Monday, July 23, 2012

too busy to live

As part of my course, I was required to read a lecture from personal essayist Robert Dessaix. While the whole thing was interesting, I particularly liked when he started talking about the idea of having to be ‘busy’, and how we are missing out on so much of life because of it.

He said that when people asked him if he was busy, he always answered, to their complete surprise and quite often, disapproval: “No.”

And this really stuck with me. There is this idea that we have to be using every second as productively as possible, that we should be working and studying and fitting in as much as we can, that to see someone not follow this path seems almost offensive.

One of my friends decided to simply focus on her studies this semester, letting her boyfriend support her while she finishes up her degree. And while I hate to admit, we all did judge her a bit because of this. After all, she had all of this free time. And free time, as you know, is lazy. It’s unproductive. “She should at least have a casual job”, we said. But until I read Dessaix’s piece, I never questioned why. Why did I think this way? Why was seeing someone take time for themselves such an affront to me?

Working in hospitality showed me just how much we pride ourselves on being busy and how we truly revel in feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Often when I asked someone how they were, I got a ‘oh you know, very busy’, in response. Or, more often, I would get ‘large cappuccino’ said as quickly as possible, a perfect example of just how busy we all think that we are.

Most of my friends build up an incredible amount of flex time that they don’t take until they are forced to and leaving at five pm on a work day has become a sign of laziness.

We rush from task to task without stopping to enjoy what we’re doing. Everything has a purpose. Even relaxation has a purpose. It’s scheduled in. It’s another task that we have to tick off on the never ending checklist. And for what? No one lies on their death bed and says “I wish I worked more hours at the office” or “I wish I went to the gym more often”. They say “I wish that I had spent more time with the people I love. I wish that I had enjoyed myself more. I wish that I had stopped and appreciated the little things.”.

I have always been one of those people that always need to be doing something. I put all of this pressure on myself to complete tasks and often found myself becoming quite stressed when I thought of all that I had to do. But that’s the thing: I didn’t have to do it. Most of the things on my checklist are there because I want to do them. I enjoy doing them. Of course, there are things that I don’t enjoy doing, like food shopping and cleaning, but even then- I have a choice. I go food shopping because I like to eat. I clean because I love a clean house. I work because I want the money to travel the world.

The problem was, even with the things I enjoy, I realised that I wasn’t doing them for that reason. I was doing them so that I wasn’t wasting time. So that I too could tell people that I too was busy. That I wasn’t wasting my life.

And in my desperate bid to ‘make the most of life’, I forgot to live. I forgot to enjoy the present and appreciate all of the things that I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to do.

The other day I came home and I looked at the pile of homework that awaited me. I looked at floor that needed a bit of a vacuum and the sheet music that hadn’t been practiced in a few days.

And then I smiled. And curled up on the floor in a warm patch of sunlight to day dream the afternoon away.

Because Dessaix was right. And the next time that someone asks me if I’m busy, I too am going to say ‘No’. And I too am going to mean it. 


ellie said...

This is very inspiring. Just what I needed to hear on a Monday morning.

Melissa Wellham said...

This piece really resonated with me!

I'm one of those people that MAKES extra projects and commitments for myself. If I don't fit in a coffee date with a friend during the day, I feel like I haven't socialised enough. If I don't work on one of my many writing projects, I feel as if I've been lazy. Sometimes this is a blessing - I love creating things, and having such a great and varied circle of friends - but I DO find it difficult to allow myself to switch off.

Thanks for reminding me that I should be enjoying the extra creative projects that I set for myself, and appreciating my time with my friends - rather than organising my life so that I feel worried and harried.

Melissa @ Melicious

a work in progress said...

I DO take a lot of what i like to cal "thinking time" but I have to say I often feel like I am terribly lazy and unproductive...but I would go MAD without it. It's a need, not a want, as far as my mental health is concerned! I do feel guilty about it though, when I compare myself to others :/

You always write such interesting and thought-provoking posts! Thank you :)

rooth said...

You're right - at work the standard answer to "how are you" is "oh, I'm super swamped / slammed" and nothing else was acceptable. I personally am the type of person who needs a lot of "thinking time"

Krystal said...

there was a great article in the NY Times about this very thing...about how being busy is so lame!

lucy and sarah said...

Its hard to be creative..and finding the time to be creative in this hectic world..isn't easy.

I think we just need to find the balance...and of course, look up some days and see the beautiful sun beaming through the trees. You just know know what you might be looking for..sometimes.

ivy's closet said...

Yes, I sometimes, thing my cat has the right idea. All those sunbaths of his.

Maybe being so busy is what is making us forget things. I do wonder about that.

Great post!

Sabrina said...

Such a lovely blog post, and wonderfully written! I couldn't agree with you more!

Sara Louise said...

Since moving to France I have been a housewife and I am obsessed with being busy with one task or another throughout the entire day because I'm scared that someone might think I'm sitting on the couch watching TV all day. I maybe take a break for about 20 minutes a day. And it's ridiculous! If I want to take a day off I should be able to and not feel guilty about it. Maybe this afternoon... :) x

Ann said...

That is a lovely post,
so inspiring!
I'm guilty of always saying I'm too busy... not again!

New Life in Spain said...

I am a little weird, and from what you write I suddenly see where all those comments were coming from when I decided to move to Spain. I think Norwegians are similar with the busy-thing, but Spaniards not! Anyway, I moved to Spain without knowing the language, without knowing a single person and without having a job or anything else basically. And there were oh so many people who needed to have an opinion about how stupid that was. But as I said, I am a little weird and I didn't understand all their worries, I simply wanted to do this for myself, and I went on and did it, and I have never regretted it! Life is for LIVING, damn it! :)

Ashley said...

Cute post, me lady :) I wanna curl up in a patch of sunlight too!

Victoria said...

High 5 to this ! Oh man, such an inspiring post !! Well written, my friend ! :)

Gracey Ighut said...

a very good read for a monday morning before everything gets "busy" :)