Busy-ness


I wrote this a few weeks ago, but did not publish it because:

a.) Justin did not agree with my usage of the words "despotic professor."
b.) I saw a one word sentence that summed up the entire obviously wordy essay in a much more succinct manner.
c.) I decided I still wasn't sure if I wanted to publish stuff like this.

Today, I have been thinking about myself and my writing.  I wondered how I could be a writer if I was unwilling to put myself out there.  I am still not sure how I feel about the whole online writing community and whether engaging in it is part of being a writer, but I did decide I would publish this.

With the caveat - of course - that Justin does not agree with my usage of the words "despotic professor."

*****

Apparently it takes me a long time to ruminate.  This idea has been tumbling around in my brain for a while now, and I am still not sure that I have any sort of final thesis about it.  But it is important to me, because it has to do with what I want from myself in my life.  It has to do with my expectations.

Tonight, this problem begins with the idea of busy-ness.  Of being busy.  Of bustling frenetic-ness.  I am sure that is a word.  Lately I feel that I am surrounded with people who are busy, and people who are stressed over being busy, and people who feel consumed with being busy.

And yes, busy-ness is real.  Even if I can’t spell it.  People have legitimate reasons for stating they are busy.  I know this.  My husband is busy.  He is in his third year of a PhD program.  Part of that entails working part-time for a slightly despotic professor.  Part of that entails producing enough research to earn him a job in three years.  And part of that entails making sundry phone calls about utilities that I am too phone adverse to make myself.  He also holds a calling in our Church that requires weekly meetings of him, and additional phone calls daily.  Add to this the fact that Spencer screams any time Justin puts him down, and that I make him arm the mouse traps and take out the garbage and you have one busy husband.  So, busy-ness is real.  I get it.

But here comes the part where I translate to my life.  See, I do not work for a despotic professor.   (While my children often audition for the part – I find myself entirely capable of ignoring them.)  I do not have to write research papers, or get a job in three years.  And I have obviously delegated the utility calls.  Meanwhile, Spencer is used to me not picking him up, and any household jobs I have are done on my own schedule (since I am generally the only one who notices if they are not done).  The only real task that other people complain about when I neglect to check it off my list is dinner.  And yes, I hate dinner.  And lunch.  And breakfast if it’s anything other than cereal.

Conceivably, I could be busy.  I run a part-time, quasi-business where I teach 30 children ballet in weekly classes I hold in my home.  I spend time daily writing novels in the hopes that someday I might be a real-live writer.  I try to do the laundry, and clean the kitchen floor, and vacuum, and dust the fans (okay, I’ve only done that once since I moved here, but still).  I drive to piano, check out books from the library, participate in tiny-tot soccer, and take a ballet class on Saturdays when I get the chance.  I serve in the Young Women’s organization in the ward, and manage to do my Visiting Teaching a third of the time (obviously need some work there).  It is certainly possible to fill up my day with grocery trips, and household projects, and my children’s needs.

But this is the thing – with all that list of possibilities and responsibilities, I don’t want to be busy.  I find the idea of busy-ness entirely overwhelming.   It depresses me.  It stresses me out.  It seems wrong.
I remember having a conversation with a friend while in the MBA program.  I was in charge of singing time at a local asssisted living center.  This friend of mine often attended singing time as well, but she had been missing for a few weeks.  When she came one day, she spoke of how she was very careful scheduling time outside the home.  That she liked to keep those outside busy activities to a minimum so she could concentrate on good basic things at home.  What she said has kind of stuck with me since then, and has influenced many of my decisions about what I get involved with during my “spare” time. 

Which is why I don’t go to library singing time with my kids.  Which is why I only signed up Grant for soccer, even though the girls wanted to play too.  Which is why I like to sit and read books some days instead of doing any of the tasks on my lists.  As a stay-at-home-mother I have the freedom to mess with my schedule, to delete and add tasks, to neglect and encourage as I see fit.  And when it comes right down to it, I neglect an awful lot.  (Remember those fans.  Yep, just dusted them.  And it’s definitely been 2  ½ years.)

But I feel that in our world, in our relationships, in our friendships with others, in the way we judge and rate and classify all those other human beings around us – there is an awful lot of pressure that we all be busy.  And I am not talking about wanting to have or do it all.  I am talking about the pressure to be able to say we are busy.  Like being busy means we are successful.  Like being busy means we are doing it all right.  Like being busy is a measure of usefulness in this world.  Sometimes I even feel guilty that I am not busy when Justin is so desperately overworked.  I mean – how dare I?  How dare I have a spare hour with nothing to do when he would run out of time even if he stopped sleeping? 

But the question is: would it help him be less busy if I insisted on filling my plate until my hours were taxed just as much as his?  Would it help him if I forced myself to compete with his busy-ness.  If I felt that my life was not meaningful or productive unless it measured up to the same amount of stress and anxiety that his life contains?  Do I have to give up simplicity because it is not fair that not everyone can make the same choices as me?

Obviously I think the answer is no.  Obviously I think it is a legitimate decision to decide to do less, to be less involved with the world around me, and to center myself on being calm, collected, and happy.  But the problem is that these ideas and feelings all seem a tad bit selfish.  “Look world, I will only do what I’m comfortable with!  I will only do what I want to!  I will only be who I want to be!”  Yep.  That sounds like an entirely self-obsessed individual.  And yet, I really feel lately that I must own each of my decisions and make of my life and my time what I actually want.  I can’t spend my time measuring up to anyone else’s rationale of what is necessary, good, or right.  I can’t do all those things that people insist are needful because then I truly would be busy, and then I would be overwhelmingly unhappy.

Yes, there are tasks I must complete.   But do I have to do it all?  No.  Sometimes, I should just stay home, and enjoy the quiet and rest of an uneventful day.

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