Here’s a question for you, friends: How busy are you? I know that might sound like a strange question, but that’s the topic making the blog rounds lately. To tackle this issue, the Atlantic Monthly asked in its recent cover story: Can women have it all?
Then the New York Times ran a piece last week about the dangerous black hole of being busy. Indeed, this busyness business is an industry unto itself. There are books about it. TV specials. Magazine article. It seems as though we’re too busy trying to un-busy ourselves.
My mom was commenting on this very predicament a few days ago. “Why does my summer seem to be slipping away so quickly?” she asked. The answer, at least in part, is pretty simple: The need to be going, going, going.
These days, being crazy busy is seen as some sort of trophy. A prize. A badge of honor to be earned. Whoever has the most items on their to-do list or can cram as many activities into one weekend should be commended. Well, therein lies the busy trap, according to author Tim Kreider. It’s a boast disguised as a complaint.
Just like those busy-bodies Kreider describes, so many of my mom’s commitments, activities and general woman-about-town nature is self-imposed. Activities and other obligations she’s taken on voluntarily. And here’s the kicker, says Kreider…
“They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence. Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.”
As I move toward blogging full-time in the fall, my work schedule will no doubt change as well. No long will I have set “office hours,” so it will be important for me to set up a schedule so I don’t so caught up in the rat race of it all. On his own writing life, Kreider says…
“I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day.”
But I love the take-away message…
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
So, what do you think, friends? Do you find yourself too busy most of the time? How do you weave that necessary idleness into your life? Do you ever feel guilty for doing so? Any tips on how to relax and steer clear of being crazy busy?