Examining the Four Letter Word

Physical therapy? Nope, I’m too busy!

Examining the Four Letter Word
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

I was a few months late for the typical post-op back surgery appointment. I had been a little busy: my son’s small but complicated surgical procedure, two international trips in the summer, several pneumonia illnesses in July, and two broken ribs for my husband in August . . . life had not slowed down just because I had back surgery.

It seems busy has become the new common word for defining most of our lives.

I Don’t Have Time

I squeezed in the follow-up appointment. Considering life’s constant demands, I felt rather proud of myself for getting there. The typical protocol was to get X-rays first, then see the surgeon. After the tech took several X-rays, focusing mostly on my upper back and neck, he asked an unsettling question: “Have you ever broken your neck or been in a bad accident?” I explained the time I fell from a chair while hanging curtains, and how two years later a car accident crushed half my face. Sure, I had recurring migraines, and my arms went numb every so often, but I didn’t have time for physical therapy or more doctor appointments. He was quiet. (I know techs aren’t allowed to answer patients’ questions, so I did my best to keep quiet.)

Back in the exam room, I waited for the knock that indicated my surgeon was entering. He held the X-rays in one hand and his infamous colored pens in the other. (I thought a box of crayons would have been more appropriate, considering all he had to mark up.) My surgeon explained that my healing from surgery in my lumbar area (lower spine) looked great; however, the X-rays revealed disk degeneration or disappearance altogether at the top of my spine. He then used the colored markers to highlight what was wrong; the page looked more like a coloring sheet than an X-ray by the time he finished. Then we discussed options—I didn’t have time for any of his solutions. But I desperately wanted to avoid another surgery, so I left with a physical therapy prescription; I would try it in a pinch.

I called to inquire about physical therapy—I mean, how bad can an initial consultation be, right? Obviously, it was far worse than expected; after 2.5 hours, I was told I needed three appointments a week for 12 weeks followed by a reevaluation . . . or another surgery. During the consultation, the therapist asked why I had not come in years ago. I told him I’d been too busy—a socially reasonable excuse, right?

Notice that word—excuse.

no time

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

Busy is a four-letter word we use—but often abuse—without considering its hidden implications. Busy can be synonymous for character qualities we respect: industriousness, diligence, hardworking, active, and eventful. However, the word busy can also stand in for another group of, shall we say, less than flattering descriptive words: distracted, hectic, tired, unavailable, and harried. Because of physical therapy, I’ve been forced to examine how I use the word busy.

While in traction or being stretched and moved in painful ways, I have seen that what once seemed an interruption to my “busy” life has become a gift of gracious time for me to evaluate this four-letter word.

Think about What You’re Doing

In a quiet place, I ask you to consider how you live. Are you diligent or distracted, hardworking or harried? Here are some areas I’ve identified as underlying causes for busyness:

  • Busy and Bitter: Bitterness can settle down deep into the soul and provoke us to retaliate or to try to prove something. Bitterness is a sour acid that eats away at our souls.
  • Busy and Bruised: Wounds require time to heal. When you don’t give wounds time to heal, they get infected. Often, a busy schedule distracts us from caring for our bruised hearts. Such soul wounds are neglected and often become infected, hurting ourselves and others.
  • Busy and Buying: Society and social media paints false pictures of reality. Everyone isn’t that happy or that perfect—but they want us to think they are, and, hey, we want them to think we are! So we buy into a lie by buying things that make us appear happy. There isn’t enough money in this world to buy happiness. In our house, a sign over the fireplace reads “Happiness is an inside job.” It is, so close your wallet and open your heart.
  • Busy and Blustering: So often we believe our faith is proven stronger by blustering about our involvement in “spiritual” things. Or we believe we should have reached a certain place in life—financially, socially, professionally—that we exhaust ourselves and others trying to attain and obtain. Do you believe, or do you bluster? Do you go about life trying to prove your worth instead of resting in God’s gracious, unchanging love for you? Why do you need to do so much? Why are you involved in so many clubs, groups, and activities?
  • Busy or Buried: So many of us bury our grief, believing it will go away if we stay involved in constant activities. NOT TRUE. When grief gets buried, it’s still alive, spreading its roots in our thoughts, decisions, and assumptions. Buried grief distorts reality. It’s okay to grieve, to be sad, or to just be . . . whatever that looks like for today. Attend to what is deep in your soul, because busyness won’t make buried grief go away.

Let Me Hear from You

How full is your schedule? We are heading into a hectic season of the year: the holidays. How hectic this time of year will be for you depends upon what’s inside you. You can be busy because life honestly gets that way sometimes, or you can be busy because busyness distracts you from bitterness, bluster, buried sorrow, or a desire to buy happiness. So let me ask, what is your reason for staying busy these days?

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  • Barb Ward Dittrich

    There’s a reason they say that BUSY is an acronym for Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke. We all need to start living like the free children of the One True King as we were meant to be! Love this, Colleen.

    • Barb,
      It’s so true, we were raised to think we had to do all this stuff for God when actually, it’s already been done. The yoke comes in so many different shapes and sizes; often in the form of “pressing needs” to be accomplished on a human level when the only way through is on our Divine dependence on God. How easy it is to forget that. Hopefully, through our struggles, we will learn to recognize God’s love that carries us through and not our own effort. I’m right with you both in every way. Love you friend, Colleen