Tectonic Shift

It’s been months since people first started saying I’m the busiest person they know, but the shock hasn’t quite worn off yet.

As I’m looking forward to the month ahead – wait, make that the next two months – and back over the last I-don’t-know-how-long, I’m beginning to think they might have a point. But I’m so used to feeling like the one who never goes anywhere or does anything that I have a hard time believing I’ve now overcompensated to the point of being busier than everybody else on the planet. Do these people have an unnaturally calm group of friends? Or am I like the house you want to buy – the least impressive in a very nice grouping? Hard to say.

What I can say is that after having class two nights a week, I expected to be overwhelmed with the comparative free time – but if I have a night “off,” it’s not because nothing was planned, but because I was too tired to do it. Conversely, planned nights of restful seclusion always get filled with something or other. The odd empty few minutes get stared at with fascinated bewilderment. “What are you, and how did you get into my life?”

The strangest part of the epithet is that it’s most often given in response to an apparent constant whirlwind of social activity. My first reaction is to inform the people making that comment that they’re insane. Me? Social? I never do anything! But here’s a fun little exercise: make a list of the social activities I’ve taken part in during the last 7 days:

  • impromptu dinner party
  • a hike
  • movie night
  • an unannounced drop-in from a neighbor
  • drinks with a work buddy to catch up on the recent upheavals
  • (and the one planned one which required doubling up with Friday’s traditional family dinner and racing back and forth across town)

Suddenly it all makes sense. Of course, all of that – and trying to catch up on 17 hours of self-directed training in time to have a couple of weeks “off” before school starts in 5 weeks – will interfere with writing a blog, advancing a career, trying to read 7 books at once, tackling the endless projects and chores of one’s own household, and exploring the cultural offerings of greater Los Angeles (three years, ten months, and counting, and I still haven’t made it back to the LACMA). Not to mention all of that is suddenly crammed into 4 weeks instead of 5, because the last week will now most likely be spent on a surprise work trip to New York.

All right, so I’m willing to admit I’m busy. This is strangely hard to get my head around – considering I used to feel life was so empty that I wanted to have five children just for the sake of “living in the middle of Grand Central Station.” Evidently I can create that just fine on my own, thank you very much.

But then, after a few months of the constant stress, you get to the point of bragging about being busy; it becomes a twisted competition of identity:

“I did six hours of overtime this week.”
“You still haven’t reached my normal workweek!”

“I had to go in [x hours] early today.”
“No sympathy from me. Do you know what time I have to leave for work every day?”

“I don’t know when we’re going to hang out – things haven’t slowed down as much as I expected.”
“Tell me about it! Now you know what my life is like.”

I suppose if you’re missing out on everything else you might like to do, or feel you are, and at the same time feel you’re not accomplishing what you should be, you have to raise the perceived value of what you are doing.

All the same, what I would really love is just one minute to do nothing but BREATHE. Not go anywhere, and not do anything.

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