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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My “I’m Too Busy” Mantra


I used to be a good friend. I used to remember birthdays, organize gatherings, and send handwritten letters. I was the queen of dinner parties, always the “hostess with the mostest,” and I made a point of keeping up with the goings on in the lives of my closest friends and acquaintances alike. If I was going to a wedding, I had a meaningful gift picked out well in advance, and when a dear friend was having a baby, I often made the newborn a hand knit hat or even a sweater.

One of my hand knit baby sweaters
In the past few years, however, all of that seems to have changed. If it weren’t for Facebook notifications, I probably would’ve forgotten a number of birthdays and missed a few important events. I was the last to know when a dear friend quit her job and moved across the country, and I was surprised to learn that my neighbors were getting divorced. And now when I receive birth announcements, sometimes my first thought is she was pregnant?

Age hasn’t necessarily made me more forgetful, and I don’t think I’ve become indifferent, callus, or even inured to the ups and downs in the lives of friends and family, it’s more that I’ve taken on a new identity. I still care just as much as I used to, but somehow the role of “busy person” seems to have superseded that of “good friend.”

I’m constantly playing a script over and over in my head that says, “I’m too busy. I’m too busy.” But am I really too busy?

Sure, my life has changed tremendously in the past few years. Balancing a number of different projects while working on The Mystic Cookbook has been an amazing, though intense, experience. As a result of the hours spent testing recipes and writing and rewriting text, my dog has gotten fewer walks and my garden has more weeds, but I wonder whether this could really account for my drop in status from “good friend” to “somewhat mediocre friend”?

Molly hoping for a walk
When I was a schoolteacher, I worked really hard. But, I had specific hours when I was “at work” and specific hours when I was “at home,” which allowed for me to have a clear separation between the two worlds. Having summer vacation, of course, allowed for time to knit baby sweaters and languidly stroll on the beach with friends. However, I don’t think this in itself accounts for my new “I’m so busy” mantra.

This is what I’ve discovered: I am really busy. Sometimes my “to do” list makes my head spin out of control, but also I’ve taken on the identity of “busy person” because it gives me a sense of importance. Somehow this state makes me feel accomplished and successful. But, I want to change that. By reinventing my outlook, I still might not have enough time to knit a sweater, but I could at least create enough time to pick up the phone and call a friend just to say “hey” or arrange to meet for a glass of wine.

Do you ever find yourself sounding like a broken record? (In my case it’s the “I’m too busy” soundtrack I keep hearing.) Does it empower or deplete you? What is the underlying reason? Does it make you feel important, successful, accomplished? How would changing it change your life? For instance, when I turn “I’m too busy” into “I have all the time I need,” I open the door to not only getting my work completed on time, but also the possibility of being the friend I want to be. Sure, my “to do” list will still be long, but the feeling of “too much to do” won’t inform how I interact with others.

Enjoying the company of good friends

The I’m-Really-Busy-But-Still-Want-to-Eat-Well-Lunch

Even when I’m really busy, I try to make time to eat well. I find that when I sit down and enjoy a good meal, my heart rate slows, my breathing becomes deeper, and my muscles begin to relax. Although I sometimes feel as though I only have time to eat at my desk, the truth is that when I take a few minutes to sit at the table, I enjoy my food more, and I’m actually more productive when I head back to work.

Making yourself a quick lunch that will nourish you body and soul need not be a lengthy process. In the time it takes to heat up a frozen meal in the microwave, you can create a healthy, delicious, and satisfying antipasto/crudité plate.

Here are some suggestions:

Sliced heirloom tomatoes 

           (with a sprinkle of fleur de sel salt)
Sliced bell peppers
Sliced avocados
Peeled and sliced cucumbers
Olives
Hummus
Salami, prosciutto, or other favorite charcuterie
Canned fish (tuna, salmon, or even sardines)
Goat cheese or other favorite cheese
Crackers


Lately, since my garden is at its peak right now, I’ve been eating a lot of raw vegetables, but if you want to make your meal a bit heartier, add cheese, charcuterie, canned fish, or hummus. You may even want to drizzle extra virgin olive oil over your vegetables. Be sure to take a few minutes to arrange everything beautifully on the plate. This extra step feeds the senses and nourishes the soul. Plus, it will actually make you feel more satisfied! Enjoy!