It’s one of those damnable interview questions that I don’t know about you but I definitely stumble over – how the heck would they describe me? I tend to fumble around for a bit before mumbling something about ‘maybe a good listener?’ and tail off with some words about being ‘fun to hang out with’. Miserable stuff.
So the other day I actually did it – I asked a few friends what one word they’d use to describe me. They are my friends so they said some lovely lovely things (thanks friends!) but there was one word, one description I was kinda looking for because it’s really the thing I wanted to talk about in this post.
The closest anyone came was: “Industrious”
It’s a nice word isn’t it? Bit Victorian perhaps. But a good word. A solid word. A word you can trust to ‘get things done’.
It is also, quite possibly, a word that describes the very worst part of myself; that bit that is ALWAYS doing stuff, ALWAYS busy.
One of the things I often wonder is what it’s like to not be busy? What is it like (and please, feel free to comment below with any answers you might have….) to come home at the end of a day, flick the kettle on and I think “Oooh, dunno what to do with myself tonight”?
Whilst I think most of us are to some extent are suffering from a 24/7 culture overload I think, for me at least, it would be wrong to blame ‘the world in which I find myself’ entirely. It would feel the same as blaming the existence of cigarettes for the fact I smoke (I don’t by the way, but I have been a smoker in the past).
There is always a choice made in starting something and there is always a choice to make in opting out of any addictive habitual cycle.
A fellow student on the MA and I recently jointly made a (frankly exhausted) vow to NOT rush into the next big thing life-wise.
And yet. Only yesterday I caught myself thinking about how once this exam is over (less than a week to go….) and coursework submitted (this time next week…) I’ll suddenly be free of the constraints that come as standard with an MA.
Now. Was my mind wallowing in the warm shallows of how wonderful it might be to experience the dolce far niente, the infamous Italian ‘sweetness of doing nothing’? Was it even gasping grateful gulps of joy at the time suddenly available to let the stories that have been running round in my head out and onto the page finally after months of being penned up (excuse the pun…)?
Don’t be ridiculous. Mostly I was thinking of the day trips I could do to catch up again with friends and family; jobs I could do; gifts I could make for people; things I could do to best support the mad scientist; new and exciting sporting ventures. You know the sort of stuff…
The list escalated from there to be honest and it was only thanks to the remembrance of that conversation with my MA classmate that I managed to catch myself in the apparently compulsive act of quadruple booking myself.
What my soul longs for most days is some solitude and reflective time but I battle endlessly with a sense of guilt if I am anything other than (i) busy with work/study or (ii) busy with social. The truth is I have an over-developed tendency to swing interchangeably from one busy-ness to the other.
I’ve found myself asking; ‘when is a good time to give up being busy?' As any addict will tell you, there’s NEVER a good time.
You can spend a huge amount of time navel-gazing to work out why you’re like this and what the triggers are. But I suspect in the long run it’s a case of committing to quitting. What worked for me with giving up smoking was going cold turkey and just, frankly, not smoking.
So, the busy-ness detox started this weekend. The mad scientist and I went to his family’s farm in Sussex.
Work got done. Walks in the bluebell woods happened. More work got done. I finished my reading-for-pleasure book. We went to the pub. Still more work got done. I fell asleep meditating. We had an incredibly yummy Easter Sunday dinner. And yeah, there was a bit more work done too.
Rather than punishing myself with a gruelling Easter weekend at home filled with endless work and beating myself into senseless depression about what needed to be done, I packed the laptop, some good intentions and had a (shock horror) ‘balanced’ weekend.
Did I get as much done as if I’d stayed at home, trying to pretend I wasn’t hanging out on Facebook? As we don’t get to live parallel lives, I’ll never know. But what I do know is that I had a happy weekend and I’ve emerged into the week contented (and probably more pleasant to be around).
And those text messages from my friends assures me that they are a lot less interested in beating me up for my social flakiness than I am. Which tells me I could turn my internal ‘guilt-o-metre’ down and get on with booking in some time to simply hang out with my inner Italian….