst our friends and colleagues, we try and do more and more and make it look easier and easier while all the time just making ourselves busier and busier.

    You can say what you want about the length of journies many decades ago, but with no technology on the trains or in the houses, it made it a lot easier to calm down, relax and do nothing. I’m just searching for a way to meander through life myself.

    Nice post.

  8. such lovely words…i’ve thought of myself living either/or front/back brained…back is more relaxing and productive, for me.

  9. I, too, eschew “busy.” It’s taken on a negative connotation. It either implies that a person is occupied beyond their comfort zone or that they are trying their damnedest to get out of an invitation. What really slaps my sunburn, though, is society’s reverence for activity and action over thoughts and internal states of being. You gets social points for being busy, but how would they react if you responded, “Oh, I’ve been so swamped with happiness lately, I haven’t gotten around to returning any calls.”

    Try going a whole week only telling people how you FEEL instead of what you are DOING. It’ll bring your world into sharp focus in a hurry, for them and you. After all, life is what’s happening to you on the way to achieving your goals. If joy is the goal, your entire existence becomes one long success story.

    Gotta go: making fudge.

  10. wawoman says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I totally agree with you, Laura, and in fact wrote a post on exactly the same topic myself… Perhaps you’d consider having a read some time if you’re not too ****! http://wawomantoworld.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/all-that-bumbles-isnt-a-bee/

    • I was raised that way too, spending a lot of years relentlessly doing and if I couldn’t do, keeping my mind on a task. Exhausting! A friend from India tells me this is the big difference between east and west. In the west it’s all about doing doing doing, without valuing or even delving into the richness found in inner states. In the east, that richness is a priority while doing is much less so.

      Adore your post title, All That Bumbles Isn’t A Bess. Adore the insight that came to you on your walk. What a lovely post.

  11. yep, so true, the biggest curse word we all use…all the time…i hope we learn to give time some time and probably have some moments for us.
    well said. congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  12. Thank you for bringing to our collective attentions the problem of busyness. It seems silly that we must always be busy. What happened to relaxing every once in a while? We even seem to be busy when we’re on vacation!

  13. Celena Green says:

    I just thought about this the last time I took my daughter to the grocery store. I used to hate taking her (she’ll be 3 in December — that’s why), but then I stopped to wonder why. Because I feel sore & sweaty & irritable by the time I get home + I get in my car & it has no a/c. So then I realized I felt sore & sweaty because I was RUSHING. I rushed through the store, which didn’t give her time to adjust & kind of examine everything & I rushed getting the groceries into the car while keeping her entertained & not whining. I didn’t even need to be anywhere! I was just rushing for no reason. So I purposely took my time loading the groceries and talking to her & answering her BILLIONS of questions, even if it was the 3rd time doing so & I wasn’t quite so cranky or sweaty.

    I think we tell ourselves we have to move quickly even when it isn’t necessarily required. That’s no way to live! My husband tries to time his vacations so that it won’t be so inconvenient for the company & so he doesn’t miss anything. I vote just take the vacation and don’t worry about what was missed. That’s a ridiculous way to live :-)

  14. Or busy is someone whose having time for everyone ha ha ! Wonderful post! Thank you!

  15. Our student dean says that students like to tell each other how TIRED they are, because of the implication that they’ve been busy.

  16. Shana Rae says:

    It’s a meme we’ve all become infected with, as you say, shift your perception and stop using the word and it might just stop spreading, if people aren’t too b**y to pay attention!

  17. awax1217 says:

    Better busy than not busy. I still have got into the retirement mode.

  18. Shannon says:

    Yep. Nice piece and worthy of WP fresh pressed. Slow down, are the words I tell myself every day. “Busy” is a too-easy word to toss to someone as you pass them in the hallway at school, a quick and concise excuse for why you haven’t phoned a friend or dropped by Aunt Betty’s in months. It is INDEED a bad word, one which was borne of this digital world we now fully reside in. Slow media needs to come back in a bad way.

