If you have ever burned a dream to cinders, you will understand my grief and angst after an excellent dream venture involving poetry and art popped up in my life. I leapt at it, dug right in, accomplished a lot and then stalled. The dead halt was 30 percent fearing the sales component and 70 percent too “busy.” I shudder to think how many people might use those four letters if forced to describe me with one word. One friend teases me, “You are trying to squeeze two lifetimes into one.” Guilty as charged. Interested in everything, with the single possible exception of math, I adopt new passions at high velocity despite the risk of whiplash.
Wondering if I’d ever change, my eldest sister, Charlotte, offers me a two-word solution, “Say no.”
I debate that it is more complex. Busy is a comfortable habit, an automatic “no” to some activities that may tally more karmic points than any of the junk activities seeping into my days. Thankfully, I have partially learned that lesson. I say yes to family. My neighbour is peeved at her cousin for his clipped response to her invites, “Can’t, busy as usual.” They have both been in Edmonton for a whole year and have not yet met up for a coffee. We both agree that “busy” is the new “lazy.”
Years ago, my other sister teased that I only do idleness when externally enforced, like waiting for the locksmith to retrieve her keys locked inside her Dodge Neon. It was true. I regularly borrowed my great-nieces to provide a legitimate reason to sit in the park. My challenge remains to enjoy the present moments and stop putting off pleasure or rewards into the distant future. I can tell you March 27th, 2013, is the only day in history I deliberately set out to watch movies all day, shunning all work. I informed my main clients and to their credit, only one of them phoned and inserted some work into my day. Confirming I am the problem and less than one day totally off a year is a huge red flag.
Tim Kreider in the Busy Trap says, “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
To follow Kreider's wisdom, Manoush Zomorodi elucidates beautifully how "boredom leads to brilliant ideas.” That is in direct opposition to a saying I coined in my teen years, "Boredom is the misuse and abuse of what is meant to be a creative and active mind.” Zomorodi suggests that our most creative ideas arrive while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular. “It's because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems.” I know this to be true for the one thing I am good at – letting my mind wander when doing menial tasks and creating a container to write and not allowing anything else to intervene or distract me. The blank page is creativity's best friend. If you find the blank page terrifying, let's chat!
Still choking on my smoke-damaged dream venture, I had to work at not berating myself for stealing idle time after accomplishing paying work. A dream venture should have waited a bit when it doesn’t instantly produce income. Painful as it was, I understand why my business partner pulled the plug when my pace frustrated him.
This prompted some questions. What pace is comfortable and manageable? What are the costs? What can or must I let go of to insert what nurtures me? When do I give myself a break just for me? Do I even know how to strap on my helmet and take a bike ride with no destination, errand or goal in mind? I can arrange that for other people, plan wall-to-wall fun days for my great-nieces, and insert myself into the shenanigans. What do I do solely for myself?
Is a day of movies the best I can do? Do movies really count? The sloth in me just stops at the end of the day and wants to watch a movie. Does a movie enrich, teach lessons, and improve my contribution to planet earth and my community (Think Globally, Act Locally), or do they numb me out?
David Bodanis, scientist and author, informs how we burn more calories sleeping than watching television. I decided back in 1999 to kill my TV. I justify DVDs by having four cardio machines in my living room. No movie unless I bounce on my trampoline, ride my exercise bike, row or step for 30 minutes. A Fitbit pedometer informs me when I reach 10,000 steps. Then pyjamas are my reward.
If the answer to eliminating busyness is found in one word, it is yes. I need to say, “Yes,” for me. Yes, I will step off this volunteer board. Yes, I will examine what I allow in my life and in my schedule. Yes, I will give away quilting materials I keep on a wish of completion. Yes, I commit to eliminating the word busy from my lexicon. Yes, I will cultivate idleness. In the two months I have concentrated on this, it has forced me to examine my choices and become accountable for taking on too much. I commit to imagining what the absence of busyness will feel like.
One simple choice I made amid all this angst a few years ago was strap my guitar to a small wheeled dolly and walk the nine blocks to a community hall for free voice and guitar lessons. Now on the farm, I am once again expecting myself to maintain a small footprint and have to make an effort to plan fun outings. I confess I am not doing well. Clearly, I need to put energy into the now moments and stop chasing some surreal sense of accomplishment by endless doing.
Being busy can give us a false sense of importance. How do I cultivate importance just by being? My priorities need to fall in this order. Make a living, prioritize time with close family and friends, physical and mental fitness (including sleep before midnight, which is a challenge,) volunteer work (overachiever here) and self-improvement in a purely fun activity. Good slow food, healthy kombucha, an occasional glass of shiraz over inspiring conversation and ambling walks with friends must feature regularly. I fear I’m a long, slow work in progress. We all are works in progress. I am two-thirds through my life, assuming I'll live past 90. I may just have to admit I have two speeds: hyperdrive and sloth. They both serve me.
Tim Kreider's YouTube on the Busy Trap
Manoush Zomorodi’s Ted Talk
David Bodanis The Secret Family
Learn more about Rusti:
Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy. She has a new offer - Launchpad for Authors
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