Busyness as a disease

I have decided to say NO to more things on the calendar.

busy.WaitingSunday, March 1 was a very full day. We went to the early service at church (8:30).

Then I taught a class for adult education about the book The New Jim Crow (9:30), sang at choir and read scripture at the second church service (10:45), and watched The Daughter and other kids perform The Gospel According to the Beatles (12:15). Afterward, the parents-in-law came over for dinner.

After they left, I said to The Wife that, had I not had all of those things on the agenda that day, I might have stayed home sick from church.

So you would THINK I would have had the common sense to stay home from work the next day, on Monday; I did not. I thought that, because I had a particular project to do on deadline, and since we’re behind on reference, and because I needed to take Friday off that week, I BETTER go to work.

What a mistake! I’m sitting at my desk, but I am unable to focus, with a sore throat, and probably a fever. I decide to take the next bus home out of Corporate (frickin’) Woods, but, unfortunately, there’s NOTHING leaving between 9:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. I muddle through the morning, find my way home and to bed. Stay home on Tuesday, I tell myself, and THIS time I listened to him.

Somewhere during my incapacitation, I come across an article that brought me up short: Busy Is a Sickness.

The American Psychological Association has published its Stress In America survey since 2007. They find that the majority of Americans recognize that their stress exceeds levels necessary to maintain good health. The most frequent reason they cite for not addressing the problem?

Being too busy.

It’s a vicious cycle.

When I used to call my late parents on the phone, and would ask them how they were doing, they’d almost always inevitably say, “Busy, but good.” Sometimes, they would reply, “Good, but busy.”

As the article notes:

It’s busyness we control.

Self-created stress.

I’m so busy that I decided that I don’t have time to be ill? I have about 125 sick days and get another day and a half each month. This is NO exaggeration.

And speaking of NO, one of the things I have decided is to say NO to more things on the calendar. There are plenty of good causes, learning opportunities, interesting events. Unfortunately, I’m not at a point to squeeze any more in.

Sidebar: have you noticed that more and more retired people say they are busier now than they were when they were working?

Last week, one of my library colleagues sent me UCLA Mindful Awareness – Free Guided Meditations, which I have just started to do, even though I might have otherwise argued that I don’t have time. I NEED to have less busyness, and this may help.

Taking the time to see

I need to remember to spend more time observing and less time with busyness.


I was waiting for the bus after work. Ofttimes, I’d pull out a magazine or newspaper to read, and I almost ALWAYS have something to read. But on this particular day – and it was a particularly lovely afternoon – I just didn’t feel like it. Using my backpack as a pillow, I lay on this granite slab in front of my work building and just observed. My goodness, the New York State flag is REALLY frayed, much worse than the US flag. I had never even noticed this before.

I tend, I think, to observe more than the average person, some of it, admittedly, mundane. Most of them get on the bus, or in their cars and immediately get on some sort of electronic device, lest not doing so would leave them adrift in the world. (That state law banning handheld devices while driving? A joke around here.)

One of the elevators in our building opens to let people on, then closes, opens, closes, opens, then when it finally closes, it buzzes as though someone had been holding the door open.

We have new phones at home. Actually, I bought them 14 months ago but didn’t install them for almost a year, when the phones suddenly going dead were too much of an irritation. What I didn’t know is that the phone announces the caller, usually badly. “Call from. Shen-ec-tdy. En why.” (That was supposed to be Skin-EC-ta-dy.) And it does it two times, then cuts out after ‘Call from’ on the third round. You have no idea how much silly, but cheap, entertainment value I get from that. (Some have suggested that I am easily amused…)

Friends are amazed by how well I know the WALK light patterns of irregular intersections in the city of Albany. I take it as a defensive measure against getting run over.

I need to remember to spend more time observing and less time with busyness, filling every available minute. It’s fun, and it relaxes me.

Feel the need to LISTEN to See by the Rascals.

Well, there’s Plan C

On Saturday, we did almost nothing.

I know that some of you folks from out of town, and out of the country, were concerned about how we fared after the Blizzard of 2013. We were fine in Albany, with 6.5″, c 16.5 cm, of snow. More in the hilltowns around here. The worst weather was to the east – Long Island, and much of New England. I noticed on Facebook that Steve Bissette, who lives in Vermont, was able to get to the post office, but the post office was closed.

Our Saturday was like that. Usually, that morning involves my wife going to Weight Watchers, which is about four miles (6 km) away, at 7 a.m. Since the bulk of the snow had fallen Friday night – and she and the Daughter had gone, on foot, to Steamer No. 10 to see Annie the night before, she slept in until nearly 6:30! She really knows how to goof off; yeah, right. She didn’t go to her Zoomba class either, which probably didn’t take place anyway.

There was a party planned for our twin nieces, who were turning 12, about an hour away, at 1 p.m. That event ended up getting postponed until the next day. The superintendent of the Albany schools had invited people over to visit her at 3 pm, but that got canceled, fairly late.

OK, the local branch of the Albany Public library was going to do some really cool stuff for Chinese New Year, involving reading, and music, and – oh, ALL of the branches were closed for the day!

After I had shoveled the sidewalk early on – a wonderful experience, I must say, the family ate breakfast, together. Then the Daughter and I shoveled a path from the front to the back of the house and dug out the car. It was considerably colder at 8 a.m. than it was at 6 a.m., and it was a good thing we liberated the vehicle because it would have been too difficult on Sunday morning to get to church on time.

As it turned out, on Saturday, we did almost nothing. Laundry was washed, dishes were cleaned, but mostly it was reading, watching TV, and listening to music. My wife noted how relaxing it is not to have to get up before dawn on a weekend morning; as someone who dreads the alarm going off on weekday mornings, but especially on Saturday, I quite concur.

This is an example of where LESS (stuff to do) is MORE (fun). I approve of this concept.

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