    Thanks for the healthy perspective. Perhaps I’ll go to Good Will and buy a $5 phone with a cord on it, and place it in front of a window with a hummingbird feeder, rocking chair waiting. Aunt Betty’s overdue for a nice long chat.

    • You’re right, “busy” should never mean we don’t have time for people. None of us will say at the end of our lives, boy I’m glad I was so busy.

      I can picture the rocker by the window with a hummingbird feeder. Hope you call Aunt Betty!

  19. Thank you for pointing this out! I will do my best to remove “busy” from my vocabulary. The reality is I am not busy at all. I’m trying to look busy because, if I am taking my time, it means that I am somehow ‘failing’ in pursuit of wealth, career, growth, or any other culturally inflicted ‘good.’ No more! :)

  20. To answer your question to Jeff (and us), “busy” is the new euphemism for “important.” Really…try subbing that word in every time you want to tell people how BUSY you are. It reinforces our sense, true or not, inflated or not, that we are utterly indispensable — to our kids/spouse/work/volunteer commitments. It’s also especially American, the horror of appearing “unproductive”.

    Slowing down is a lot healthier and I generally get a lot more pleasure, whenever possible, by doing less, slowly. It’s a big faux drama to be endlessly busy.

  21. stlluna7 says:

    Back in the 70s there was a song called ‘Cats in the Cradle’. The one lyric was like “we’ll have time later son, you know we’ll have good times then”.

  22. I tend to use ‘busy’ so much when talking to my friends. I’m guilty of simply texting back ‘busy’ instead of anything more detailed, even if I’m hard at work and don’t want to take the time to write something longer. I like your idea that it’s becoming a curse word. Congratulations on being FP :)

  23. Oh yeah! I love this. Refuse the label!
    I blogged about this a while back – when you have time (you’ll be very busy replying to all the feedback from being Freshly Pressed!), scroll down and read the quotes from “Resisting the Demon of Busyness” by Janet Ruffing. She nails it! Congrats on the FP!

    http://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/are-you-too-busy-to-be-happy/

  24. rhbblog says:

    Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    Pause for thought – if you’re not too b**y?

  25. andy1076 says:

    Dang, So I’ve been cursing all this time? even though I’ve actually BEEN busy? yipes! :O

  26. Danielle Averso says:

    I often find my days jam packed and too “busy” to stop and take a breath of fresh air. I find that when this happens, the days pass me by so fast that I don’t even have time to enjoy my life. When I do finally find down time, I then find errands or other tasks I can fill that time with to make it so called useful, thinking maybe if I get it done sooner, the more time I’ll have for myself tomorrow or the day I originally planned on getting it done. Wrong. As I keep moving things up on my list, each day stays busy. The suggestion of using words that would put a “slow paced” feeling to our day seems brilliant. Maybe then I would be able to check out the scenery around me instead of letting my mind race at a speed of one thousand.

    • You’re on to something Danielle. The only moments that feel as if we’re living them are those we pay attention to. Those are the moments we remember. Sometimes those moments are hard. A hospital waiting room, a final meal with a loved one who is leaving, an embarrassing mistake. But we’re fully in the experience. That’s one reason people travel, they’re jolted into being more aware in all their senses.

  27. nafihan says:

    sometime we must close eye for a while.. n think why i must busy.. becoz this call a life.. life must busy for a better life..:)

  28. davidatqcm says:

    Come to Tasmania. The Australians here speak English. Strangely they never say ‘busy’.
    Maybe its the climate, global warming or a time warp.
    Congrats on your FP

  29. Kerry P says:

    That was a wonderful article. I started it with the rushed intention of scanning through yet another blog hoping to find some interesting reading. I found myself actually slowing down as I pondered your words and considered your perspective. Wow! A “mental time-change” – it really is all relative isn’t it?

