Don’t Tell Me You’re Busy

“Dying people lie too. Wish they’d worked less, been nicer, opened orphanages for kittens. If you want to do something, you do it. You don’t save it for a sound bite.” ~Greg House (played by Hugh Laurie), House M.D.

If you’ve ever watched House M.D., you know every time you want to hate House, you end up hearing the truth in his cynicism…and then slightly hating him for being right. Some times are easier to be criticized than others, but either way when our egos get involved, it’s game over for personal growth.

We lead increasingly busy lives (we all miss “the good ole days,” don’t we?), and more often than not we find that we have no time that can be identified as “free.” Free time doesn’t really exist. And it’s not because we’re so busy with our lives that we take no time for leisure; it’s because as long as we’re alive, we are continuously occupied. Whether we’re at work or laying down on the bed, staring at the ceiling, we’re not “free” in the true sense of the word. If we’ve got 24 hours per day to be alive, then we have 24 hours per day that we are not free.

Great. We never have free time. Your optimism is so bright it’s blinding, High-Clip.

Aha! But that’s not the point. We’ve got 24 slots to fill every single day. That’s 24 opportunities to act the way you wish, whether it be eating, sleeping, working, hiking, talking…you name it. Yet, every 24 chances, we tell ourselves (myself included) that we don’t have time.

Can you climb this weeked?

No. I don’t have time.

Can you have fresh, clean dinners during the week? Maybe meal-prep on Sundays?

No, I’m busy.

Do you have a dog? Do you read? Do you have hobbies? Do you make art?

No, I don’t have time for any of those things.

Like House comments, if you really want to do something, you’ll do it. If you want food to eat, you’ll grow it yourself or work in order to buy it. If you want to stay alive, you’re going to go to sleep every night. And, as it turns out, these two activities take up most of our 24 slots every day. So what about your time in the mountains? Well, if you really wanted to be hiking through the prickly brush, you’d save up your cash to get out there. So what about that climbing mentor program you wanted to start? If you really wanted to help the youth through climbing, you’d have made that laminated poster after work last Thursday evening.

But what are we stuck doing? Staring at the clock, begging time to pass by just ONE minute slower so that we might get a moment longer to talk to our best friend. Asking for this route to just extend a foot higher so that we might get an extra few moves in before anchors. And how does time respond? That benevolent guy we all know time to be gives us another 24 HOURS to do with as we choose. Yet, we make the same mistake. Again. Asking time for another second in a hug, another route to climb before we leave, another scene before the movie ends…as if we hadn’t the time before. As if we didn’t already have the chance, or 24 of them. As long as we’re alive, we’re occupied. One day, we won’t have another 24 opportunities to ignore. It will be our final 24. And none of us will know it. But we’ll know that we didn’t have time.

High-Clip (Co-writer)


63 Replies to “Don’t Tell Me You’re Busy”

  1. This is such a great essay. The honest truth is that we make time for what is most important to us. If it’s climbing, then we’ll find time and the means to climb. If it’s eating, we certainly find time to eat. Same thing with sleep. We have to make the things we want the most a PRIORITY, and work toward gaining ground for them instead of just being lazy and complaining that we “don’t have time” or that we’re “too busy,” because we’re not. This is a fantastic piece and I thank you for writing it! Good swift kick in the rear end that we all need!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Yep. I’m with you on this 100%.

    I love the show House and, strangely, I don’t find the character cynical at all. I guess it’s all those years teaching critical thinking, but I like that he cuts through, challenges, the comforting, immobilizing, cliches we all live with. Back in the day when I taught 7 college and university classes, I was also writing novels and hiking upward of 50 miles/week. “When do you find the time?” I heard that all the time. Yeah, I wasn’t distracted by a long term relationship or kids, but that was (mostly) my choice. I had a good role model in my dad who died at 45 from complications from MS. Besides the palpable reality of my dad’s life and death, his verbal message to me was, “Seize the day.”

    Often people don’t get how LITTLE time they need to actually do what they say they want to do. To write a story no one has to set aside a day, sharpen pencils, be sure the curtains are just right, make coffee, turn off the phone, nothing. Just fucking sit down and write the story. Same with hiking. There are trails all over the place. Just go. Otherwise we’re gambling with life. Who’s to say that tomorrow we will even be able to — I mean literally ABLE. I’ve been “dis”abled and if there’s any impetus for carpe diem it’s having the “diem” pulled out from under you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Martha! Your words are very true and insightful. I think it’s really easy to forget that we don’t actually need all that much time to do the things we say we want to. I feel, though, that sometimes that’s purposeful…perhaps we do not wish for the things that we say we do. Maybe better self-communication would help with this.

      As for House, I think you’re right. Perhaps he seems cynical, but that’s only an effect of those around him be blinded by falsities. It’s truly impressive what you accomplished while teaching!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. House is heartless about our self deception. So is Mother Nature. What happens to a person who is optimistic on a rock face? Humans construct all kinds of social safety devices to protect us from the consequences of our delusions. The rock doesn’t care. Neither did House.

    In the end, House figured out what was important to him. Most of us never do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed…sometimes that honesty is more caring than idealized delusions.

      He did, and I really hope the rest of us can before we lose another chance.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Priorities. It is all about priorities. It isn’t that we don’t have time. We decide that this is more important or more time critical than that and then we set a priority.

