The Swear Word You Say

slow down, unbusy,
Can’t keep up with your life? (CC by 2.0 flik’s Flickr photostream)

We hear it all the time. We probably say it all the time. I swear (hah!) it’s the curse of our era.

What’s up with you?


How’s work?


How are the kids?


What was your vacation like?


What’s next week like for you?



We are busy, pulled in so many directions that we don’t have words powerful enough to describe how time starved we feel. Swamped, hectic, rushed, hurried, or slammed can’t come close. And around the holidays we’re crazy busy.

I suspect that we aren’t busier, in terms of obligations using up our time, than someone might have been 100 years ago. Chances are those folks kept the house warm with coal shoveled into a furnace; worked long hours for poor pay in factories, mines, slaughterhouses, or worse; traveled at low speeds to get where they were going; struggled to stay healthy in a population easily ravaged by flu, tuberculosis, polio, and other diseases; and put a lot of hands-on hours looking after their homes and families. Talk about busy.

But there’s something going on, because so many of us are constantly overwhelmed. I planned to have some handy studies to cite but the library books I meant to consult, The Distraction Addiction and Time Warpedwere overdue before I’d gotten more than a few chapters in. Hey, I didn’t have time!

Since the sun’s magnetic field is flipping I’d be happy to blame our time hunger on a wavering magnetic sheet and extra cosmic rays but science tells us there’s not a noticeable effect.

Mostly, I’m tempted to point the finger at all those things fracturing our attention. I’m pretty sure that ample time for daydreaming and contemplation is essential to a sense of peace, no matter what’s going on in our lives. I’m also pretty sure most of us suffer from a daydream deficit.

Which gets me back to the curse word of our times: busy. I’ve decided that using it is a form of negative self-talk. So, I’m not saying it anymore. I hereby banish it from my vocabulary.

My friend Margaret tells me that our perception of time will slow down to a more manageable pace if we replace our usual frantically busy words with words that describe a slower, more relaxed attitude. Maybe then our lives will slow down, too. She suggests words like,






You may be flinging yourself from place to place to get errands done. But consider describing it to yourself as strolling through stores, pondering some purchases, relaxing in check-out lines. A time-shift may just happen.

But give that attitude shift some time. It’s hard to fit it in a busy* life.

not busy,
Alright, lets meander, stroll, and amble already. (CC by 2.0 Transformer18‘s flickr photostream)

*Dammit, I used that word again.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.