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calendar - rectangleHow did you answer the last time someone asked you how you were? If you answered, “Busy,” you’re in good company.

It has become the standard thing to say. Even if you aren’t busy (which I doubt), you probably feel inclined to say you are anyway. Otherwise you must be a lazy good-for-nothing.

Apparently, Busy is the new Black.

We are all busy. So busy. So, so, so bizzzzzz-eeeee. Rhymes with dizzy.

Getting sucked into pseudo-dramas (“she didn’t really say that!”) and mini catastrophes (“I can’t believe that teacher gave you a B!”) is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand about what’s really important.

Staying caught up in the swirl of superficial activity and deadlines keeps you from really engaging. With your partner. With your children. With your real-life friends. Even with yourself.

Maybe especially with yourself.

When I worked in the world of film, I had the opportunity to participate on a Really Big Movie. But even Really Big Movie sets don’t always run smoothly. Every morning, I’d show up to the office or set wondering what fresh hell challenges would come my way.

Rain in the desert on days that called for outdoor scenes. Last-minute scheduling changes that required our staff to cancel 200 extras and then book 350 different extras for today.

I started to call this the Crisis du Jour.

At first, I attributed Crisis du Jour to the workplace. But I have since come to see it as a widespread phenomenon, both in the workplace and in people’s personal lives.

When I later worked as a therapist with domestic violence survivors, I was struck by the ultimate resilience of so many of these women. But within the group sessions, I noticed that a significant number of women would be preoccupied with other, more mundane, crises. Like having an annoying neighbor.

I would think, “You almost died at the hands of your partner, and your children are in foster care. Why are you focusing on a gossiping neighbor?!”

Why? Because the real problems are too overwhelming. The real stuff takes hard work, and self-reflection, and processing, and a good dose of reality-checking interspersed with shoulda/woulda/coulda.

The Crisis du Jour gives us protection from ourselves.

Busyness is just another name for Crisis du Jour. Busyness is the new denial. It keeps us from reflecting too deeply. From understanding too deeply. From connecting too deeply.

And we wear busyness like a badge of honor.

Your life is not any richer for obsessively checking how many followers, likes, or retweets you get.

Or for agreeing to head up the school fundraiser when you know you have already overextended yourself beyond your capacity.

So here’s to a slower life. To preserve the things that delight us, and ditch the things that don’t.

How? Here are a few places to start:

  • Turn off your smart phone for chunks of time.
  • Say no to people who ask you to volunteer, if it’s not something you really want to do.
  • Prioritize your tasks so you address the ones that really matter.

When you start taking steps to declutter your psyche, you will find that the earth will not end if you tell somebody, “no.”

Your children will not forfeit their chance for a college education if they are bored for a week.

What other people judge as urgent or important may not match your values. Who gets to decide that? You do.

Eff busy.