Sunday, July 8, 2012

Too busy for friendship?

Friendship.  Photo credit: Virginia Bergman.

Saturday morning at Cups ‘N’ Scoops, a local coffee shop, I enjoyed spending an hour or two visiting with friends Julie and Dee with whom I feel connected at a deeply spiritual level. Our get together was a powerful reminder that friendship is not just an option in how we choose to spend our time; it’s essential to our health and well being - regardless of our circumstances.

Currently focused on revising a book-length manuscript, I value my hours of solitude, but like writer Tim Kreider, the author of an astute contribution to the NY Times series on anxiety, I intentionally plan my daily schedule to avoid “The Busy Trap.” As a result, I seldom need to rush in order to include time for exercise, reading, meditation, writing, and staying in touch with family and friends.

The 1950s theory of Type A and Type B personalities has since been discredited; however,  attributes customarily assigned to Type A, especially the chronic busyness, might well describe the dominant trend in our present day culture depicted by Kreider:

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

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