Owning my quiet life

So now that I’ve spent two weeks complaining about being busy, there are a couple of things I should tell you: one, it bugs me when people complain about being busy, and two, I’m a total hypocrite.

Ok, I’m not totally unreasonable. I appreciate that people do legitimately get busy, which is why there are no hard and fast rules to this – it’s like the Russian roulette of pet peeves. How fun!

The root of my annoyance is that it seems like busy-ness has become a badge of honour to be earned rather than a true requirement of life for a lot of people.

I claimed to be busy last week but my idea of busy is not most people’s idea of busy. I still had time to go for a good walk with the dog, make dinner, and then vegetate on the couch for an hour before sleeping for seven or eight hours. But because I didn’t get my usual amount of time dedicated to relaxing – whether it be writing, reading or watching The  Bachelor – I felt busy and unrested.

I am one of the lucky bastards with a job that fits into 40-odd hours a week and no other real responsibilities to speak of. By all accounts people in my position should have plenty of time – an entire 70+ hours a week that are not taken up by sleep or work – so why does it appear that so many are running around like headless chickens?

Are they truly extracting more delicious juice out of life? Am I just a pathetic waste of twenty-something* energy and skin because I want to live a calm and quiet life?

I like excitement to come in small bursts because I need a lot of processing time and so consciously make room for this. I need to wind down from my day by basically just lying there consuming oxygen for significant portions of time while the gears in my head slow down. When life conspires to disturb this fine balance, I’m bothered and quickly make efforts to restore it.

This is not for everyone obviously. What bothers me is when people maintain their lives in a constantly busy state and then complain about it. Obviously there are many circumstances where busy-ness cannot be helped even if you’d like to – like while in school or when you have small children etc. etc. Go ahead and bitch – I’ll bring the drinks. But I think for a lot of people the busy-ness is a choice. If you thrive on being a social butterfly while working several jobs and volunteering that is fantastic – so own it! Admit that you are choosing to be busy. If you don’t, then stop and prioritize. At some point you just have to own up to your choices and live the life you want to live.

I feel like ‘I’m so busy’ has become a part of our modern day arsenal just as much as the Blackberry. You can pull it out as a shortcut for all kinds of things or just to make yourself feel important. We strive for it, because the cultural narrative tells us everyone else is already there and you’ll be irrelevant if you’re not.

I’ll admit that sometimes I feel like I’m doing something wrong by not staying busy (and yeah, this is probably the real root cause of being bugged by people who are). I’m still learning to be ok with my pace of life. My life might be quiet but it still feels pretty full.

*I’ve got seven and a half months of being twenty-something, I’m milking it while I can.

P.S. Kerry recently wrote a beautiful post on living a small life that says it all. If you haven’t already, you should go read it.

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Posted on March 7, 2011, in Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. What a fab post. I totally agree – so often people talk about how busy they are, busy busy busy, and I feel somehow like I’m not trying hard enough or doing as well as them. But I, too, like a quiet life, and need to learn not to apologise for that.

    Penelope Trunk’s blog talks a lot about being an introvert vs an extrovert and one of the things that stuck with me was that an extrovert recharges their batteries by spending time with other people, and finds it tiring being alone, while an introvert feels drained after spending time with lots of people and needs a bit of quiet time to recharge. I’m definitely in the latter group.

    Thanks for the link to Kerry’s post – loved that too.

    P.S. That photo is amazing – I want to be there NOW!

    • It’s so true and I forget sometimes that other people’s brains can be so absolutely different in that respect. After social things I’m eager to run home, whereas other people seem eager to go out to the next thing. They boggle me, but I’m sure I boggle them too.

  2. Oh, man. Your… [counts] …ninth paragraph really sat up and made me take notice. I am all kinds of all over this post and I don’t even know where to begin. I’m an introvert who likes my space and quiet but who often complains of a busy life. My ego would argue that I don’t do it in order to have something to boast about, but I think you’re onto something when you talk about the fear of becoming irrelevant. But what do I have to show for myself? Some voice nags in my head. This was the same voice that’s always told me to do all my work and chores first so I can play or vegetate guilt-free. Guess what? I never did have much playing or vegetating time.

    I think it’s my fault for not drawing the necessary boundaries. And now that I’m working from home, the lines are even further blurred. The other part of it is that there’s work, and there’s life, and there are chores, and then there’s this other area called “STUFF” where everything else goes. Blog-writing and blog-reading and twittering — honestly, that’s a major time vacuum. Projects — updating my website, updating the rugby beer festival website, updating my blog (again with the blog thing). Organizing and finances and general upkeep — I could go on but I don’t want to make you fall asleep.

    The issue, I think, is that I don’t make space to ignore any of these things. Even when I’m on the couch in “relaxation” mode, I’m on the laptop. The cumulative effect of all of this is that I feel like I am never truly unwinding. And then, of course, I complain about being “busy” all the time. This is where I need to emulate you. Nina! You should totally be my life coach. TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

    • yeah you don’t want to emulate me… I’m not honestly that much more settled as a result of having more “off” time, because I still spend a significant amount of it thinking I should be doing something else. The only reason I do take the time is because I’ve learned I have to to stay sane. But this constant pressure I feel to occupy myself made me wonder why this is… part is peer pressure – everyone else seems to be doing it. And the other part is probably internal – the need to feel like I’m achieving something. It’s a tough balance to maintain.

  3. My favorite thing about “busy” is when C’s grandma will ask about my day and I’ll tell her, and then ask about hers and she just says “BUSY!” It’s absolutely a fear of irrelevance.

    I feel guilty b/c I just blogged that I am too busy to blog. I guess I’m not too busy, just prioritizing other things!

    • No guilt needed – hey I blogged about being too busy to blog last week! Like I said, total hypocrite. But really, I get that we all get busy, I’m more thinking of the constant state of busyness that seems to envelop people who don’t necessarily need to be busy (and I know there are people who absolutely cannot help it no matter how much they’d like to).

  4. Interesting to think about…. Before I moved to Canada I was very busy most of the time, due to a day job and do theatre a lot of nights and weekends. It was my choice. And it was tiring. When I moved here, I was a few weeks before our wedding. After the wedding, I just was exhausted. And I have also spent the last year and a half with the least busy schedule I have had since I was a kid, I guess. It’s been the complete opposite of what my life was like B.C. (Before Canada) Now, I am more on the extroverted end of the scale (though I do have introverted traits) and this adjustment has been mostly good, but also hard. I think in the coming months, as I try to find work and make more friends, I will try to find a better balance. Though I think the slower pace is life is something I want to keep. What’s the good of being busy-busy, if I feel like life can’t really be enjoyed because there is not enough time?

    Hmm. Thanks for making me think about this today…

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