My mother always said, if you want to get out of a social engagement, just say you are busy. It wasn't really lying and that was sufficient. You could be busy and that was not only an acceptable counter activity, it was acceptable period. It was OK to be busy.
I was able to carry on with this delusion for quite a while. When I was in college, I worked at a precursor to Walmart called Lou Ann's. I sold guns and toys and when the store was quiet, I was told to look busy. I would take a rag from under the counter and I would go out into the department and put the toys back together and sort and organize the bullets and pellets. I came to realize that being busy actually meant you had nothing to do.
Now I was worried. What if all the people I had told I was busy found out what I found out, that being busy meant you had nothing to do? That made me nervous, so I started telling people I couldn't meet them after work because I had to "get home." I wasn't sure what that meant, but it seemed to work more often than not, so that replaced "I´m busy."
Then I wondered, why did my mother not want to socialize with anyone, why was she always "busy?" I am still not sure of the real answer to that one, but when I left Lou Ann's and started to meet people and get more social invitations, I found that I either had to go or come up with better excuses. "Get home" didn't work so well when I was living alone because I never had animals to let out or feed, and "I'm busy" had completely lost its charm.
So I started accepting invitations to go to dinner, to go get drinks, to sit and converse with other people instead of staying in my house by myself. Now I had friends, I knew restaurants, I could talk about the newspapers and CNN. I was with it. Not only was I out there, but I had interests and I could make small talk with the best of them.
The thing about being a social person was that I found I didn't want to say I was "busy" or had to "get home" because I started enjoying people, asking questions, having people ask me questions. Hell, I was communicating and I liked that! I liked it lots.
Later in my mother's life, I found she just stopped going out altogether. She didn't go to bookstores, which I know she enjoyed. She stopped going to music club events or meetings of the Altar and Rosary Society. I am not sure which stopped first, but the end result was she became really good at being busy to the point where she went nowhere at all. She was the same kind of busy I was at Lou Ann's, when there was nothing to do.
I think it is tempting to be busy. You don't have to meet anyone's expectations, you are never too early or late for an appointment. You can't be wearing the wrong shoes. Everyone just thinks you're busy. But I think there's a tipping point to this. I think there's a moment where the people you know stop asking where you are, stop looking for you in the crowded place as they compare notes and look at their watches. I think there's a moment only you know you've reached where they just stop thinking of you and you slip out of notice completely.
You know, I thought that's what had happened to my mother, but when she died, people came from everywhere to tell me how her language ability specifically was what they remembered about her. The way she read books to them when they were small, or how well she spoke, or the way she wrote letters, or enjoyed a good joke, these were the things these people thought of when they remembered her.
So, I'm not busy. I will be there. Let me get my coat.