Back to busy

Time to face facts: summer is almost over.

I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by. Kids will be back in school in a couple of weeks, the weather has been slightly more bearable, and the days are already starting to get shorter. Oh yeah, and my inbox has been piling up with emails about all those groups, volunteer organizations, and other commitments that took a break back in June and are gearing up for another year. Checking my email has started to feel like wading into a war zone. I’m purposely NOT checking my email as I write this blog post, even though I know there are at least 25 messages awaiting my attention and response.

It’s going to be yet another busy year. Another busy year following a whole lifetime of busy years. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong. No matter what I do to clear my schedule, it always seems to fill back up…and at the end of a hectic week I look back and I can’t even remember everything that went into making it hectic.

At my spiritual director’s suggestion, I’m reading Joseph Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture, and I can’t get over the irony of it. Leisure? Sure, I’ve heard of that. I even know some people who enjoy it now and then (at least so they tell me). But I find even when I have leisure time, I don’t use it leisurely. I suddenly remember all the chores that need to be done, the bills that have to get paid, the errands I’ve been putting off. It’s easier to keep busy, I guess.

My trip to Jamaica presented me with some opportunities to view our cultural need for busy through a new lens. On a more personal level, it forced me to acknowledge that I don’t do leisure well. One afternoon in particular really brought this home to me. We’d been picked up from the house where we were staying in Kingston, piled into a very crowded bus, and driven about a mile and a half (with three long stops along the way), heading out of town to go “up the mountain” for a weekend-long retreat. That’s all I knew about where we were going: “to the mountain.” Suddenly the bus driver told us all we had to get off. “The bus is reserved until three o’clock, and I have to go now,” he announced. “Sorry. I be in trouble. You wait here. I come back for you.”

So we clambered off the bus and into another house owned by the brothers we were staying with, where some disgruntled sisters cleared a space for us in a large meeting hall area and then told us to sit tight till the bus driver got back.

Three and a half hours later, he finally returned.

Those were three and a half of the most excruciating hours I have ever endured. I had literally nothing to do. Not even a scrap of paper to scribble pictures on. We just sat around and waited. And waited. And waited. I admired the people I’d come with–they all took the waiting so graciously. Some napped, others played quiet games or enjoyed long conversations. But the helplessness and the inactivity of it all drove me crazy. I wandered around in circles, I glared at people, I muttered things to myself…I did everything except thank God for a few unexpected hours of quiet time, hours which it might have done me some serious good to enter into.

Of course in my “real” life, there’s no such thing as three and a half hours with literally nothing to do. I have things to do in spades, and a to-do list as tall as I am, and then another whole list of things I want to do, places I want to visit, things my friends want to do with me and things I want to do with my friends and family members I want to visit and projects I want to start up and books I need to read and and and…

So faced with yet another busy year, I’m having to step back and ask myself that tough question: “What am I NOT going to do this year?” What will I refuse to take on so I can actually enter in and take some real rest?

How will I fight to maintain balance?



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