Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Being Busy Does Not Mean Being Better

If you know me or keep up with my blog, you can probably guess I'm not a very busy person. Part of this is quite obviously because I'm unemployed. This summer and last summer have been two of the most enjoyable summers of my life, harking back to my high school days when I was "busy" lying out by my dad's pool in between cashier shifts at Lo-Bill Grocery Store.

But, trust me, even when I was employed I was not "crazy busy." I didn't go around complaining about how busy I was to anyone who would listen. It's not something I think is worth bragging about. You're busy from sun-up 'til sun-down? I know you want me to congratulate you or give you sympathy, but I'm not impressed. I'm probably thinking you should learn the power of the word "No."

I choose not to be busy. And most people I know who are running around non-stop, stressed out of their minds, have chosen to be that way.

That's why I especially enjoyed this editorial in the New York Times:
"It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. 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."
 The worst fall I ever had was when both my kids were on soccer teams. They had practice twice a week at the same time at different locations. They both had games on Saturday mornings at different locations at overlapping times. For a single mom in a town with no relatives, this was the worst. I was so relieved when both kids said, "Meh, I don't think I want to play soccer again."

I allow my kids to choose the path of non-busyness, too. I don't force them into numerous activities. I don't think that being busy makes them better people. I let them try things and I let them decide if they want to do that thing again. It's totally up to them.

I hope this will help them consciously choose the ways they spend their time. I want them to learn that life is short and there is no reason you have to feel obligated spending it doing things you don't necessarily enjoy.

I enjoy working out. I devote part of my day to that. I enjoy wandering through the library. I enjoy reading. I allow myself time to do that. I enjoy sitting on my back patio drinking a cocktail and grilling and having conversations about nothing and everything. I enjoy meeting Todd for an afternoon latte and discussing religion, the universe, aliens, and the psychology of the characters on Breaking Bad. I enjoy walking five miles on the trail along Lakeshore. To me, that time is a priority worth marking on my day planner.

This isn't to say I don't commit myself to chaperoning field trips. And I certainly spend a lot of time driving kids to and fro. But I don't put those things in a column titled I'm So Busy I Could Die. I see my chauffeur duties as an excellent time to listen to my iPod, actually. I'm no good at being Zen about laundry, but when it comes to hitting the highways of Alabama and listening to whatever song with which I'm newly obsessed, I am the master of being Zen.

I do not feel guilty for not volunteering for absolutely every single thing at my kids' schools. I do not feel guilty for refusing to sign my kids up for every sport and activity known to man and then feeding them from the drive-through on the way from this activity to that one. I like for my kids to have time to hang around the house, to hang out with friends, to ride their bikes. I like to cook dinner and sit down at the table and listen to my kids masterfully get on each others' nerves.

You will not catch me signing up for some committee that meets on weeknights when I could be home eating dinner with my kids. You will not catch me running a bunch of errands on one day. Where are all these people going? I can buy stamps at the grocery store when I get my groceries. I pay my bills online. I don't dry clean so I never have to pick up dry cleaning. I don't buy anything I don't need so you'll rarely catch me running around returning crap.

Maybe it's the writer in me. There's a quote about how a writer is working when he's staring out the window and that is absolutely true. It's the best kind of working. When I am driving, I am likely thinking about writing. When I am walking, I am thinking about writing. When I am sitting on the back patio watching the fireflies? Well, I am probably thinking about fixing another cocktail.

I have never had a problem with being still, with being unhurried. I don't mean just physically still. When I am working out, my mind is still. It's why I love working out so much.

I've never felt the need to fill my calendar weeks in advance. If you ask me at the last minute to see a movie, I probably can. If you call me and say, "Hey, let's meet for a drink in five," chances are I am free to say, "Absolutely! See you there!"

That's it, isn't it? That word: Free. I feel free.

After the past couple of weeks of hanging out with Jacob, seeing movies and watching Breaking Bad reruns and eating at Waffle House, I know I will remember this time for the rest of my life, while I have forgotten hundreds of meetings and appointments and busywork of the past.

I don't need a full calendar to validate my existence. I have a life filled with joy and fun and people I adore. That's enough for me.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. Probably one of my favorites you've ever written! 'Cause it's SO TRUE!! I strive to be more like you. I get addicted to calendars and scheduling. I actually have things written down on three calendars/planners, plus plugged into my phone and computer. That is ridiculous! I must stop the madness.


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