Value in Idleness

The first half of this year has been busy beyond belief. I mean, there are days when I don’t know if I’m coming or going, if I’m pitching or catching (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase!). Many-Most of my friends seem to be plagued by the same issue. Everyone is always so, doggone B.U.S.Y.

It’s been so busy, in fact, that I haven’t taken a single day off of writing. Not one. In addition, I’ve added two other pretty ginormous – super exciting! – projects to my docket. As a result, I’m feeling pretty wiped out. As much as I love what I do (love-love-love!), too much of a good thing becomes not such a good thing.

Last Sunday, when I was feeling particularly exhausted, my girlfriend came into my office (where I was, of course, working) with the most perfectly timed and brilliant article that she clipped from the New York Times a few years ago: The Busy Trap by Tim Kreider. She recently found the article when she was cleaning out her drawers. Sorry, I digress. Anyhoo, the article was the greatest Shining Moment that I could have hoped for.

It gave me a Moonstruck “Snap out of It” moment (which I really needed!).

The article begins with, “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.”  Are you nodding your head yet?

He goes on to say that, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

Wow. That stopped me in my tracks. Could this possibly be what I’ve become? I wondered whether losing a year of my life to FBC (f*#%ing breast cancer) has resulted in my filling life full to the absolute brim by packing in every single possible minute of each and every day. When I look at it that way, it doesn’t sound so great.

There are some Shining Moments, though…don’t worry. This article helped me see the value of idleness (yes, value in idleness!).

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Sooooo, what am I going to do with this wealth of new information? Well, part of me wants to ignore it completely and continue along just as I have been. However, I certainly don’t want rickets, so continuing on with my “fill every minute” mentality is NOT what I’m going to do!  Rather, I’ve decided to try this idleness on for size. So, here’s my plan:

  1. I am not going to write (formally) on the weekends. Now, if this idleness inspires ideas, I’m going to have my trusty journal with me to jot down whatever interesting and/or fun tidbits come to mind. But I’m not going to work atcoming up with ideas…or writing.
  2. Print the Busy Trap article and read it weekly to remind myself (over and over again) how important idleness really is.
  3. One day a month, I’m going to have a pajama day. That’s right, pajama day. It will be a day in which I stay in my – yes, you guessed it – pajama’s…all day. On this day, I’m going to sleep, read, rest, and have coffee on my balcony. In that order.


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