For awhile now I’ve been trying to work on my language choice around scheduling and obligations. I’ve been trying to avoid phrasing like “I’m too busy” and “I don’t have time” when responding to requests for my assistance or time. I’m also trying to just avoid using similar explanations as reasons for error and as general complaint statuses. “I’m sorry I forgot! I’m just so busy!” or “I’m sorry I bailed on you, I’m just so tired.” And finally, I’m trying to avoid the default responses to, “How are you?” where I just talk about being tired and busy.
Well, first of all, a long time ago I became very bothered by the “I don’t have time” response when I would seek out volunteers to help me with things in my oldest child’s musical theater program. It bugged me because I didn’t have time either – but I was making the time. I really hated the implication that – because I was volunteering – meant that somehow I had more time than anyone else. I most definitely did NOT. I was working full time and had two other small kids at home.
But I also found myself just kind casually mentioning how busy I was when there was just casual conversation going on and I really hated being that person who was kinda bragging about being busy. Or something. Whatever I was doing, I didn’t like it.
So, I’m trying to watch my language in several different ways.
“That’s not a priority for me right now.” This is the basic response I start with when I can’t help someone with something they’ve asked me about. Now, this is a REALLY HARD RESPONSE TO USE because – well – it’s the truth. None of us are too busy for things that are high on our priority list. This phrasing is VERY honest. Unfortunately, it’s also kinda harsh so I often add a humorous note if I can. Like, “Although, my kids really wish I was more like you and would prioritize volunteering for school things above binge-watching British baking shows.” Or if it’s something serious (like when someone told me I should join Moms Demand Action) I’ll try to offer something I can do. Like, “I can’t prioritize joining your group right now but I can share out any new-member meetings you all have! Just let me know!”
Here’s the thing: People are still going to badmouth you behind your back if you are not joining or helping with the thing they want you to join or help with. This is something I have come to accept and I try to remind myself that I can’t make everyone happy. And people who know me and love me trust me that whatever my decision making was to prioritize things was probably made with my mental health and my family in mind. So I need to just not worry about the people who are talking about me negatively behind my back.
There are always going to be people who prioritize X higher than you do. I know people who never go out socializing with their friends because that’s lower priority than time with their family. I know people who spend more time with friends because they know they are more than just parents and need to nurture the parts of their soul that exist outside of the 18 years they have kids in their homes. I know people who prioritize cooking meals above watching TV but I also know people who prioritize watching TV over reading books. There’s always a priority list and to some people mine looks better but to others mine looks worse and I am trying my VERY BEST to learn to accept any negative judgement from people who don’t approve of my priority list and I 100% refuse to judge anyone else for their priority list. YOU DO YOU. And if “YOU” is binge-watching 80s sitcoms and never volunteering your time to for anything? NO JUDGEMENT FROM ME. (Although, I might question your love of 80s sitcoms.)
I also do not want to be the person who constantly defaults to talking about how busy or tired I am. Or, let me rephrase that, I want to STOP BEING THAT PERSON. I become that person quite often and I DO NOT LIKE HER. She’s an easy person to be because we’re all tired and busy so it’s something A) everyone can relate to and B) that gets me a little of attention and sympathy AND I LIKE THAT. But when I think about the energy I want to put out into the universe? I do not want to be the girl who is always talking about how busy or tired she is.
(Even if she’s back and forth between two states several days out of every week.)
I just find it lazy conversation, to talk about how tired/busy I am and I’m really REALLY trying to not rely on that. I mean, WE ARE ALL TIRED AND BUSY. I don’t care if you sit at a desk all day or work a 12-hour medical shift in a hospital. I don’t care if you work from the home or work as a Mom in your home. I don’t care if you travel across the world or if you commute half of a mile. WE ARE ALL TIRED AND BUSY. That is just the nature of our brains, to feel tired and busy. There are always things we know we should be doing and they are in battle with things we want to be doing and so that – inherently – makes us feel busy. And I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired at least some of the time.
So, instead, I’m really trying to do small-talk without relying on the tired/busy narrative. And I’m also trying to not one-up people who might be talking about how tired/busy they are. WHY DO I FEEL COMPELLED TO DO THAT? I especially do it with my husband. He’ll say, “I’m tired,” and I’ll be like, “I HAVE BEEN TIRED FOR 25 YEARS.” I mean, JEEZUS Kim.
In a perfect world the words “tired” and “busy” would be permanently removed from my vocabulary list. I would be more creative with my small-talk and more honest with my responses to requests for time or points of criticism. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying!
Let’s be honest. I’d have more time to learn better responses and conversation points if I wasn’t so tired and busy all the time.