Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy224
Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy224
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About the Author
Her no-nonsense, guilt-free take on business, family, and balance has led to multiple appearances on The TODAY Show and Good Morning America.
Alli lives with her husband, Mark, and their five sons outside of Nashville with a pampered golden retriever.
Read an Excerpt
How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy
By Alli Worthington
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2016 Alli Worthington
All rights reserved.
Finding Your Sweet Spot in a World of Crazy Busy
* * *
I'm very attached to my iPhone. Attached enough that when I can't find it, my whole life stops until it's found.
Years ago, I was on a business trip to San Jose, California, and due to horrible planning and judgment on my part, I scheduled my return flight to Nashville at 6:00 a.m. I knew better than to get a flight at 6:00 a.m. I had burned myself before, getting too little sleep and doing too much, but like a defiant toddler who insists that last doughnut won't give her a stomachache this time, I insisted I needed that early flight so I could fit more in my day. What I forgot was that a 6:00 a.m. flight meant I had a 2:00 a.m. wake-up call. Wake-up calls that early in the morning mean one of three things: you hate yourself; the person who booked your flight hates you; or you are too prideful to know your own limits.
With bleary eyes, I flopped on the shuttle a little after 3:00 a.m. and stretched out across a whole row of seats, hoping to sleep just a little longer on the forty-five-minute trip to the San Francisco airport. Any other time, I would have stayed awake on the drive across the Bay Bridge and watched the fog roll around the hills coming off the bay. Growing up in the foothills of Tennessee, I never imagined I would be able to travel to cities I read about in magazines, and the magic of beautiful San Francisco wasn't lost on me. But at 3:00 a.m., you can't see the gorgeous fog rolling around the hills anyway, and all I cared about was getting a few more minutes of sleep.
A little before 4:00 a.m., the shuttle driver bellowed, "San Francisco International." For a second, I wasn't quite sure where I was or even who I was. Those four hours of sleep from the night before obviously were not enough for me. Realizing I had drooled on the seat (don't judge me), I wiped the corners of my mouth, grabbed my purse (which always weighs 147 pounds when I travel), pulled my suitcase off the rack, and shuffled into the airport.
Wincing at the bright airport light, I made my way to the long line to check in. I propped my suitcase against my leg, looked into my purse for my phone, and found ... nothing.
You know how your stomach falls just a bit when you think you can't find your phone and then there's that moment of relief that comes when you find it inside a pocket or in between too many papers in your bag? Yeah, me too. I love that feeling.
That moment never came. I knew instantly I had left my phone in the shuttle, and the weight of that realization left me in a panic. How in the world had I left my phone? It must have just blended in to the seat in the dark shuttle. I felt sick, physically sick. I think the only thing that could have made me feel worse was if I had left one of my kids on that shuttle! Wild-eyed and panicked, I turned to a couple behind me in line.
"Can I please use your phone? I left mine on the shuttle." The wife quickly handed me her phone, and I punched in my cell number like a mad woman. I was prepared to beg the shuttle driver to turn around and return to the San Francisco airport. Have mercy on me, sir, I prayed silently. Turn that van around.
I waited through the second of silence while the numbers went through.
I nodded at the couple as if to say, "I got this. All cool." And just like that, my bra started ringing.
I had tucked my precious phone in my bra just before I fell asleep on the shuttle. Don't ask me why — it was 3:00 a.m.! I had put my phone in my bra and gone to sleep, and after making a panicked scene in a crowded airport, I was holding a stranger's phone with my bra ringing. I wasn't the only one there to realize I was a mess.
The couple that had so generously loaned me their phone immediately smiled and looked away. I must have made a face of sheer horror standing there, listening to my ringing bra. Sheepishly, I handed them back their phone. Who even knows what I said to them? As gracefully as was possible in a crowded airport line, I reached inside my bra and retrieved my phone.
I tried to look as if the whole entire thing was no big deal, but the heat and the color on my face told a much different story.
I had reached and surpassed my capacity level and was standing in the San Francisco airport calling my own bra to prove it.
Lessons from a Phone
Later, as I sat on the plane holding the culprit in my hand, I started laughing at the scene that replayed in my head. Oh, mercy, what a sight I must have been. Staring at my phone, I realized I had better get my crazy busy life under control, or I was going to have much bigger problems than a ringing bra.
Then, as I looked at my beloved iPhone, I realized it could teach me a thing or two about capacity.
As much as I love my phone, as much as I need what it can do, as awful as I feel when I am without it, I never ask my phone for more than it can give me. We have some great boundaries in our relationship, my phone and I.
I know exactly how much that phone has to offer. It has a limited capacity, and I respect that. It can only hold so much information and perform so many functions simultaneously. I know how much battery life it has left because it tells me in glowing numbers. And when the battery is low, the phone pings to warn me that I better find a power source. Ignore the warnings and ... well, we all know the result.
