Friday, April 06, 2007

Busy Being Busy

This past week's New York Times ran an article entitled: "Too Busy to Notice You're Too Busy."

From the article, which cited from the book, CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life by Dr. Edward Hallowell:
  • According to Dr. Hallowell, there are many (26 in his book) overlapping reasons we all fall into the trap of being overly busy. A few are:
  • It is so easy with cellphones and BlackBerrys a touch away.
  • It is a kind of high.
  • It is a status symbol.
  • We’re afraid we’ll be left out if we slow down.
  • We avoid dealing with life’s really big issues — death, global warming, AIDS, terrorism — by running from task to task.
  • We do not know how not to be busy.

    Not only are we constantly occupied, but we, as Americans, are also famous for not knowing how to be unoccupied.

I love nothing better than to spend Shabbat afternoon doing nothing with my family -- hanging out in the living room, having friends over, letting the kids run around and play. We recently spent a day with a family that really wanted to schedule all the events. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good schedule. In fact, I wake up most mornings with a little schedule growing in my brain. But I have learned that just inviting a friend over with no agenda or curling up on the couch with my son to read as many chapters as he wants with no time restraints is usually much more fulfilling for me than planning a family outing to a museum or zoo. Those things are fun, but certainly for us in moderation!

How do you handle these ideas in your own life? During the holiday of Passover, we spend a lot of time thinking about slavery and celebrating freedom. We say that we are free, but are we really free when we are merely "re-enslaved" to our phones and our computers, our pda's and our calendars? How many of our children have that precious "downtime" that we know is so good for their souls?

Having a new baby certainly requires a slowing down...things have to happen on her schedule, not on mine. And nursing a baby requires even more -- it's hard to multi-task beyond perhaps talking or watching tv, and it's about how long it takes her to eat, not how long I want it to take! Sure, I can nudge her into my schedule if I have to. But I know that ultimately, she is in charge, which can be a frustrating but also exhilarating experience. I think it's one of the blessings of maternity leave -- the world works at a completely different pace. It is certainly hard to let go of some of the things that I wish were happening, even so much as cleaning up the kitchen or doing laundry, but I know that at the end of the day, I'm doing such an important job... even if it is 6:15am as I type this, and the baby has decided that it's "awake time"!

A side note, I have been struggling with this busy phenomenon for some time now and I highly recommend one of my favorite books: Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison... a lovely and eloquent book on slowing down family life.

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