Saturday, April 28, 2012

The secret society of the blissful busy

As April winds down, I want to say the forbidden word, and then to make a confession.

My life (I have written) has been rich-and-full lately.  There has been a lot going on.  I have been -- to use a word that I try hard not to use -- busy.  I could list all the ways my time has been apportioned (children, housework, job, PTO) but that's not the point -- I know that other people are busy, too.  The details don't matter.  The busyness, that's something you can understand without wanting to get close enough to read the bumpersticker on the back of my busy-bus.

And I think it would be fair for you to think that "busy" means "unhappy", or "frustrated", or "overwhelmed".  But no.  Actually (here's the confession part), I really like being busy.  Delighted, you might say.  I've been having my own little Busy Ball.  I've had a blast.

It's true that I do NOT like letting important things go undone.  When I can't meet obligations (to myself, to others), then I'm frustrated.  The getting-big-things-done part of my life is why I took a few days off of blogging, in fact.  But the mere fact that my day is filled up with activity, that part I like.  I seek it out, truth be told.

As busyness goes, it's just that, generally, activities that other people find relaxing, I find stressful -- lacking in purpose or sense of accomplishment:  family vacations (couldn't we find a volunteer activity to do together?).  Lying on the beach (anyone want to go for a walk?).  Long lunches.  "Just sayin' hello" telephone calls.  I can do those if I have to, but I'd rather be making lists, writing emails, doing math, canning tomatoes.  Anything that leads to something.

I'm one of those people who gets twitchy when I sit still.  At a grand dinner earlier this week, I was the one who kept hopping up, walking over to other tables, schmoozing all around.  I was the one to propose that next year, maybe we should add dancing.  Sitting still for 75 minutes?  Not my style.

Except when sitting still is purposeful.  Give me a book and a quiet room, and I'm there.  Back in the pre-N-son days, I read entire Tom Clancy books in a span of half-days; John Grisham and Agatha Christie and John Donne and Dorothy Parker can still command my undivided attention.  So it's not at all that I'm afflicted with some kind of ADHD.  (My sons, yes).

 But I don't think busy-ness is some kind of sin.  There are times it comes close:
  • when we try to act superior to others because we're so busy;
  • when we try to impress others because we're so busy;
  • when we try to welch on our promises because we just discovered we were busy;
  • when we try to blame others because we took on big tasks that (surprise!) made us busy.
But is enjoying being busy bad?  That is, provided you can control those other aspects of pride and conceit?  Sometimes people imply that it is; that "not taking time to smell the roses" is somehow a signal of general maladjustment.   If they're right, I'm way out of whack.   

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