It seems to be fashionable to stress how busy we are. More and more people stress what busy lives they live, how there is never enough time, and take some pride in doing so. It seems as if our culture believes that busy equals important. The busier you are, obviously the more important, more in demand, you are. People who are not as busy seem to be viewed disdainfully, with contempt. Scathing comments can be made freely about the less busy, directly to them. I know this. I received an email mocking me a few weeks ago. I have endured condescending comments about being “retired” and, simply because I am not in full-time employment, have been asked “what do you do all day?” The implication seems to be that if you are not fully employed and frantically busy, then you are either a) lazy, b) unimportant, c) unloved, or d) all of the above.
Yes. My name is Mali, and I am Not That Busy. I freely admit this. I’ve even bemoaned the fact that there are times that “self-employed” feels like “unemployed.” But here’s a secret. I only bemoan it, because I forget, and buy into other people’s expectations, and I guess at times I cave, and don’t want people to think I’m unambitious. But if I’m frank, I enjoy not being too busy.
I once lived a life where I travelled internationally regularly for work, would come home exhausted from jet-lag and long hours away, suffering from an inevitable virus picked up on the plane or in exotic locations. I remember that I started to look forward to the flights – economy class flights, so you understand how desperate I was – simply to get some sleep after working double time before the trip to both prepare for the trip, and do what I’d normally do if I didn’t go away. Of course, getting home, I’d also have to make up for the “lost” time away, and really all I wanted to do would be collapse and hibernate. And then before I knew it, I’d be away again. Apart from the frequent flyer miles, I don’t miss that life. I enjoy having time to see friends, to have lunch with my husband, to write, and to volunteer for people in need, and simply to have enough time to cook a healthy meal. I enjoy having time to think about my work, to recover, to plan. I know am not reflected only by my work; I know now that I am much more than that.
There are of course different categories of busy. A friend I admire seems to have energy to burn, and manages to fit work, play, family, and time for herself into her busy schedule. She has her life balanced – busy but balanced. I have another friend who has a real passion for his work, and works long hours, but always finds time for himself too; again he manages to find some balance in life.
But I see others who seem to be so busy running, they don’t know what they are running towards. They don’t seem to have any balance, and yet they boast how stressful their lives are, and how busy they are, as if they deserve a medal for being busy. When I see people who are so busy they “don’t have time to do X or Y,” or who self-importantly talk about the long hours they work, I pity them. I see people who don’t take time to do things they enjoy, to spend time with their families, or partners. I see people who never read a book, because they say they don’t have time. I see people who are too tired to give time to their children, or partners, or parents. And I ask myself, why are they so busy? What are they running from? What are they trying to prove? And to whom?
* credit to Deloney for a comment on my Any Excuse for a Drink post, and Charles Baudelaire, and apologies to them.