I keep hearing about all the holiday clamor like it’s a distant rumor. That’s what happens when you work at home, huddle over the computer and end up talking to the cat. You end up dressing rather badly (the cat, you have noticed, doesn’t seem to mind). It’s also what happens when you get to a certain age and tire of all the pressures of busy-ness — especially this time of year.
Which is odd. It seems to be that it’s extremely important to constantly tell other people how busy you are. This shows you’re in demand, important, uber-involved. When I was 15 years younger, I once got cornered by another mother at a party who insisted on telling me her children’s schedules. Monday was piano, Tuesday was soccer, Wednesday, of course, was church, Thursday soccer (again! Those select teams were so demanding!), Friday even more piano … Not to mention all the homework, all the science projects, the book reports, the recitals, the myriad social obligations.
By this time, I’d nodded off into a coma. Science projects always had that effect on me.
Maybe it’s the holiday season, my isolating work, or my age or maybe it’s a combination — whatever. Or maybe it’s that I’m basically an introvert who has to spend hours recovering from parties and gatherings where I try to impersonate an extrovert. The point is, I’m no longer willing to pretend that being busy, busy, busy is a mark of character or worth. I don’t like the clamor, the stress, the noise.
“I’m sitting here on the plane,” bellowed some guy next to me on my last flight. “I’m sitting here on the plane.” He kept dialing people to tell them this, over and over. Maybe they were interested. Who knows? In my opinion, this guy’s screaming reports would only have been fascinating if the plane were going down in flames or if he had been broadcasting from the Wright brothers’ maiden flight. Otherwise, forget it. Sit. Be quiet. Do nothing.
But, no. We have to talk and rush and shop and spend money and complain about spending money and brag about being busy, like that was as competitive and desirable as winning a Nobel (which once again overlooked me this year, along with the Pulitzer and MacArthur genius award committees. Oh, brother. When will they see the error of their ways?). We have to rev up the music, since silence is an awful thing, and hurtle through life — because, why? We want to get to the end quicker?
I’m not a Scrooge, normally not such a scold. I’m just a quiet person who thinks her cat has the right idea. He’s stretched out on the couch, taking a nap. Watch your pets long enough, I swear to you, and they’ll teach you something eventually.
(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Oh, the irony! I was almost too busy today to read your musings, having spent a longer than usual “lunch” reading David Sedaris, deferring my usual lunch-time NYTimes to that napping hour after lunch instead. Not wanting to wait until the annual NPR broadcast, I was in the mood to read Santa Land Diaries for the umpteenth time. I puts me in the right frame of mind to attend this evening’s System Administration Holiday Reception at the Driskill.
You’re absolutely right – busyness is worn as a badge of honour, as a mark of success. How can you be successful if you haven’t been busy along the way?
Sadly, busyness is also used as an excuse for not seeing friends and family. In some cases the busy person is telling the truth, but in others what they are really saying is that they don’t want to see you yet they can’t admit that. The acid test is whether they offer to reschedule. Something else we should learn from the cat – they always let you know when they’re not interested!
Is it possible to be successful without being busy? I’m currently attempting to find out, and I’ve got time to socialise!