Wouldn't life be so much easier if we each had a readout that told us, "This is your remaining capacity. Your energy reserves are low. Please stop and recharge"? Wouldn't it be great if we had some way to know where others were in terms of their capacity as well?
I don't know about you, but I think I'd love living in a world where people know and respect one another's capacity.
But we all know it's not that easy.
It's easy to look at our phones and understand capacity.
A phone runs off a battery that needs to be recharged or it will stop working.
A phone has a finite capacity of storage and functionality.
Different uses of the phone drain the battery at different rates.
Each brand of phone is unique and operates differently.
Just as our phones have a certain capacity, we each have a unique capacity level. Our capacity depends on our personality, our experiences, and our seasons of life. People and events are constantly draining us, and we must recharge and off-load our excess or risk shutting down altogether.
Yet even though it's easy to see the correlation between our own capacity and that of a phone, we seem to lack the ability to find a reasonable rhythm, a sweet spot if you will, in a world of crazy busy.
Why is that? Why can't we choose not to be busy even when we know what lies ahead if we don't?
For one thing, I think as women we've convinced ourselves that being busy is a badge of honor. For example, have you noticed that whenever you ask someone how they are doing, instead of the old answer, "Fine," everyone's answer is now, "Good. Busy." Some have even nicknamed this the "busy-bragging" phenomenon.
According to Ray Williams, in Psychology Today, "In 2008, USA Today published a multi-year poll to determine how people perceived time and their own busyness. It found that each year, people reported that they were busier than the year before, with 69 percent responding that they were either 'busy,' or 'very busy.' Not surprisingly, women reported being busier than men, and those between ages thirty to sixty were the busiest. When the respondents were asked what they were sacrificing to their busyness, 56 percent cited sleep, 52 percent recreation, 51 percent hobbies, 44 percent friends, and 30 percent family." For me, this research was comforting in an odd way. It showed me that I wasn't unusual at all. We are all dealing with similar struggles.
But I look at this survey and I think, "Okay, let me get this straight. Women are sacrificing sleep, recreation, hobbies, friends, and even family all at the altar of busyness. So we aren't sleeping, we aren't taking care of our bodies, and we aren't doing things we enjoy with people we love. Then what in the world are we busy doing?"
For me, it's easy to see that we need to get off the hamster wheel of crazy busy. Crazy busy is a life without peace. It's marked by decisions made for the approval of the world, not the approval of God. It's filled with what we think we "should" do, what we think will make others happy, and what we think being a good person (or good girl) looks like. All this busyness, in the end, keeps us just out of reach of the life we were created to live.
Any number of things can cause us to be crazy busy, and we'll be looking at many of those issues later in this book. Then we are going to tackle those things together. Not because I have a handle on breaking busy, but because I am working through it too. If I've learned anything in my life, it's that we are all in this thing together.
Have you ever said any of these things?
"I feel like I'm missing out on something, but I'm not sure what it is."
"I thought I would be happy when ..."
"I'm so busy, but so is everyone else; it's just the way life is."
"I'm stressed. Everything is an emergency all the time."
"I thought doing so much for others would be fulfilling, but I just feel drained and empty."
If you are like me, you have said one, two, or maybe all those things at one time or another.
But what if I told you that you might be missing out on the life you are meant to live, missing out because you are operating in a world of crazy busy where the noise and distractions are keeping you from what you were meant to do?
How do I know this? I know because I have taken my own journey through the land of crazy busy, and it left me feeling how it has probably left you: tired, stressed, feeling empty and alone, hoping there is more to life than what you've been living.
A few years ago I found myself on the edge of burnout. My husband and I have five sons; yes, you heard that right, five sons. They range in age from kindergarten to high school. That means at any one time in our living room you may see an ocean of Legos, a debate over who gets the iPad next, and sweaty football pads in a heap on the floor. It's loud, crazy, and requires way too much hand sanitizer.
At the time of my near burnout, we both worked full-time. Mark worked at a hospital with normal human hours, and I ran my own business, which meant I worked all the time. We led a church small group, both taught on Sunday mornings, and my husband even coached peewee football.
From the outside, we must have looked like the all-American family (I'm sure it looked that way on Instagram, at least), just living the dream. But we were exhausted. We said yes to every request that came our way, not out of enthusiasm and joy, but out of guilt. We thought that was the way life had to be, and being "good" Christians meant we didn't say no. I mean, heaven forbid anyone should say we were (big dramatic pause) selfish.
One night, as we lay in bed, each of us quiet and lost in our own thoughts, I looked over at him, exhaled the longest, slowest sigh, and said, "I'm so done. I want to quit everything and run away. Maybe we could buy an RV and escape? You know, live off the land ... well, except for gas ... and Wi-Fi. You know what I mean? Let's just go. I can't take it anymore. I'm busier than I've ever been and feel worse about myself than I can remember ever feeling. I'm just done."