    Maybe you want to climb or long-trail hike. If you *really* wanted to, you’d have done it. There is no shortage of (fill in the blank)-bums who live out of a car and work part-time jobs in order to do what they really want which is ski or surf or hike or climb. There are others who work full time in jobs they are willing to quit for a few months every few years to do something off-grid. In the meantime, their vacations, their weekends, their holidays and even their sick leave may get spent on their obsession. If they have families, they involve the family in it.

    If you don’t, you should take satisfaction in doing what was really important to you. Maybe time for the kids, time for the wife was the most important. Maybe it was time for the career, impressing the boss, getting the promotion, living in a good neighborhood. If that is what you did, then that was what was important. If you didn’t hike a long trail because you were “too busy” you still did what you wanted, be it making money, achieving status, mowing your lawn, playing politics, contemplating your navel or snorting coke.

    Wishing on your deathbed you’d done different things is a loser’s game. You’ve always had a choice, you just rejected it because you had bigger fish to fry at the time. It is what it is. Own up to it and move on. You will be happier in the long run.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Man, Fred, well put! I totally feel that. I do the exact same thing sometimes, we all do, but it bothers me SO much. There’s no right or wrong thing to do with your time, and I can’t tell you how you should spend it, but man just own it! Like Martha was saying, we have to stop lying to ourselves and just be honest. And if you don’t like you’re reality, then change it.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. The busyness trap! I agree it’s about priorities. Also turn Netflix off. We all have 24 hours a day, it’s a choice you make how your spend that time. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha indeed! Thanks. I’ll say, though, I think it’s fine to keep Netflix on as long as you’re honest about it being a priority whether it be because relaxing or de-stressing is a priority for that day. I feel that self-awareness is the key.


  6. Thank you for liking my post and when I read yours it’s like hitting myself in the face! I like the message you send and will try harder to know what I am doing is making the most of my time (sometimes anyway) or being honest with myself and enjoying what I have rather than thinking about what o don’t have. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I am not sure how clear cut this is and how many reasons I have left out without thinking about them now. There are mostly two scenarios when a person doesn’t act on something. The first one is that person doesn’t really care about doing that thing such as when you ask someone to d something with you and they said they’re busy always. That person indeed isn’t busy but they would rather do something else. That is their choice and it can be about you or not. That requires a person with a clear mind to understand the situation and to reflect on themselves. The second scenario is the other person really wants to do something but they are stuck because of their issues in life that they do not know how to resolve and their energy is just really stuck. Those people could be offered help or look for help themselves but sometimes when it is bad enough for all the metaphysical reasons they really just need understanding and a helping hand rather than being told they are not prioritising. They are not arseholes or useless in life. Would we acknowledge that is a possibility too? We use our mind to think why things happen and we judge on situations and people a lot about how they should and should not how they are and are not but the truth seems to be that even the best logic can turn out not to be what actually happens so even true logic doesn’t mean fact. We believe we know a lot but in fact we have absolutely no idea about other people’s lives and their feelings about them, just like how the perspective of this article and mine are formed. There is no right or wrong but opinions on things like these because you simply cannot “know’. Now that could be a new perspective too. We all have our times. Being positive about our perspectives could always shine lights in the darkest situation. Love and Happiness for all of you reading this:) Have a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi there! I agree, though I feel like that’s not a separate point. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to spend one’s time. I think it’s just about being honest about it. I don’t think anyone needs a reason to choose one activity over another, but I think it’s unhealthy for one to deceive oneself by not being honest about why they spent their time a certain way. Perhaps my title is misleading, but I mean that too many times we lie to ourselves about why we can’t do something. It’s your choice whether or not you will open up an orphanage for kittens, but it’s important that if you choose not to that you’re honest about why: maybe you’d like to have money so that you can feed your kids, maybe you’d like to have more time to relax and don’t wish for extra stress, or maybe you just hate kittens and have no sympathy for them. It’s not up to anyone to decide which reason is more valid it’s just important for you to know so you know what’s really important to you in life and so that you can go get whatever it is you’re looking to achieve. Have a great week as well! Thank you for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I Love honesty so for you to value it so much I really appreciate it! It is true very often that we are not honest to ourselves or we just ignore the truth hoping it will go away. It is a nice reminder you put right here I hope many people see it:) Also it is great for you to give space to a diversity of opinions here. It is such an important thing for the world. Enjoy your day!:)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re quite right: someone said we have 24hours/day so as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Einstein so, why we should regret for lack of time?
    I really enjoyed your post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is exactly the sorts of thoughts I was getting and I realised that something in my life had to change. I quit studying, saved up a bit of money and went traveling and finally got to do the things I would “never have time for”. 2 years later and I’m still loving the lifestyle! Thank you for the post

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Nothing wrong with a touch of cynicism, it helps leaven out all the happiness and joy that litter our everyday lives. Just a little, mind. Thanks, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great post, it amazes me that so many people fill their days with things that really aren’t that important. I look forward to the next day, as you said, it gives me 24 more opportunities for greatness. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! It certainly is very difficult to apply, and I feel like it’s a success even if you make one small change. Every bit counts. Best of luck!


  12. I learned this indirectly. I was on a committee deciding whether or not to offer scholarships to a program we ran. We had heard people saying they couldn’t afford it but also knew they spent money in ways we thought unnecessary. Shortly after that I read an article that saic not to say, “I ca’t afford it,” but to say “I don’t choose to spend my money that way.” Eventually I applied the insight to time.

    And I think of one of my favorite quilters. When people whine about any aspect of not getting quilts made, her response is, “Do the work.”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for this post. I personally don’t believe in being “too busy.” Time is not something you have, it is something you make. I have learned to make time for the things I want to do. 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

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