  30. I totally agree that it is a form of negative self talk. You summed up the use of the word perfectly! I’m looking forward to meandering my way through tomorrow :)

  31. petrakidd says:

    Does saying we are busy make us feel important I wonder? Love this post, it has brought up a subject that has long bothered me. I’d like a balance somewhere between too much to do and too little to do, to keep life interesting but not strained!

  32. Harsha MP says:

    Thank you for the post!!. Congrats on FP’d

  33. adetoroe787 says:

    nice words here

  34. Good, and funny, and correct. Then the cashier at the quick shop gas station is just coming down from her weekend high, ambles her fingers in slow motion from one button —– to the next. After a couple min. I figure I’m going to have a great time hanging out with the guys rock climbing, without the candy bar, and put it back on the shelf.

  35. lunachik4 says:

    Great post. Another word to add to your leisure list, used by my mother quite frequently: putzing. And now I also find myself putzing around the house…

  36. Great post! Being busy is definitely something which seems desirable these days. If you’re not busy, then you must be lazy! And being lazy is terrible, isn’t it?

    I could write more, but I promised myself an early night. It really has been a busy day! (Glad I took the time to read this, though!)

  37. This is a great post! Life is too short to be stressed out and always busy without taking time to consider what really matters! As we get older it seems that work tends to take priorty over things that are of actual importance. We must always remember that God, family, and friends, these are the things that actually should be cherished.Being busy is great, but make sure y our busy doing things of substance!

  38. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! LOVED your blog and that infernal “curse” word is in my daily life also *sigh*. I am going to reblog this because your words are very eloquent :-)

  39. Reblogged this on Blog Me This…. and commented:
    What is it????? I am going to try hard and not use that ______ word anymore! Thanks Laura…. :-)

  40. snakeshe says:

    i am always saying busy i might consider changing that =)

  41. hikmatj says:

    Cool post. Stumbled across ur blog with some similar posts I had, ur nice. Enjoyable reading.

  42. Even here in the south where we are supposedly slower than everyone else, we are still busy, busy, busy. I think our busyness is the cause of so much ADHD and general craziness. We need to dawdle a bit and just chill!

  43. These are great points made even better because I found them while I was meandering through WordPress! Thanks for posting!

  44. eca2ua says:

    Reblogged this on ECAupgrade.com and commented:
    Shake things up when chatting with peeps! Great info on the little things that in conversation that grow and snowball into our identity. Little things like being overwhelmed all the time tend to help form a negative self imagine and potentially self destructive habits. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  45. herschelian says:

    There is a wonderful short poem by WH Davies which sums up what we lose by always being busy:

    What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.
    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.
    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.
    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.
    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

  46. thespiritualrebel says:

    A new four letter word and one I was unaware had negative undertones, it seems as if in this society we compete to see who is the busiest as if that will determine who is the most important. I think it is an underlying call that we want to be of use, of service and instead of focusing on the big picture, being of use in the global community of mankind we fill our lives with busy tasks always feeling pushed for time and stressed. I’d say that stress from being busy is really the stress that we are aware there is something more important we could be doing or should be doing.
    I know that since I started listening to my soul/ spirit/ inner self/ higher self/ intuition, call it what you will. I am much less busy and far more productive.
    My look at the amount of times I have sworn in that short statement, I am becoming quite the potty mouth.

  47. Maria M says:

    I love your blog and I hate the word “busy”. Since climbing to the age of 50 I have slowly done less of the following: housekeeping (dust will always arrive so why worry about it?), watching tv (much more fun to read blogs and books) saying or feeling: I must or I have to, (now I ask why? and if I can’t answer it with a smile I don’t do it.) And guess what the world still goes around and now I have time to stop and talk to neighbours and above all laugh.