He laughed in that calm sort of way that men seem to be able to do and said, "You too?" He admitted he'd been hoping I was feeling that way (and would speak up soon), because he was feeling terrible about not enjoying our horrifically overscheduled weeks. He felt he "should" like everything he was doing, and he felt guilty that he didn't enjoy much of it at all anymore.
Mark's sigh matching mine, he rolled up on one elbow and looked down at me as he spoke. "Babe, all the things we are doing are good things, things people need us to help with. Like coaching. I say every year that I'll never coach again, but then they don't have anyone else, and I mean, someone has to do it, right?" (It's true. That did happen every single year, and every single year as he headed out the door to the parents' meeting I'd say, "Don't volunteer to coach. You know you don't want to do it." And every single year he'd yell back over his shoulder, "Don't worry, there is no way I'm volunteering this year. I'm a rock. No way I'm caving this time." But as soon as he walked back in the door, I'd know he'd volunteered again!)
He went on to say, "And it's all the other little things we do too. I mean, are any of the things we do things we want to do or are called to do, or are they all just things we feel like we have to do? I don't feel like I can catch my breath some days. It's exhausting."
I was relieved that we were both on the same page but grieved that we had let our lives get so crazy busy and out of control. Mark and I had reached (and surpassed) our capacity, ignoring all the warning signs along the way.
Maybe you've been there. Maybe you're there now.
The great news is, you can identify your capacity limits, find your sweet spot, and live beyond the world of crazy busy. In other words, you can break busy.
Signs of Capacity Overload
My granddaddy used to say, "If the Devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy." That's some good Southern preacher wisdom right there.
I'll confess to you, before I broke busy in my own life, I proudly wore my busy badge of honor. I was the queen of busy. I even had the tiara and sash to go with it. Busyness made me feel productive and needed, and I easily overlooked the havoc it was wreaking in my life. Oh, there were warning signs, all kinds of them, but I just kept straightening my tiara and assuring myself I was a strong, confident woman, one who could handle the stress and chaos that had become my life.
But contrary to what many of us have been told, we all have limits. We can't handle it all, nor should we. We have to stop pretending we are superhuman with an endless supply of energy, because we aren't.
So how do we know when we are reaching our limits? We aren't like our phones with flashing numbers that tell us we've reached our capacity. But there are signs our body gives us if we're paying attention, signs that may look different for each of us. For some the warning signs may be emotional. For others they might be physical, relational, or spiritual. But rest assured, if you are over capacity, you will soon find out — the hard way.
Sign #1: An Inability to Control Your Emotions
I was talking about reaching our limits with a leader at a large church recently. She shared that she can always tell when she's over capacity because she can no longer control her emotions. She told me this story:
I was scheduled to meet a group of friends for coffee. Alli, I love these women. They are my 'people.' But as I put on my mascara and thought through all the other things I should be doing that day, I realized I was beginning to dread it all. Within a few minutes, I went from looking forward to a relaxing morning with my girlfriends to feeling terribly anxious about the whole thing.
By the time I got to my car, I found myself feeling irritated and kinda angry with my friend who had set it all up. Didn't she realize how busy I was, how much I had on my plate? A real friend would have realized that the last thing I needed was one more thing to do.
About halfway there, I had worked myself into an anxious, angry mess. When I stopped at the next red light, I texted my friend and told her I wasn't going to be able to make it. I turned my car around and cried all the way home. I pulled into my garage and sat in the darkness, completely depressed. I convinced myself that if I could just get past this season of busyness, I'd be able to pull myself together. I'd be okay."
Doesn't that sound familiar? I have thought that same thing so many times. An inability to control our emotions and constantly feeling anxious, irritable, depressed, and overwhelmed are all signs that something isn't right. Out-of-control emotions often reflect the out-of-control demands we put on ourselves.
Sign #2: Lack of Self-Care
It's not fun to admit it, but I can totally relate to this one. People who operate at overcapacity rarely have time for self-care. I've often justified skipping a shower and working in my jammies all day because I had too much work to do. Or making Snickers and coffee my go-to meal because it was convenient and easy, despite the fact that it made me a caffeine-crazed maniac by the end of the day.
Excerpted from Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington. Copyright © 2016 Alli Worthington. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Christine Caine 13
1 Capacity: Finding Your Sweet Spot in a World of Crazy Busy 17
2 Relationships: Finding Your Connection in a World of Acquaintances 41
3 Calling: Finding Your Purpose in a World of Striving 59
4 Editing: Finding God's Best in a World of Options 79
5 Thoughts: Finding Your Peace in a World of Worry 101
6 Traditions: Finding Your Groove in a World of Expectations 119
7 Time: Finding Your Rhythm in a World of Overwhelm 139
8 Decisions: Finding Your Confidence in a World of Choices 155
9 Communication: Finding Your Voice in a World of Noise 173
10 Worth: Finding Your Value in a World of Never Good Enough 195
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