What is it about modern life that makes us take such pride in being busy?Â The question occurred to me recently when I had a brief encounter on the street with a former colleague who told me she had been busier than ever since we parted company about a year ago. Â I politely listened to her catalog of comings and goings, but I could not bring myself to get into the game of dueling packed schedules.Â In fact, I didn’t get a chance and that’s just as well because a. it’s not a game worth winning, and b. what I do in any given day isn’t necessarily the most important thing to me.
On many days, I cannot give an accounting of where the time went, nor do I wish to.Â This may seem an odd admission for a longtime journal keeper, but a good day for me is when I have paused to appreciate some aspect of my life, or noticed or learned something new, however minuscule.Â (For example, I just a second ago realized that I have been misspelling the word ‘minuscule’ forever, and that I am so not alone in this that one online dictionary gives ‘miniscule’ as a ‘variant.’Â Nice of them. )Â At the end of my day, I feel I’ve lived it well if I exercised a skill or talent; connected with another human being in a meaningful way; laughed; moved my body; performed some small act that may possibly improve the world.Â I live in the “smile at the neighbor even when you don’t want to” andÂ “pick up litter when you see it” scale ofÂ things.Â Minuscule, but meaningful…at least, to me.
I suppose it is no surprise that a workaholic culture would make a virtue of busyness.Â But, we might well ask, as Thoreau did:Â “It is not enough to be busy.Â The question is: What are we busy about?”Â In truth there is a dark, addictive side to busyness,Â according to Sally Kempton, a teacher of meditation and yogic philosophy.Â Â Click here for some ideas on the subject and antidotes worth trying.
I say, if you find yourself obsessed with schedules and constantly crunched for time, don’t compound the problem by bragging about it.Â Try something radical: sit down and catch your breath, pick up a musical instrument or a sketchpad,Â open a book, call a friend you have been meaning to talk to.Â And if you are lucky enough to connect on that first try, let them know you have all the time in the world to talk.Â It will be a gift to you both.