  48. Karl Drobnic says:

    I was so busy yesterday I had to cut my afternoon nap down to 30 minutes! Then I had to leave yoga class five minutes early because it occurred to me that I might have left the cover off the chocolate cake (Queen of Sheba, Julia Child’s recipe) I baked the night before, and the absolute worry was distracting me from the meditation exercise at the end of the yoga class. But when I got home, the cake was covered, so I cut a slice and then realized I needed a cup of tea to go with it. So sitting back having cake and tea and watching the bird feeder, I realized there were so many birds on it that I’d have to fill it again before nightfall or the little critters wouldn’t have anything for breakfast, and the worry would wake me up early and I wouldn’t be able to sleep in. It just went on and on and on.

  49. I feel calmer just having read this. You are so right!

  50. Pingback: Busy—I’m Not Alone | Days Of My Life

  51. I don’t mind making demands on my time. The word “busy” does seem to be a curse word now that you’ve said so. ^_^ Besides slowing time down, with phrases like pondering and meandering, what about phrases that suggest our time is put to use as we desire? Like creating our hopes and dreams instead of frantically chasing what we’re “supposed” to chase by whatever entity/perception it is we follow. What if we could also say, “I’m making an idea an reality” or “dancing through my projects.” Another reason busy can be bent to horrible usage; its so common we use it as a form of communication that doesn’t actually communicate. Thank you for your insightful post!

  52. Luckily, I was NOT too busy to sit around reading blogs this morning! Wee hoo!
    Also wrote about busy-ness yesterday: http://www.watchhatchfly.com
    Funny thing! Let’s see, today I’m going to linger here on the sofa…How’s linger?

  53. I’ve never looked at it that way, but it is a curse word! But we live in a world that if you are not busy all the time they will accuse you of being lazy, non productive, etc..

  54. biciporvida says:

    Have you ever read Carl Honore’s “In praise of slowness”? I read it about 2 years ago, after seeing his ironically fast paced TEDtalk about the book and research that went into it. This post could have been one I wrote in reply to that. It revealed my areas of fast and unaware. I have been commuting by bike more since, and got rid of facebook. Two wonderful changes in slowing down.

    It’s nice knowing that someone else refuses to use the word “busy”. I feel that it’s like a self fulfilling prophesy, based on the idea that when you think of things (positive or negative) you tend to float that way, and create a path in that light. Hence, I too see it as negative self talk. It’s like the umbrella that blocks the birds eye view below.

    Loved the post!

    Danielle

    • You are right. I never even thought of the Slow movement when writing this. I did read his book when it first came out, and largely looked at it in terms of parenting although, of course, it’s relevant to nearly everything we do. Love your analogy of the umbrella.

  55. Michael56j says:

    Great article. We were waiting, recently, for a group to vacate a room so that we could start our meeting. They had already run 10 minutes over when someone said, “I hate waiting.” Yet it was a good opportunity to fine-tune thoughts ready for our meeting. The enforced delay was either a curse or a blessing, depending on your point of view. Thanks for sharing this.

  56. Michael56j says:

    Reblogged this on A View of the World from Aberdare and commented:
    It’s a good idea to think about our point of view when it comes to our responsibilities.

  57. Very interesting! I’m never using the B-Word again!
    I just wrote something about how technology can take up so much of our time:

    http://thegirlwiththedaffodiltattoo.com/2013/10/12/kindle-vs-tablet/

    Gotta get off the computer! :)

  58. I say busy when I’m consumed by anything not directed toward my inner peace or just existing. I’m productive and living outside of those moments

  59. True story. The comprehensive story of our tumultuous, hyper-accelerated sphere of numbed, idealized collective consciousness. I like it. And your style. Will follow.

  60. Joanne says:

    This best describes how people in Hong Kong are like. They talk fast, walk fast, work fast… everything is fast. There is almost no time to rest except teatime and sleeping. Itˊs like stress is a part of their life.

  61. Stop the glorification of busy!

  62. tbree1 says:

    Fantastic article! Loved it! And its crazy how true that is!

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