Grandpa Chard ... yup, he is that cool.
One hot summer day when I was eight years old I stole a bike. The bike belonged to my little brother Mario and so I'm pretty sure I didn't feel that bad about it – basically it was my bike too. We lived on a dead end street in the country, next door to my grandparents; in between our homes was an area of trees and bushes that had been christened the "Ewok Place" due to our undying love for all things Star Wars. It was a magical place where anything could happen - anything including angelic little me deciding that teasing my brother by taking his bike as he screamed and ran behind me calling for me to stop was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
I stole that bike like a champ as I pumped my way up and out of the Ewok Place, hitting the gravel in front of my grandparent's house, and tasting victory as his little cries of "Mia stop! Give it back!" grew fainter in my ears … Victory!
Victory - that is until I heard the loud, deep voice of my Grandpa call out, "Mia! Mia! Stop and give Mario back his bike!" I froze and was instantly terrified as I immediately dug my heels into the gravel, slowing myself to a stop. Mario caught up to me as I climbed off the bike, grabbing the bike back from me with a triumphant smile as grandpa called for me to come over to the porch where he has been sitting in his favorite brown and beige rocking chair.
I was scared to go over, not because of my grandpa but because of always hating when I got in trouble. My grandpa was a loving and kind man but sometimes could come across a little gruff and I wondered how much trouble I would be in. As I reached the stairs with my held hanging down he said, with his voice quieter and full of love, "Don't tease your brother like that, you know better – now go get us a couple of cokes and sit with me."
I looked up to him smiling at me and went inside to find my way to the kitchen of a house that was just as much my home as the one next door was. In the fridge sat the coveted glass bottles of Coke, grandpa was old school and always had to have Coke from a glass bottle. I popped open the drinks with the bottle opener that was hanging from the wall and was off to the porch. There we sat, he and I, in his favorite brown and beige rockers, the same rockers that not too many years before sat he and Grandma before she passed away. Not much was aid, we just sat and rocked and watched the world around us.
That memory is one of my only two memories that I have of my grandpa and I alone, just the two of us, and I treasure it – I treasure the glimpse it gives me into my personality, I treasure how perfect a moment it was as he stopped my getaway, I treasure the love he offered me and the way I can feel the cold coke in my hand and hear the pop and hiss of the drink as I open the old bottle every time the memory comes back to me – but most of all I treasure the time he gave me, that he wasn't too busy to give me that time.
That word. I hate that word.
Lately, every time I hear that word from someone or I use it myself I think of this memory; I think of my grandpa, on the porch, in his rocking chair. I wonder what he was thinking about – his wife passing away, his children and grandchildren, the way things had changed since he was younger, his own health issues and pains … I think of this memory and wonder if he would still take that kind of time today – to sit, to think, to be.
It's interesting what we chose to notice. I remember a time when using the word busy was said with a twinge of regret, as if the speaker realized the unhealthiness of being busy and was wanting to get back to a more even pace of life. Now, however, I've begun to notice that word said with pride, said with a conviction that busy is how life should be led; the question is asked, "How are you?" or "How have you been?" and answers come back like Keeping busy - Super busy but good – Oh, you know me, always busy – Good … busy and good, etc.
Life is fast paced these days and it seems like everywhere you go we are busy human beings; I don't believe being busy itself is necessarily a bad thing. There will be times in our lives when we will be busy, there will be a lot going on. I believe the problem comes when being busy becomes a chronic way of living, when we begin to take pride in our busyness and seek to add more to our lives so we can come out the winner in the whom-has-the-most-going-on game. There have been times in my life where I have lied about being busy because I thought that not being busy meant I was less than other people, that I was boring or lazy.
I can remember distinct conversations where I have been honest about not being busy and in return I hear, "You are so lucky that you don’t have to be busy. I can't even imagine what that would be like, to do NOTHING … how lucky for you! My life is never like that, between my work, and family, and friends, and church callings – always busy!" I smile, and we both laugh, and inside I'm thinking, ummm … I just told you I work, and have been going for walks, and spending time with my family – not sure how that's nothing, but okay . . .
There have been other times when I have been busy, when I feel like for weeks all I do is run from one thing to another, always wondering if I'm forgetting something else, wondering if I'm even doing half of the things I'm doing like I should be doing them, wondering when things will slow down but also feeling pride that I am busy and answering those who ask how I am with conviction that I am busy and good – but am I good? I know I'm busy but does that equal good, does busy equal better?
I'm starting to think it doesn't. I'm starting to look back over the last few weeks of my life and those other times in my life where I haven't been busy and what not being busy has allowed me to do – I've had really good conversations with friends, I've been able to observe the needs of others quicker, I've been able to observe others period, I've been able to try and realign myself spiritually. I don't necessarily think busy has everything to do with how many events or things with which I am involved. I believe it can become a state of mind, a way to distract myself from life – from feeling the good and the bad that life brings because feeling things is sometimes too hard.
I'd rather be busy than have to look at the ways in which I could improve, I'd rather say I'm busy than admit to someone that my feelings of anxiety sometimes keep me from engaging with people, I'd rather say I'm busy than allow myself to admit that yesterday my busy was twelve hours of Netflix and a jar of trader Joes cookies and cream, I'd rather say I'm busy than to wonder if my not being busy does mean my life isn't as valuable as the lives of others … I'd rather be busy …
But no, that isn't right. I don't want to be busy, I want to be engaged (in more ways than one, haha jk ;) ). I want to be engaged in the moments of life not just fill my life with things that make me seem busy but that are hollow. I want to acknowledge that a lot going on in my life is good but so are the times when not much is going on. I want to be able to enjoy small moments and let them be enough.
I want to be able to sit on a porch, in rocking chairs, with another person and enjoy a coke in silence . . . all the while knowing . . . that's as busy as I need to be sometimes . . .