Friday, 14 March 2014

Too busy

Image from 'The Busy Trap' article page
Have I ever reflected on 'The Busy Trap' article by Tim Kreider, published in The New York Times blog? It made such an impression on me when I first read it in late 2012 that I was telling everyone about it. I did a sermon at church on it, I wrote an article about it and I was probably relentlessly sharing some form of its message on my Facebook page. So it is with some surprise that looking through my archives, all seems to be silent on the blog front.

It could be because, ironically, the 'busy' level in my life went on steroids shortly after I read the article. So much so that I virtually stopped blogging in 2013.

If you haven't read the article, I strongly recommend you do. But maybe finish reading my post first :)

In the article, Tim basically talks about how 'I've been really busy' has become the go-to response whenever we ask someone how they are. He goes on to explore how it could be because of the values society puts on people who are 'busy'. Being busy gives the impression that you have a life worth living for, that you mean something to someone and that you are industrious and hardworking - both admirable qualities at the best of times. And so we crave the idea of being busy, perhaps even get addicted to it.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. 
But he questions the real meaning of it all and how we could be using it as an excuse to perhaps hide the emptiness of our lives. And it's become something we accept, perhaps even expect.

The reason why it made such an impression on me is because I felt Tim was describing me. To this day, I still get nightmares about not studying for an upcoming exam (I graduated from uni twelve years ago and my Master's program the last three years did not have exams) and for not handing in an assignment on time (can you tell I have some form of stereotypical over-achieving Asian gene?).

When I'm not doing something I consider 'productive', I start to feel nervous and guilty. Should I really be playing Toy Defense 3: Fantasy, should I really be sitting here doing nothing, should I be reading this trashy magazine? Ok, so maybe I really don't need to do the last thing, but the point is, I feel like I need to do something that will contribute to something: housework, work work, research something, write an article . . . relaxing just sounds so . . . wrong. And even when I'm doing something, my mind is hurriedly ticking away thinking about what else I can do next.

D is the master when it comes to relaxing. I'm not saying he's lazy. But he savours and enjoys the moment that he's living in. He appreciates what he has to do, what he's doing and has a much healthier emotional and mental state of mind than I do. He takes care when he does something and puts serious consideration into everything. If I'm constantly on fast forward, he's on my version of slow motion. I suppose between the two of us, we get some semblance of normality.

I do wonder why I am the way I am. I don't think it's because as Tim diagnoses, that I like to feel important or that I need to know that there's some meaning to life—as a Christian, I know I am important to God and that's all the matters, and I firmly believe that my meaning in life comes from a relationship with God. So why am I still addicted to busyness?

For the moment, it's a question I cannot answer. But what I can do is not be busy. To not feel guilty about not packing in every single second of my life with some form of 'productive' activity. To not flit from one thing to another, be it physically or mentally. To remember to breathe. To live in the moment.

And most of all, to not say 'I've been really busy' when someone asks how I've been. Because if I had to say that, it's simply because I've chosen to bite off more than I can chew.

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