One of the things that keeps smacking me in the face is not necessarily that we are, but how much we are the products of our choices. And when I say ‘we’, I refer mostly to those of us who have the luxury of making as many choices as we do, not the equal amounts of people who do not. Where and how we work, live and play are layers of life we are privileged enough to choose to assemble, deconstruct, develop and build how we see fit.
Something else we can choose, ultimately, is how busy we are. How much we take on. I was giving this a little thought when my dear friend Sandi put this article up on Facebook, one I had forgotten I had read and one which sums this whole busy obsession up far more succinctly than I can. We all tend to do a lot because we equate busyness with productivity or see downtime as a waste of time, or feel if we aren’t doing something, we’re not achieving anything. It’s a lifestyle we have constructed, one that values constant activity, constant engagement and devalues time spent doing ‘nothing’, even though ‘nothing’ is so often important reflection or replenishment. So we work, work out, socialise, volunteer, do side projects, travel, study, renovate, sit in traffic for hours getting to various appointments, tapping away on our smart phones (don’t pretend you don’t, I can see you from the bus). And all power to whoever does all of the above while on the phone to a debt collection company claiming you own them $619 for a phone bill from two years ago. And we tend to do it all, because we can. We tend to commit to the point our plates are so full we lose our shit on a Wednesday morning because we have overwhelmed ourselves beyond the point we probably should. We love being busy, we love telling people how busy we are. Social media was made for that shit.
It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”
Tim Kreider, ‘The Busy Trap’, NYTimes.
Of course, we don’t have to be the busiest, most exhausted person on the planet. We don’t get a little crown once we pass through the pearly gates and tick the box next to ‘did you spend most of your life so busy, all you could ever talk about was how tired you were?’ And presumably when we’re old and grey and sipping a G&T with our best friend and/or decrepit dog by our side, we’re not going to say ‘I just loved how busy I was throughout my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. I was so busy I can’t remember a fecking thing I actually did, but I must have done a lot because I was busy.’
I suppose, really, what I am trying to get at is, if you have assembled the layers of your life in a manner that is busy, then I’m not entirely sure I want to hear about it*. And next time someone asks, just say, ‘fine thanks, how are you?’ so we can crack on and get to the interesting part of the conversation.
*I am by no means exempting myself from the ‘busy’ people, I am just as bad as everyone else. I vow, henceforth, to consciously stop saying ‘busy’ in response to any question I am asked, particularly if I am busy purely as a result of privileged choices I have made.