I recently read a very good article about the (especially) American need to be busy all the time, and to make sure to let as many people as possible know about it. Aside from musing upon idleness as a historical virtue amidst suggestions that perhaps some of the best ideas have come from the least busy people, the author of this piece conjures some pretty powerful revelations that hit me quite close to home. I suppose I could be one of those busy people described in the article, and as much as the urge bubbles up to defend my own busyness with the assertion that all of my tasks, plans, responsibilities are not, in fact, established in spite of the flaccidity of their impacts or exposing the core emptiness of my life in their absence, it’s entirely possible that this is the (Sisyphean) case. But I’m far too busy these days to engage in pop-psychology in addition to all the other things on my schedule.
There was certainly a point not so very long ago at which I equated my time occupied with external responsibilities to my very relevance in the world of adulthood, independence, and competency. It was a period of proving, simultaneously to parents, peers, and self. I’m not quite sure how long it lasted, or how much of it still exists. But consciously, both then and now, expressing my high level of commitment to the many tasks and projects to which I’ve subscribed has never been intended to be a boast nor a complaint. I like being busy because I have great amounts of enthusiasm and the energy to spread around to numerous different processes. I love multi-tasking and building, organizing and learning. I make list of things to do and then lists of those lists. I fall to pieces with joy every time I walk into The Container Store. And I love helping others and the feeling of coming through on the things I have promised, no matter who the recipient. I am indeed addicted to creating.
In the Internet-(mal)nourished, short-attention-span world we now live in, it’s incredibly easy to over-engage and overcommit. On an individual basis, our reach is now seemingly limitless, our abilities omnipotent, our impact global. This universal empowerment has most certainly incited a measure of universal competition: to write, to work, to make. Every voice is Divine Right; every opinion counts – or, strangely, is expected to. It’s no wonder that everyone proudly touts their commitments and responsibilities. Busy is important. Busy is popular. Busy is purpose, even though, as the columnist states, that’s all a lie. “Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.”
Me, I am eager to share the things with which I’m busy, and I comprehensively enjoy hearing about yours, even if I don’t always fully grasp the magnitude or the impact of them on your life. And if you catch me begging off real communication on the account of general, nebulous busyness, feel free to call me on my shit. I’m listening.
Even if proudly being busy is a foible or worse, does it always have to be a cover-up? Must it by nature be an impediment? And to what – isn’t engaging with experiences the very qualifier of a life well-lived? To take this a bit farther, even but a moment musing on motivation belies Kreider’s thesis: sequestering works for him, because he is a writer who needs sequestering to be productive. Me, I need to be behind the counter helping three customers at the same time. I like to feel the pressure of academic deadlines and crafting presentations and reviewing books. I thrive on doing a hundred things at once, and my days feel productive only when I’ve skimmed the edges of a wide array of tasks, senses, and interests. Days off don’t exist, because days off are not fun for me. I want breadth much more than I require depth.
My perfect cocktail is a healthy shot of accomplishment in a stiff glass of initiative. What’s most important to me is balancing work and play a little bit every day, especially as play was often frowned upon while growing up. So I bought a game store, and I’ve worked my ass off there for two decades, while playing and helping others play. My university career was woven in and around this, all at the same time. It’s clear now: I need to be busy. I thrive when I’m busy.
If there is something at all that is getting covered up with all this…living, it’s the fact that, with forty years approaching in my headlights, I am indeed squarely in the throes of my own mid-life crisis: the realization that there just isn’t enough time to do all of the amazing things I enjoy doing. Quite simply, there are just too many things that I enjoy, and that is my curse. That’s what I’m hiding behind my busyness.
There are too many games to play; too many books to read; too many songs to hear; too many cities to visit; too many friends to make; too many words to learn; too many miniatures to paint; too many colors to feel; too many foods to try; and never enough warm smiles from my wife, no matter how much time there is or ever could be, in this life and every.
Not a curse, but a blessing.
3 Responses to “It’s a Trap!”
April 8th, 2013 at 7:59 am
@FunkyPlaid See! U r Sheldon! U gotta kno that’s a classic line from one of the BBT episodes?! And why does ur page always freeze my laptop?
April 8th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
I appreciate your response to this article, mainly because it is very _you_ but also because you mention the difference between being busy and being productive. I maintain that it is possible to be productive without succumbing to the trap of the article's title. Too often, the urge to fill one's days with activities — whether or not they are things one genuinely enjoys doing — overrides the satisfaction one gets from doing them at all. To me, it is the difference between chugging a glass of water and sipping at it. Both quench thirst, but the latter includes a mindfulness that cannot be present in the former.
April 20th, 2013 at 5:10 am
A number of similar articles are currently making the rounds. I suspect some folks are actually afraid of being busy.