Windless and Still

By Mark E. Smith

Life can be brutal – dehumanizing at its worst, where some of us lose so much at points, we feel that all we are is flesh and bones.

Yet, we push through it – most of us, anyway. Not all. We scrape the depths of our souls for whatever is left, and that marrow revitalizes us enough to start a comeback, following some path, yet to be totally revealed, that we hope will lead us out. It’s never linear, though, is it? We still find glimpses of hope veiled by dark patches. But, we reach and claw, and keep finding our way out.

How long does it take, we ask. Each of our journeys is different, in scale and in time. Months for some. Years for others. A lifetime for a few of us.

I think about this in bed on an August morning at the shore. My wife and youngest daughter are still asleep. I guess it’s around 7:30 am based on the last time I rolled over to check the alarm clock. No shower today. I have no desire for one.

Our daughter stirs, chirping, as we call it when she sings herself awake. I both revel in her adorable character and envy her. I often awake happy, with a tune in my head, but we adults are conditioned not to let it out. Kids are the fortunate ones – free of so many smothering social norms that would bring so much joy if we, too, could just let it out.

We all eventually get up and my wife asks me what shirt I want to wear? We banter about my insistence of a white, spread collar button down. She notes that it’s too wrinkled. I explain that it’s fine for my plans. I’m just going to park myself on the beach. Other events may transpire before or after, but I’m not concerned. A wrinkled, white button down will do. I slip it on, buttoned, over my head. As it slides down my torso, it feels crisp, cool, flowing, perfect.

I roll into the bathroom and turn on the sink’s faucet. I wet my hair with my hands, noting the grey. I run a brush through it several times and I’m good to go for the day.

A white shirt and combed hair were my only concerns, and they’re behind me. I roll over and look out our window to the beach, windless and still. And, I, too, am at total peace starting this day.

“Who’s ready for the beach?” I ask my wife and daughter.

The room is silent. We all know it’s a rhetorical question.

I Have no Time for Busy

Too busy concept.

By Mark E. Smith

Let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as busy. I mean, it’s a cop-out word that really means insensitive, unorganized, self-absorbed and, sometimes, lazy. It’s the epitome of an overwhelmed, often self-centered person that says nothing about productivity.

See, I’m a very productive person, but I never consider myself busy, especially when it comes to people. Melissa sits outside my office in her cubicle, and I suppose that if you asked her if I’m busy, she’d tell you yes because I’m usually a flurry of activity, with my keyboard keys clanking, phone chattering, door opening and closing. Yet, I’m never busy. Rather, I’m productive To me, busy is an end-all, a shut-down. It’s when you walk into someone’s office and he or she says, I can’t talk now, I’m busy. Or, it’s when your romantic partner says, I don’t have time for this discussion, I’m busy. It’s a complete dismissal of who you are and your importance – and it hurts and erodes trust. And, I avoid such insensitive behavior like the plague because I want to be productive, emotionally available and successful – and busy doesn’t allow any of that.

Now, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t set healthy boundaries. None of us can do all tasks and meet all needs at once. However, prioritizing instead of shutting down is the key. If I’m given a task at work and I already have a full plate, I simply state, Thank you, I’ll get to it once I’m finished with X, Y, and Z. I never turn down work based on being busy – again, self-absorbed, lazy people do that. Similarly, I prioritize people, where I try to offer immediate availability, but if I can’t, I’ll acknowledge their sincere importance by saying such a validating reply as, Can I call you back in an hour, as I’m in the middle of this urgent task, and I really want to focus on you when we talk. And, I strive to keep others abreast to my day’s schedule, so they know why I may be unavailable at certain times.

Of course also in the area of boundaries, we don’t want to become dumping stations for others’ work or have emotionally unhealthy, needy people consume our time. However, even then, busy is a cop-out. Rather, address the root causes and define boundaries instead of simply proclaiming, I’m busy.

In this way, if you want to be productive, successful and emotionally available, being busy doesn’t work. Ultimately, I have all the time in the world for work and those I care about. But, I have no time for people who tell me they’re busy.