3 Ways Busyness Robs Your Life

Several years ago, on a Thanksgiving Day afternoon, I came crashing to the cement floor in the garage from the top of a ladder. That was the day I decided to stop being busy.

My custom on Thanksgiving afternoon – after the dinner is over, and all the dishes washed and put away—is to take a short nap and then tackle Christmas decorations. I wonder now, who in their right mind, after three days of cooking, setting a Martha Stewart holiday table, eating, and then cleaning up, would even attempt something like that? I was driven like Balaam beating his jackass to get it all done.

Fresh from my nap I was ready to tackle this next project with relish when I met Bob halfway down the hall to the living room He said, “Why don’t we ride down to the beach and watch the sunset?”

I frowned. It was a nice idea. He seldom does spontaneous things like this, but…  I had work to do. A schedule to meet. I was too busy for that. So I told him my thoughts and knowing me as well as he does, that when I am on a mission you might as well surrender, he turned around and headed for the garage.

All the boxes of lights and decorations were already on the garage floor, a kind gesture from my sons before they went home, so Bob dragged the tree around to the front door. One box remained up on the hanging platform we used for storage. I hauled the ladder out, but once I gained the top rung, I noticed the box was slightly out of my reach. I held on to the chain that held the platform in place and leaned as far as I could to the right. The ladder began to slip, but I couldn’t hold on to the chain with nothing under me. I made a sudden, disastrous drop onto a silver punchbowl I was sending to my daughter for Christmas. That broke my fall enough that the only damage was that I ripped the side of my right pinkie.

When Bob came back to the garage I was sitting on the steps crying and holding my finger. He took one look and said, “We have to go to the ER.”

An Epiphany

As they shot my finger with Novocain and took out a needle and suture nylon to use for the eight stitches to repair my finger, I thought, “I think I’d rather be sitting on the Naples’ beach watching a fiery orange sun melt into the Gulf than to be doing this!”

I’ve been in a hurry most of my life. I admit I am prone to finger-drumming, a foot heavy on the gas petal, impatience with drivers who slow me down and general frustration that nobody seems to realize how much I have to do.

I’ve had to ask myself where all that rushing has gotten me. And my answer is that it hasn’t gotten me anywhere except the Emergency Room instead of a golden sunset. It’s diminished me in countless ways so that I have lost instead of gained.

Here are three ways we all lose out by being so busy. These discoveries opened doors of understanding about how much I don’t want to miss the exceptional moments of beauty or the purposed time with those I love rather than hurrying on to my next project.

  1. Most of my life will be a blur if I don’t slow down. In order to be present to what’s going on in the moment, I can’t be in a hurry. There’s no advantage to getting to the next thing on the list if I leave in my path hundreds of things I missed or regret. It amounts to throwing time away instead of saving it.
  2. My life will be agenda-driven instead of heart-driven. The Chinese character for busyness is a combination of heart and death. When we get so busy that we cannot guard our hearts we set ourselves up for disaster (see Prov. 4:23). We are called to heart-based living because our hearts are gates to everything else. Busyness brings death to the heart.
  3. “Busyness makes us stop caring about the things we care about,” says Mark Buchanan in his book The Rest of God. He goes on to say, “When we lose concern for people, both the lost and the found, for the bride of Christ, for friendship, for truth and beauty and goodness; when we cease to laugh when our children laugh (and instead yell at them to quiet down) or weep when our spouses week (and instead wish they didn’t get so emotional); when we hear news of trouble among our neighbors and our first thought is that we hope is isn’t going to involve us – when we stop caring about the things we care about – that’s a signal we’re too busy.”

I’m still learning these lessons – lifetime habits don’t easily leave – but now I practice what I call “pausing” several times a day. I schedule my phone to signal me when it’s time to pause. Sometimes I go out on the deck and read scriptures or poetry and other times I just watch the ducks or the great blue heron fishing. I take walks when the moon is full, drive up to the bridge and watch the sun go down over Lake June or just make myself a cup of tea in the afternoon and think about how blessed I am.

As a result, I am more present to my life and I feel more peaceful. Recently, with the help of my partner, Sue Riger, we designed a beautiful little gift book called Quiet Places. It will be available late summer or early fall. It is all about slowing down, breathing, praying short prayers and finding time for solitude. I hope you’ll plan to buy a few copies for yourself and a few friends.

And I don’t put up Christmas until December 1. I want to appreciate all of Thanksgiving – even the sunset.



  1. Dear Cathee, I hear this message loud and clear and know it is right. I wish I had learned this when my children were young… not today in my senior years. I missed out on special times of play and sharing. It does helps me enjoy the days I have now. I can only hear God’s still small voice when I am still and quiet. Thanks!

  2. I recall the story of that challenging day when you fell.
    To relate it to chinese characters, Heart and Death takes a moment to digest. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.
    Take a moment to digest . . . life . . . and we won’t have heart death.
    Love this.
    Can’t wait for your book to come out.
    Put me on your list of buyers!

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