This was a prompt in one of the communities in which I participate:
What is the opposite of busy?
To define the opposite, we first need to define the term itself.
So what, exactly, is busy?
Busy is a badge of honor in our culture.
When we use the word busy what are we really describing?
In certain industries it’s a mark of success. Real estate agents, for example, love to boast about how “busy” they are or complain that they aren’t “busy.” Or humblebrag/faux-plain that they have no time because they’re just “too busy.”
The dictionary defines it as occupied; unavailable; having a lot to do. But that’s not really how we mean it. You can have a lot to do, or otherwise occupied in the moment, without being in a state of busy.
And you can be doing nothing but still be busy running through the hallways of your mind, chasing down thoughts and ideas.
So what do we mean when we say we’re busy?
Busy is the sanctioned excuse we use when we want to decline an invitation without having the backbone to simply say no thanks, I’m not interested because we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
When I hear busy my mind hears not enough time.
In fact, as I often advise clients and friends, one of the best ways to find more time in your day is to banish the word busy from your vocabulary.
The concept of no time is itself a front for what we don’t want to acknowledge or experience. We tend to find time for what matters most to us.
Busy is a state of being in reaction to whatever stimuli are thrown at us — which itself is a means for avoidance or escape of our feelings.
We often use busy as a code for escape. Ask someone going through a loss how they’re dealing with their grief. It’s common to hear something like, I’m just trying to keep busy.
Busy is how we avoid grief, boredom, sadness, depression, anxiety, and a host of other emotions we’d rather not feel. Although, ironically, being busy can perpetuate anxiety. And then we just end up in a loop.
And so busy is therefore the way we avoid feeling, intention, and presence — which is the avoidance of life itself.
The opposite of busy is therefore to live, to be fully alive to feel, to breathe, to be.
busy is code for
escape avoid or react
instead choose to feel