IT’S great to be back in print. I wish I could say my absence was due to an extended holiday somewhere exotic. But although parts of the last few months have had an air of unreality about them, there was no reclining by a sparkling pool surrounded by palm trees, nor sipping on a brightly coloured drink topped with a little paper parasol. No, I’ve just been busy.
I’ve written about BodyBalance before; it’s a group exercise program that mixes yoga with a bit of tai chi and pilates set to music. I value participating in classes because it gives me a chance to switch off for that precious hour, get out of my thinking mind and focus entirely on the music and the movements. It’s been particularly important to me since I had to take on a management role at my work.
One day one of the instructors suggested I have a go at training to become an instructor myself. My immediate response was that it would defeat the purpose of doing the class. Being the instructor would put me back into the role of being in charge, and having to think, and that was exactly the opposite of why I attended classes in the first place.
But later I considered the possibility that taking on the challenge might be intrinsically interesting. I might learn something useful about exercise that might contribute to the health advice I gave, or I might learn something about myself that also might contribute to the way I do my work. Participating in Toastmasters has been like that; it’s almost a cliché that people join Toastmasters for one reason and end up staying for many others.
To cut the story short, I took on instructor training, recently received my instructor’s certificate, have taught a few classes, and indeed learned a lot along the way.
But it’s taken up time and energy. The garden is a mess, the menu at home has been very simple indeed, and there has been little creative impulse left for writing.
I’ve heard it said that the modern state of being busy is a social construct. I understand this to mean that there is a social expectation that being crazy busy is normal, the implication being that if we are not crazy busy we are somehow wasting time, we don’t rate, we’re not worthy, none of which is actually true.
Many people do seem to judge themselves and others on how much they do, or on how much they have. It’s all about quantity; a house with more bedrooms makes the person who lives there somehow more important. A person who has to consult a diary to find time to have coffee with a friend must be a very important person indeed.
But my recent experience has been more to do with enjoying and wanting to participate in more things than I can fit into the given waking hours. I’ve had to make choices and say no to some things and, although I’ve managed to squeeze in more than I imagined I could, I haven’t felt entirely at ease with it all.
I remember a conversation I had with a fellow worker many years ago. She said she was struggling to keep up with all the things she had to do and was feeling stressed about it. In a later conversation I asked how she was going with it all, and I remember being surprised by her answer. “I changed my attitude” she said. It wasn’t what I expected to hear. I expected to hear she had dropped out of some activities, or else hadn’t done anything and was still struggling. I didn’t understand yet that we all can choose our attitude to any given situation.
I never found out exactly what she meant, but I imagine that my co-worker changed her thinking from resentment about what was happening, and instead focussed on the positive. What was it about her activities that was important to her, and why? Then perhaps she resumed with a fresh attitude, made changes if necessary, and got on with it.
When we start to feel overwhelmed by busy-ness, it’s important to be optimistic and positive, and believe that decisions made in that frame of mind will work out well, but we also need to be honest and realistic. Map out what the current timetable looks like, note where efficiencies can be achieved, sort out priorities, genuinely consider options, decide what can still be achieved but perhaps at a different point on the timeline, and approach the process as an opportunity.
So this is my next project. At the end of the process I may still be busy, but I will have decided that my time is filled with activities that meet my aims and contribute to others while also nourishing myself, and that will feel good.
June 17, 2016
Miriam, reading your articles always gives me a feeling of peace and tranquillity and I agree with your fellow worker’s option of changing one’s attitude to resolve a conflict. However, a book review I read in my weekend paper of choice this morning, more correctly fits my modus operandi since I’ve retired. The quote which appealed to me from the book, and said by a pompous, learned father, was “Lazy people have something to do - and are not doing it. Idle people have nothing to do - and are doing it.”. Delightful, don’t you think? I often berate myself for being lazy but now I’ve become idle!
Pamela R Jacka, Wonthaggi
Anybody who's busy should read In Praise of Idleness by Bertram Russell. It's short and in the library.
Frank Coldebella, Wonthaggi